Flowers fill our lives with color, fragrance and lots of unclassified warm, fuzzy feelings. Maybe you've just received a fresh bouquet delivery from the florist, or you just love going out to the garden to cut your own prizes. With a little tender loving care, you can easily prolong their beauty by fighting their two biggest enemies--drought and bacteria.
Prepare your vase with a vigorous scrubbing using hot soapy water. Rinse it very well and cool it by running cold water through it. Fill with 1 cup of warm tap water and 1 cup of 7UP soda, which will provide sugar to nourish the cut flowers. Use cold water for roses and bulb flowers such as daffodils, tulips, irises, hyacinths and amaryllis.
Add about 1/2 tsp. of liquid bleach and 1/2 oz. of Listerine mouthwash, which will discourage bacterial growth. The mouthwash is also acidic, and may aid absorption of the solution by moving it up the flower stems more efficiently.
Cut garden blooms early in the morning, when flowers are at their most fragrant and the plant is full of food stores. If necessary, cutting late in the day when temperatures cool is acceptable. Cut the stems at a 45-degree angle with a sharp, clean knife that isn't serrated. Roses and bulb blooms should be cut during their budding stage. Most others are fine to cut after they're partially or fully open.
Remove all leaves from stem areas that will be submerged in water because they'll promote the growth of bacteria. Don't cut thorns from roses.
Condition cut forsythias to help them absorb more water by splitting the bottom 2 inches of the stem with the knife. Fray that section of the stem very well by pounding it with a kitchen mallet.
Place each flower stem into a pail of lukewarm water as soon as you cut it. For roses and bulb flowers, use cold water.
Move them to their prepared vase as soon as possible, taking care not to overcrowd them. Place them in a cool spot out of direct sunlight. Avoid drafts and exposure to ripening fruit, which gives off ethylene. That gas will shorten the lives of your flowers, cause them to discolor and prevent any closed buds from opening.
Change the vase solution daily. Recut long flower stems every other day to help prolong their beauty and fragrance. Remove and discard flowers as they wilt.