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How to Have Perfect Cut Flowers

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To have beautiful cut flowers that last a long time, you must consider both how you cut and conditioning of the flower.  Here are a few tips to help you achieve an amazing arrangement that will last as long as those bought at a flower shop, often, even longer.


When to cut:  The best time to cut most flowers is right before the bloom is fully open.  If you cut them when they are completely open, their life expectancy is reduced.  If you cut them when they are still in a tight bud, you run the risk of them never opening.  A few flowers last longer when fully open when cut.  Some examples are daisy, marigold, orchid, violet, and zinnia. Cutting should be done during late afternoon or evening as they have more food stored up from the sun at that time of day, helping to prolong their life.  

How to Cut:  Always cut the stem a bit longer than you think you need.  This way you have a little extra length to play with when making your arrangement.  Use sharp sheers, knife  or scissors to avoid smashing the stem as you cut. Don't use the anvil style pruners (one blade flat) because these are made for squeezing before cutting. Remove any leaf that may be below water lever to deter rotting or dirty and smelly water and remove all that have insect damage, are discolored, or diseased.  Then place the stems into a bucket of lukewarm water and cover flowers with a plastic bag until cutting is done and you are ready to make your arrangement. This helps prevent wilting.


Conditioning helps the flowers take up more water so they can remain straight and open fully.  All flowers benefit from conditioning for and hour, or better, a few hours (over night is always best) of conditioning before being placed in an arrangement. 
1. Have the containers of warm water ready (about 100o - 110o F., bath water temperature). Although warm water is better than cold, many flowers are not “fussy” and take up cold water readily. In case of doubt, use warm water.
2. The water should be about half the depth of the entire stem length, preferably containing a floral preservative or bacteriacide.
3. Recut the stems at an angle. Remove one to two inches with a sharp knife (or shears), under warm water, if possible. Probably the easiest way to do this is to make the cut while holding the stem under running warm water. Then immediately place the stem into a container of warm water with
preservative before the stem end dries.
4. When the stem is handled for re-cutting, remove any leaves that will be in the water.
5. Keep the blooms dry and out of the water.
6. Store the containers of cut flowers in a cool, humid place, free from drafts.

Less Common Plants but Beautiful Cut Flowers

  1. Centaurea, Cornflower
  2. Molucella, Bells of Ireland
  3. Scabiosa, Pin Cushion Flower
  4. Calendula, Pot Marigold
  5. Ageratum
  6. Nigella, Love in a Mist
  7. Ricinus, Impala.
  8. Fennel
  9. Rudbekia
  10. Bupleurum griffithii
  11. Lupin
  12. Asters
  13. Gypsophilia
  14. Ammi majus
  15. Orlaya grandiflora
  16. Godetia
  17. Cosmos
  18. Celosia
  19. Dahlia
  20. Malope trifida
  21. Coreopsis
  22. Dianthus (especially pinks)
  23. Gladiolus
  24. Gomphrena
  25. Euphorbia marginata (my favorite)
  26. Astilbe
  27. Agrostis nebulosa
  28. Didiscus, Blue Lace Flower
  29. Statice
  30. Leonotis leonurus
  31. Verbena
  32. Tithonia
  33. Matthiola incana
  34. Sweet Pea
  35. Salvia
  36. Zinnia
  37. Cerinthe major
  38. Larkspur
  39. Delphinium
  40. Larkspur
  41. Amaranthus, Love Lies Bleeding
  42. Gaillardia
  43. Helianthus Sunflower
  44. Monkshood
  45. Platycodon
  46. Sweet William
  47. Anethum graveolens -Dill
  48. Chrsanthemum
  49. Buddleia
  50. Nicotiana

 Source:  Care of Cut Flowers and Foliage by James C. Schmidt, Horticulturist University of Illinois


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