Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.
There’s no denying the instant boost a handful of cut flowers gives any room. Be it a generous arrangement you’re lucky enough to receive, or a bunch you grabbed from Trader Joe’s, flowers—or just leafy stems, for that matter—it can make even a windowless room feel warm and inviting.
But there’s something deeply upsetting about tossing a wilted bouquet; it always feels like it was just yesterday that you were fluffing up your still-closed ranunculus, and suddenly they’re stinking up the kitchen with their funky water. So, how does one go about livening up their home and maintaining that for more than a few days?
We posed these questions to Christina Stembel, founder of Farmgirl Flowers, and she shared her homemade flower food recipe (much like, you know, the little packets that come wrapped up in the rubber band of a bouquet), and her best tips for extending the life of your stems.
Use a Dark Vase
First things first: “we strongly recommend using either a dark glass vase or ceramic vessel,” says Stembel. “Darker glass or ceramics won’t allow sunlight into the water, which can increase the rate at which the stems decay.” Sure, mason jars are adorable, but if you’re planning on displaying the bouquet where the sun hits, go for a darker vessel.
Add DIY Flower Food
“When we first started making flower food,” Stembel says, “we followed an older recipe from Martha Stewart (the queen!). Since then, we’ve made a few tweaks to suit our production and the ingredients we have on hand.” The industrial formula they use is: 1 gallon of water + 4 teaspoons bleach + 4 teaspoons vinegar + 4 tablespoons sugar. Here's how you can scale that down for your own bouquet: 1 quart water, 1 teaspoon bleach, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bear in mind, according to Stembel, “the truth is, flower food is most effective for flowers that are fresh cut.” As the flowers age, they still get a boost from this DIY food (don’t we all with a little sugar!); the bleach component also helps to kill bacteria as it’s generated in the vase. Some people even use Sprite or other clear sodas as a sugary flower food, but Stembel still recommends a little bleach (in the same proportions as earlier stated), but when subbing soda in for sugar, go with one-part clear soda to three-parts water. Remember, if you’re going this route do not use diet soda and make sure it’s a clear variety, like Sprite. Colas or even ginger ale don’t work for this!
Trim Stems Daily
Keeping the bottoms of the stems fresh ensures they can most effectively absorb water. Stems should be trimmed at least half an inch when they first come home. Remember, when you’re trimming the stems (with these guys), time is of the essence: Put fresh cut stems back in the water immediately after trimming. Once cut, the stems will begin to seal up. “Delaying putting them in the vase will inhibit their ability to hydrate properly,” Stembel warns.
Keep Flowers in a Cool Location
Keeping your flowers out of extreme conditions (like super-hot window sills) will prevent them from dying faster and cause build up in their water source. Most flowers prefer cool, shady spots in your house, so also keep them away from the radiator in the winter, too.
Change the Water Daily
Just like people, flowers don’t thrive when they’re drinking stagnant, dirty water. Daily water changes flush out any bacteria the flowers are sitting in, and they also eliminate any odor that comes with rotting plants.
Remove Any Stems as They Die
Pruning dead stems will remove sources of excessive bacteria—decaying flowers release bacteria into the water faster than fresher stems. You should also remove any leaves that fall below the waterline each time you change the water.
Clean Your Vase
It’s important to do this after removing a dying bouquet and right before you put a new one in it. A lot of people don’t consider the bacteria that can be in the vase before the bouquet goes in. A good rinse with warm water and soap will make sure the flowers have a clean start.