Conditioning of the cuttings that you have chosen for your fresh flower arrangement is a necessary step that needs to be taken to prepare them and provide a little TLC to ensure longevity, provide value and enjoy the beauty of your floral masterpiece. The following are steps that can be taken to condition your cuttings.
1. Dispose of any plastic sleeves and rubber bands on store bought flowers as soon as possible. Flowers cut from the garden will last longer if they are cut early in the morning or late evening when they have the maximum amount of water stored in their stems.
2. Use your best judgment to cut off any lower leaves on the stems that will possibly be under water in the arrangement procedure.
3. Conditioning involves cutting the end or tip of the stem. You will have better results if you cut them under running water then place directly into soaking container as described in next step. Different types of stems need slightly different TLC when cutting and preparing.
4. Woody Stems (such as roses, eucalyptus, mimosa) should be conditioned by cutting at a sharp angle, then splitting the stem ends about 1/2″.
Semi-Woody Stems (such as Chrysanthemum, Lily, Carnation), use the same procedure, except the splitting is not necessary.
Soft-Stemmed flowers (Anemone, Freesia, hellebore), use the same procedure but immerse in deeper water.
Hollow Stems are notorious for air-lock. Cut these stems at an angle, turn upside down and fill hollow area with water and hold in with finger until placed down into the bucket of water.
Milky Stems (Poppies, Poinsettia, Ficus), the milky substance called latex can be messy and irritating to the skin. Cut the stem ends and burn with a flame for a few seconds to seal them. Rinse under warm running water for a few seconds to remove any remaining latex, then place in bucket as described in next step.
Bulbous Stems (Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinth) are usually pulled, not cut by the grower. Therefore, the stem ends become firm and white, preventing the stem to ‘drink’ water. Cut off the entire white part at an angle and place in bucket with cool water, see caution below.
5. Make sure you keep the stems of the cuttings in a plastic bucket or container, filled about ¼ full with warm water to prevent *air-lock and provide moisture. Warm water helps deter bacterial growth and allows the water to reach the stem more rapidly, see caution below. At this time you will also want to add floral food to the water as directed. You can easily make your own fresh floral food if you don’t have any on hand.
*An air-lock is what forms at the stem where the flower has been cut, where atmospheric pressure forces air into the water ducts of the stem and it can no longer perform its normal vacuum function.
6. When placing your flowers in water before arranging, they should soak for at least 2-3 hours, or preferable over night.
An excellent reference guide on cut flowers with helpful tips and answers to questions such as “Can flower gas cause aging?” and “What are the effects of soft water on plants and flowers?”… a very interesting read that you will learn alot from!
TIPS AND CAUTIONS:
All buckets or containers used for the conditioning process need to be meticulously clean to prevent any lingering bacteria that could damage the foliage.
- When soaking flowers in water before arranging, any bulb flowers, such as tulips, should be soaked in cool water, as warm water will make them open too quickly.
- Daffodil stems exude a poisonous sap when cut. Make sure that they are placed in a separate bucket if using them with your arrangements. It is probably best to not combine them with other flowers in an arrangement, so as not to contaminate the entire arrangement
- Avoid using distilled water for your arrangements, because the lack of salt in the water pulls normal salts out of the plant cells.