How to make cut flowers last a few days unattended?
July 21, 2013 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to buy a bunch of cut flowers Thursday night and set them out, so they'll still be looking nice when the recipient returns Sunday afternoon. No one will be around between Thu-Sun. What's the best way to do this? More details inside...

Projected weather this week - High of 82, low of 65. The flowers would be sitting indoors, with little light and no AC.

Usually when I get cut flowers from Costco/Trader Joes, I feel like I have to change the water daily or do other things lest they get kinda unpleasant immediately.

In this case, both the recipient and I will be away Thu night - Sun afternoon. I'd like the recipient to find these as a surprise.

What are some best practices for this? How can I prevent them from looking awful by Sunday? Aside from the packet of stuff that comes with the flowers, is there anything else I can add into the water? (RedBull? Just kidding.) Also, when I select the bunch of flowers, what should I look for?

posted by bluelava to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You want something that hasn't bloomed yet, like stargazer lilies or irises. If you buy them tightly budded, they should be opening by Sunday.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:35 PM on July 21, 2013

Buy alstroemeria, sometimes called Peruvian lilies. They will last a week or more with no special care, and they're easy to find.
posted by purpleclover at 1:42 PM on July 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Keep 'em out of the sun (windows), and away from air conditioner vents. Make a fresh cut of all stems (except greenery) and get all of the junk (leaves, etc.) off the stems that will be in the water. Also, water does not have to be to the top of the vase usually, just enough for the stems to "drink". Fresh water, fresh stem cuts, fresh preservative before you leave. Then, position in right place in house.
And BTW, the "exotic" style arrangements tend to last a long time (birds of paradise, etc.) Or carnations also last a long time, and they smell good.
Oh, and keep away from any fruit out on the counter.
posted by bebrave! at 1:42 PM on July 21, 2013

When you strip the leaves and make a fresh cut, make it under water on the diagonal. You can toss an aspirin in the water too. I have revived half dead cut flowers that way.
posted by Michele in California at 1:46 PM on July 21, 2013

Also, I've heard those packets that come with the flowers do more harm than good - is this true?
posted by bluelava at 1:55 PM on July 21, 2013

We had gotten several vases of daisies before we went away for five days. Came home and they still looked great. We had the air conditioning on but they were unattended while we were away
posted by polkadot at 2:05 PM on July 21, 2013

Don't really know about those preservative packets or what's in them but the florists do use them.
And in addition to Michele in California's aspirin suggestion above, I have heard of using just a few drops of bleach in the water. All these things do (I think) is cut down on the rate of decay.
posted by bebrave! at 2:20 PM on July 21, 2013

The packets won't hurt anything, but probably won't help, either. The aspirin thing is also an old wive's tale, as is the obsession with exactly how to cut the flowers. I'm with fiercecupcake and bebrave -- just buy something hardy and tightly closed and cut away any leaves below the water line.

I used to run a farmer's market flower stall and got this question a lot.
posted by Sara C. at 2:21 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

- different flowers last different lengths of time. In addition to alstroemeria, chrysanthemums are a good bet.

- hate to say it, but I've not had great experiences with Trader Joe's flowers, perhaps because they've usually been sitting out at room temperature all day before I buy them. You might do better with a florist.
posted by mr vino at 2:40 PM on July 21, 2013

My best, most long-lasting bouquets have come from grocery stores. They last longer than Trader Joe's and our local farmer market's bouquets. I can get about 2 weeks out of them (with using the packet) and can easily go a week without changing water. They're not super-fancy but they definitely do the trick.
posted by kimberussell at 2:44 PM on July 21, 2013

Seconding Alsromeria and removing bottom leaves. Trader Joe's does have them and they last a week easily if they look fresh when you buy them.
posted by Elsie at 2:50 PM on July 21, 2013

Alstromeria (also known as Peruvian lilies), carnations, and daisies are all fairly longlasting flowers. If you want something bigger and fragrant, get a stem or two of stargazer lily with the buds tight. (oh, and they are a bit more expensive but callas last a bit longer than some flowers. ) Whatever you do, NO TULIPS. Hopefully you will be leaving these in a cool place, because heat makes flowers open quicker and wilt faster.

And yes, do keep them away from fruit.

As to the water, make sure you rinse out the container with a mild bleach solution, rinse it out, and maybe put a drop or two of bleach in the water the flowers will be in. (no more than that.)

Also, go to a nicer grocery store that keeps the flowers refrigerated, or go to a florist. You want flowers that have been properly handled beforehand. If you go to a florist tell them what you are trying to do, and hopefully they will make sure to sell you their freshest.

I wouldn't put any roses in your arrangement but if you do make them red. The other colors will NOT last nearly as long.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:57 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

And use a dark colored vase. That way, if the water gets cloudy you won't be blue to see it.
posted by raisingsand at 4:07 PM on July 21, 2013

A pre-1982 penny( when they were still copper) perks up tulips.
posted by brujita at 4:55 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another option is to purchase a pretty potted orchid instead. Hardy flowers like safari flower, mums and alstroemeria will all be fine but the water will still get grody no matter what flower you purchase. The blooms will look fine but the water will still get cloudy and stinky. Stripping any leaves under the water line will help with this.

When you purchase, look carefully to make sure you are buying fresh.

I worked in a florists and we'd get flowers straight from the distributor, make arrangements and sell them the same or next day.

Places like TJs or Costco may take longer to get the flowers from the distributor to the store. Costco does seem to keep their flowers cold while TJs does not.

Your best bet would be to go to a reputable florist and let them know you're buying a bouquet that should look its best in 3 days--or go with an orchid or other potted flowering plant!
posted by dottiechang at 9:13 PM on July 21, 2013

Seconding dottiechang's orchid idea, these can look amazing for weeks! Usually it's the ones you have re-bloomed yourself that really last for weeks, I'm guessing because they are accustomed to the environment in your house. But even a ten-dollar phal from Kroger will usually last at least a week or two, if not a month or two.
posted by bebrave! at 12:06 PM on July 22, 2013

Thirding: get an orchid plant.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 1:28 PM on July 22, 2013

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