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Help Your Flowers Live Longer: Part 2 - Rot

Last week I talked about keeping your flowers hydrated. This week can be summed up in one word:


Rot is by far the best way to accelerate the demise of your freshly cut flowers. And it can sneak up on you in a myriad of ways. But if you know what signs to watch for you can certainly help their cause for longevity.

Here are 3 easy steps to help save your flowers from rot.

1. Clean Your Stems

A dramatically helpful step you can take in preventing rot is to first clean your stems of all leaves and thorns that could be in your vase water.

If your flowers came from a good floral shop, pre-arranged or wrapped, they should already be cleaned for vase life. However, if your flowers were purchased at any standard grocer or supermarket, they likely haven't been cleaned yet. This just means you need to take a few extra minutes to pull those leaves off.

A pile of tulip leaves that were removed before arranging.

You can always leave a few up at the top if you like the way they look, but in general you should be cleaning about 85% of your standard flower stems from all foliage.

There are SO many benefits to taking this extra step of cleaning your stems. I can't even imagine a single professional who would skip this step when working with flowers. We always do it asap, before they even begin soaking in their bucket overnight, still waiting to be arranged.

Here's a before and after shot of this agonis I cleaned before using

Benefits of clean flower stems:

A.) It prevents the flowers from wasting energy on keeping all those extra leaves alive. Instead the focus is all invested in the pretty little blooms you're wanting to admire.

B.) It keeps all those leaves from rotting in the vase water-- the water your flowers are DRINKING to stay alive. For this reason it's also important to keep any fallen leaves or petals from floating around in your vase water, where they're slowly decomposing. No need to poison the living flowers with unnecessary bacteria.

Rotting leaf that was left on the stem

C.) It frees up a LOT of space in your vase and gives those stems a little more breathing room-- preventing the humid jungle of intertwining leaves that can trap evaporating moisture and create rot.

This bunch of dusty miller looked healthy at first glance, but as I pulled it apart I saw the leaves on the inside had been rotting from trapped moisture and being too tightly packed together.

D.) It's honestly so much easier to design with a clean stem. If you ever have to pull one out because it died first, or just because you want to move it in the design, the leaves don't try and pull out everything else in your arrangement with it.

So. Clean your stems. Seriously.

2. Re-cut Your Stems

After you've had your arrangement for a few days it's always good to check the bottom of your flower stems for rot.

This just means that while a flower has been drinking up water through that lovely green stem, it has begun to decompose a little and is probably not looking quite so lovely and green. The flower also struggles to drink through a collapsing, polluted stem. So do it a favor and just cut that rot right off.

If you catch it early, this can mean just a short little snip, hardly losing any height on the flower.

If you let your flowers bask too long in their lukewarm bath before checking, the rot may have spread rather high on the stem, and if you wish to save the flower, you'll have to amputate quite a length of stem to spare it.

But that's ok. Just repurpose it into a smaller vase for a fresh new arrangement altogether.

3. Change Your Vase Water Frequently

Lastly, if you catch any signs of rot on your stems, it's important to change the water in your vase. The bacteria from that rot is just swimming around in the vase, waiting to be guzzled by an unsuspecting bloom, and kick-start the process of rotting all over again. You may as well just remove the flowers, chuck that water, give the vase a quick wipe-down, and refill with some fresh H2O.

It should be noted that arrangements that are anchored in with any sort of armature make a number of these tips quite difficult, as you can't remove the flowers without dismantling the whole design.

When this is the case, it's ok to settle for the best you can do, which is usually just pouring out the old water every few days and refilling with new water.

Be sure not to run the water right through the flowers when you refill. That extra moisture left sitting on the leaves and petals can also just lead to more rot.

Instead hold the flowers to one side as best you can and fill up with a controlled flow of water from the tap.

Well there you have it. Rot doesn't have to be a killer to get control of. Take a few preventative measures then follow through with a couple check-ups and I'm certain your flowers will last much longer than you're used to.

Good luck. And let me know if you have any questions!

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