The practical guide to flower care

The practical guide to flower care

Once flowers have been received, usually, the point has been made and there’s no extra thought given. However, cut flowers have a life of their own and despite being perishable and fleeting by nature, there are many ways to increase their life span and enjoy them for much longer.

Flowers usually have a vase lifespan of anywhere between 3 days to 2 weeks and at times, longer. There are many influencing factors which can increase or decrease longevity such as time spent in the production line (farm to florist), the time of the day/season when picking happens, and much more. The average punter generally wouldn't know the ins and outs of how flowers will react as cut flowers, so I wanted to share some things I’ve learned on my travels as a florist.

  • Hydrangeas and many orchid varietals can drink through their petals: If you’ve been on the receiving end of droopy hydrangea’s, you can submerge the heads in a bucket of water for a few hours, and their petals will almost always rehydrate, become plump, and give you a longer life span. The same can be done with sad looking orchids. Hydrangeas have woody stems, and it’s best to ‘bash’ the base of stems to assist further water intake, as well as treating petals to a bath!
  • Lighter colour flowers may have a shorter life span than their darker versions: This I learnt from a local flower grower. I happened to notice that often lighter coloured snapdragons would droop, and lighter delphinium stems would drop flowers early. The grower told me that with these two varieties, and perhaps as a loose rule of thumb, lighter flowers have less longevity than their darker versions, i.e., a deep burgundy snapdragon stem will stay upright and stronger than a light-yellow snapdragon.
  • Native flowers are thirstier than many other flowers: Native flowers mostly have woody stems and can benefit from either cutting the base stem into a cross shape, or bashing/crushing the base of the stems to encourage more opportunities for stems to drink water. If you were to keep a vase of natives and a vase of garden flowers side by side, it’s most likely that the native stems would drink through their water more quickly. If you continue to top up the water of Australian native botanicals like spinning gum and banksias and botanically related natives from South Africa such as proteas, pincushion (Leucaspermum) and Leucadendron, you will get a much longer show of their true colours and generally keep them fresher for longer.

What can you do to prolong the life of fresh flowers you have been gifted?

To prolong the life of your fresh flowers, follow these general flower care tips:

  • Recut the base of stems on a 45-degree angle with clean snips, every 2-3 days, to allow them to continue to drink
  • Refresh your flowers with fresh water every 2-3 days. Remember, cut flowers will continue to drink!
  • If you have an arrangement in a ceramic vase, slide your finger down the side of the vase and feel for the water level. If the water is low, top it up with a small watering can or bottle while keeping your finger in position. You will feel as the water rises to the top. Keep an eye on the water level of glass vases and top up water as needed.
  • A mixed bunch will contain different flowers, each with a varying vase life. If one or two flowers have expired but others are still going strong, just remove the spent flowers and continue to care for the remaining flowers as long as they last - you often don't have to discard a whole arrangement if only a few of the flowers have finished up.
  • Never allow leaves or other botanical matter below the water line of your vase as they'll promote bacterial growth and decrease the overall life of your flowers.
  • Perhaps an unpopular opinion, but flower food is unnecessary - these are the little packets of powder sometimes given out with a bunch of flowers. A simple trick is to add a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of bleach into your vase water to help feed flowers and keep bacteria at bay - give it a try and see if you think it helps!

Dried Flower Care

All dried flowers are not created equal! There are generally two kinds of dried flowers: preserved flowers and naturally dried flowers.

  • Preserved Flowers: These are flowers which have been chemically altered in overseas factories and generally imported from China. Preserved flowers enjoyed a surge of popularity in the early 2020’s and are notable by their oddly unrealistic appearance. Characteristically, they may have a translucent look to the stems, a strange and sticky feel (that’s the chemicals), a pungent, unpleasant smell which I’ve heard described as ‘formaldehyde’, and bright, garish, somewhat unnatural colours that you would rarely find in nature and generally never in that variety of flower (colours like hot pink, aqua blue and an incredibly bright white) there is most likely a preserved flower in every colour imaginable.

At Lupin Botanical, we wouldn't recommend purchasing this type of flower arrangement - as fun and attractive as they may seem, we just don’t fully understand the chemicals they contain due to the lack of transparency around the way they’re produced and imported. They can also smell horrid, and can't be disposed of via green waste or compost systems as ultimately, they bear little resemblance to the natural thing they once were.

  • Naturally dried flowers: These flowers are generally picked, foraged, or sourced from wholesale markets/growers in the same way as fresh cut flowers. They are generally hung upside-down in bundles, or vase-dried upright, to achieve a type of natural preservation – the absence of water meaning that flowers dried in this way can be kept as a keepsake long after their fresh life cycle has passed them by.

Some of the characteristics of naturally dried flowers can be a natural browning off over time, and after many months, a brittleness. However, there is much to love about naturally dried flowers, and they can make a beautiful display for many months and even years to come.

A good florist will know that certain naturally dried varieties can maintain both their vibrant colours and structure; for example, an Australian everlasting daisy if dried correctly, will not lose its bright colour.

Here’s the low-down on naturally dried flower care:

Dried flowers should have a vase life of anywhere from 6 months and beyond. It is difficult to say how long dried flowers will last, as that is often up to the recipient. Dried flowers will not ‘die’ as their fresh life cycle has ended, however over time, may become slightly faded, brittle or dusty.

These care tips will help you get the most from your dried flowers.

  • Keep flowers out of direct, harsh sun from a window, for example. Strong sun will both fade and make brittle your dried botanicals.
  • Place flowers in a position where they will not be touched or disturbed. Dried botanicals by their nature can be stiff and slightly fragile, having them out of range will prolong their display life.
  • Never add water to a dried flower arrangement. Dried flowers are successful because of their absence of moisture, allowing a type of natural preservation to occur. Added water may encourage bacteria and mould to form and will add nothing to the care of the flowers.
  • Dried flowers kept outside (as in a wreath on an outside door), will fade and become brittle more quickly than dried flowers kept indoors, due to the weather, sunlight and exposed conditions. Flowers kept outside can expect a shorter lifespan and it’s always recommended they are undercover, if kept outdoors.
  • Over time, dust may settle on dried arrangements. You can use a hairdryer on the gentlest setting to blow dust away, a feather duster with a light touch, or occasionally place your arrangement outside and undercover for an hour or so to create airflow.

Thanks for your interest in how to care for your fresh and dried flowers! I hope some of this information has been useful for you.

You can find more flower content on Instagram: @lupinbotanical 

Domenica x


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