If you receive a flower arrangement or a potted plant for Valentine's Day, you may wonder how to take care of it. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep it fresh for as long as possible.
"Valentine's Day is February 14. I don't think many people will stop buying flowers because of the economy," Jeff Rugg said. "Flowers, according to advertising campaigns, are a romantic gift. It is mostly men giving flowers to women, but the number of women giving flowers is increasing.
"Even though cut flowers are not attached to the plant any more, they are still alive. Just like a living plant, they need water. And just like when they were attached to the plant, they will use water faster and wilt more quickly if placed in bright sunlight and in drafty locations. The cooler they are kept, the longer they will last. That's why they are kept in a refrigerator at the florist shop. Misting them every so often will help them last longer."
It is important to prevent the cut flowers from wilting.
"If they do, air bubbles trapped in the stem may not let the stems absorb any water," Rugg said.
"Another reason the stems cannot take up any water is that bacteria plug up the cut end of the stem. Changing the water daily helps prevent bacteria because of the chlorine in the water. Commercial floral preservatives also work and quite often come with the bouquet. Check the water daily so that it does not go below the ends of the stems. Many cut flowers will last for two weeks if kept cool and in fresh water."
If your flowers do wilt, it may be possible to revive them. If they have not wilted much, wrap them in a sheet of newspaper so the stem is straight. Stick the stem and paper in a vase filled with water until the stem can stand on its own.
"If they are wilted a lot, more drastic measures are needed," Rugg said. "Submerge the entire stem and flower under water in a tub that is large enough to allow the stem to lie down flat and straight. A half an hour or more may be necessary for results. Warm water should be used on roses and cool water on tulips, daffodils and irises."
On all cut flowers in a vase, the lower leaves that would be in the water should be removed to prevent bacteria growth. If the flower stems have been out of water for a while, it is a good idea to cut off the bottom inch or so for a cleaner cut. Doing the cut under water is also beneficial. Angle the cut so the stem won't sit flat on the bottom of the vase, which would prevent it from getting water.
Flower arrangements can have many other flowers besides roses. They may include carnations, chrysanthemums, lilies, freesia, ferns, anemones, tulips, daffodils, baby's breath and eucalyptus. These plants may last a few days or a few weeks. As they die, pluck them out of the arrangement so they will continue to look nice.
Several potted flowering plants are also given as gifts from Valentines Day through Mother's Day. Azalea, calceolaria, cineraria, cyclamen and hydrangeas all make nice blooming gift plants. These plants grow in the same conditions and are available at the same time during the year. They all prefer bright light from an east window or a fluorescent light. A daytime temperature of 60 to 70 degrees is best with a little cooler temperature at night.
"The azalea and hydrangea are both shrubs that can be set outdoors in the summer but are usually varieties that will not survive the winter if planted outside in cool climates," Rugg said. "They can be brought in during the winter where they might re-bloom. I have had gift azaleas last several years when taken out in the summer and brought indoors in the fall to protect them from cool temperatures. They tend to bloom in the fall and sometimes again in mid-winter. If they are not repotted, they need some fertilizer. Either way, they do tend to fade out over time, as they get fewer leaves and some of the branches die."
The cyclamen is a tuber that needs a dry rest period. Keep the plant moist until May and then let it dry out. In September, repot and water the tuber and keep it moist until May. This is one of the tougher bulbs to get to re-bloom. It may not even make it to the first May, as it tends to rot if it is over watered.
The calceolaria is called the pocketbook plant because of its many colored, pouch-like flowers. The cineraria has flowers that look like a mum but they come in many unusual colors, including pastel shades. Both of these plants are treated as annuals and are often disposed after flowering. Both can be grown easily from seeds by saving some from the flowers and planting them in the spring. Start growing the seeds in small pots. As they become root-bound, transplant them into bigger pots.
"If you get any tulip or daffodil plants, keep them moist," Rugg said. "They should be as cool as possible, even in the 50-degree range is okay. After blooming they should be discarded, but you can try them in your garden if you wish."
Amaryllis bulbs bloom for as long as two weeks. Large bulbs often send up a second flower stalk.
"After the flowers finish, cut the stalks off low, near the bulb," Rugg said. "Keep the plant alive in a sunny location and water it as needed. In the summer, move the bulb to a pot a half-inch wider than the bulb or plant it in a sunny garden.
"In the fall, move the pot back indoors or dig up the bulb. Let it dry out for three months and then start watering it again for another round of blooming."
Jeff Rugg is a writer on www.icangarden.com
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