It’s a harsh reality of the circle of life: Flowers aren’t meant to last.
However, thanks to chemistry, you can help them live just a bit longer.
[Splash] To keep cut flowers fresh, you’ve got to fight the flower's normal aging (er, dying) processes.
Plants have a straw-like systemcalled xylem to transport water using surface tension (on screentext- capillary action).
When the stems are cut, air rushes into the xylem, blocking the water system.
But more on that later.
When you’re ready to put your beautifulbouquet in a vase, follow these steps.
STEP 1: Clean yo’ vahz.
Clean yo’ vahz.
It sounds simple, but a little soapand water can go a long way to preventing bacteria and fungifrom invading your bouquet.
If you’re motivated, you can evenclean the vase and refill the water every day, for maximum disinfection.
STEP 2: Flowers need water.
So fill up the vase.
Flowers need water, duh.
But it’s a little more complicated than that.
It’s best to use warm water (110 dF)and slightly degassed, meaning entrapped air has been allowed to escape.
The simplest way of doing this is tofill up a vase with warm water and let it sit for a few minutes.
The quality of the water alsoaffects the life of the flowers.
Plants prefer slightly acidic water(pH 3.
5 to 5.
0) that doesn’t have too many dissolved solids or fluoride.
STEP 3: Feed your flowers Next, add the little packet of“flower food” from the florist.
What’s inside that thing anyway? 1.
First, it has bleach or some other microbe killer.
The bleach helps the disinfectingprocess by killing any microorganisms that are trying to eat awayat your flowers and make it harder for them to thrive.
Second, it has citric acid.
This lemony goodness reduces thewater’s pH, which in turn helps water travel up the xylem faster and reduce wilting.
And third, it has sugar! When carbohydrates are low, flowerswilt and petals become paler.
To prevent this, sucrose or glucosecan be added from the packet to help the flowers regain strength and beauty.
That’s what candy bars do for us, right? (screen: Not right.
) But be careful, microorganisms and bacteriaLOVE sugar, so that’s why you shouldn’t just dump table sugar intoyour vase — you need everything in that little packet.
STEP 4: Cut the stems Run the stems under water andcut off a bit from the bottom of the stem at a 45 d angle.
This ensures a wide opening to the xylem and keeps air bubbles to a minimum.
Also, try not to cut the leaves.
The leaves are how the plant getsenergy — photosynthesis, remember?! Once you made your snips, putthem those bad boys in the vase.
Step 5: Keep them away from ripe fruit Fruit produces ethylene, which tells a plant to ripen.
Faster ripening = faster aging = dead flowers.
Step 6: Keep them coolFinally, try to keep your cut flowers cool.
If you’re going to leave the housefor a day or two, stick ‘em in the fridge (just not too close toany ripe fruits or veggies).
This reduces microbial growth anddecreases the plant's metabolic rate, slowing the aging process.
Kind of like that futuristiccryogenics stuff we’re trying on people, but not quite as sci-fi or expensive.
There, you’ve done it! Congrats! Smell those roses (or lilies ortulips or whatever) while you can.
Tell us your favorite plant in thecomments, and of course let us know about future episodes you want to see.
Special thanks to chemist andACS expert Frankie Wood-Black for helping with this week’s episode.
Check out her columns linked in the summary.
Smell ya later!.