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How do I cut flowers for indoor use?
The most critical factor when cutting flowers for use indoors is to preserve and maintain as much water in the cut flower as possible. Proper timing of cutting, method of cutting, treatment after cutting and inhibiting bacterial growth in the vase are the important factors to be aware of.
Flowers are best cut in early morning or in the evening when the stems are full of moisture. Flowers cut during the heat of the day will wilt much more quickly. Flowers should also be placed in a bucket of water as soon as they are cut in the garden and their stems re-cut indoors. When re-cutting, hold the cut end of the stem under water and make a slanting cut at least one inch above the first cut. Making cuts under water helps prevent an air bubble from forming at the end of the cut stem which can retard water uptake. Condition the flowers by putting them in a deep bucket so water covers the lower foliage and keep in a cool location until you are ready to use the flowers. Conditioning for 8 hours or overnight is desirable. Flowers which have not been conditioned are more apt to wilt. Although keeping the blooms cool during conditioning is desirable, be wary of storing them in a refrigerator which may contain fruit and vegetables. The vegetables and ripening fruit release ethylene gas which will shorten the life of your flowers.
A few flowers need special treatment. Strip the thorns from the base of roses to increase water uptake and split the lower 1-2 inches of stem on woody branches. Flowers with a milky sap should have the cut end of the stem singed briefly with a match or candle or dipped into boiling water for 30 seconds. This seals the ducts so the milky sap does not flow out of the stem. Flowers which need this special treatment include: poppies, heliotrope and poinsettia.
Once flowers are in a vase bacteria in the water is the greatest threat to long life. The bacteria multiplies in the water and plugs the fine tubes in the stem which conduct water. Since foliage which is below water is not useful for the plant and will decompose make sure it is removed when the flowers are arranged. Also so called flower preservers such as Floralife and Petalife can play an important role in lengthening the life of the flowers. Mix the product according to label directions and use it each time you replace water in the vase. It is also recommended to re-cut the stem end of the flowers every 3-4 days underwater to help maintain a good flow of water to the blooms.