Close up of flowers

Floral Design Secrets for Your Ikebana or Floral Projects

It’s summer, and with so many people staying home, gardening has been enjoying a bit of a global renaissance, with people all over the world spending more time planting flowers and vegetables. A British horticulturist reports a 500% increase on inquiries on their website compared to the same period last year. Seed companies are also feeling the surge—W. Atlee Burpee & Co sold more seeds in March than any other time in its 144-year history. Russian online retailer Ozon, meanwhile, reports an increase in the demand for seeds by 30%.

With so many gardeners and summer rolling in, it’s the season for dahlias, pinks, and other summer blooms. But with the season’s heat comes a drastic reduction of flower arrangement longevity. Here are some useful tips to make sure your floral creation or ikebana arrangement last as long as possible:

Hydrate your flowers

The longer your flowers can hold water, the longer they’ll look fresh. To make your flowers last longer, trim away excess leaves— these will also take in water that would otherwise go to the bloom. ; Cut the stems at a diagonal angle like a floral designer would—doing so increases the surface area that can absorb water. Do this right before putting the flowers in the vase—this cuts away any bacteria that a stem oozing juice inevitably attracts.

Flowers with milky sap like poinsettias, heliotropes and poppies need a different treatment before putting them in a vase. Aside from possibly causing skin irritation (so handle with care), the milky sap in a cut stem can prevent or reduce water absorption. Dip the stem a half-inch in boiling water for thirty seconds or flash the tip with an open flame to clear the way.

Keep bacteria out of your vase water

Over time, bacteria will multiply in your flower vase. Make sure you wash down with soap and water any vases you intend to use for flowers.

High levels of bacteria will cause your flowers to decay faster. To prevent this from happening, make sure that you trim away all foliage that will go below the waterline. Foliage spoils, and its decay will release bacteria and decaying matter for it to feed on. Lightly-chlorinated tap water is actually better for plants than pure/distilled water, as the chlorine will also help keep down the growth rate of microbes.

Changing your water daily will also help to keep your vase bacteria-free. Cut the stems again every two or three days

Make your own plant preservative water

Flowers in a garden

Speaking of bacteria, you may want to be more active in keeping your water microbe-free by using a plant water recipe:

  • 1 quart of water, lukewarm
  • 2 tablespoons if either fresh lemon juice or white vinegar, to create an acidic environment that will stunt bacterial growth
  • 1-2 tablespoons of sugar, which will provide food for your flowers, keeping them alive longer
  • The sugar will also potentially feed bacteria, so adding a teaspoon of bleach will help keep them away longer

Replace this nutrient solution daily, if possible. Under a microscope, up to 30 million bacteria can multiply in an ounce of water within 24 hours of putting in a cut stem.

By following these steps, you can have flowers looking fresh and lasting much longer, letting you enjoy your floral arrangement project longer. Properly treated and maintained, most cut flowers typically last up to 10 days, although carnations, chrysanthemums and lilies can last longer. Keeping cut flowers is an exercise of hanging on to the ephemeral, but with the proper preparation, you can enjoy their beauty for much longer.

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