cut flowers

Even though we know that flowers bloom and fade in their own time, the hope is that ithey’ll stay vivacious and vibrant for as many days as possible.Thankfully, there are a few ways to play with the water in the vase  and adjusting surrounding air quality that can help flowers last longer. 

When it comes to clearing the air so your flowers can stay fresh, ethylene is the name to know. Ethylene is a gaseous hormone that flowers and fruit accumulate and emit as they age. Caren Chang, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland who has researched the gas, says that, on the plus side, it helps promote fruit ripening. (It’s why you can stick a green tomato into a paper bag with a nearly gone banana. The banana will emit ethylene gas that helps the tomato ripen.)

The downside, Chang explains, is that ethylene can also cause leaves to drop and flower petals to die off. Injured flowers will give off a lot of ethylene as a last resort, hence why cut flowers tend to lose their vigour relatively quickly. As such, to keep them in good shape for longer, you’ll want to minimise their exposure to any excess ethylene gas. Following are two easy ways to do this:

Place Flowers Away From Fruit Bowls

Some plant species emit more ethylene than others. “Tomatoes, apples, bananas, pears, are some of the many fruitthat emit a high level of ethylene because, in most plants, the ethylene hormone is an essential hormone for fruit ripening,” says Chang.

Once in the air, the ethylene these fruit emit can travel a long way, however it tends to disperse and lose some of its potency along the way. Chang notes that by the time it reaches any nearby flowers, the ethylene from fruit will likely have diffused enough to not be an issue. However, floral stylist Harriet Parry says she’s noticed flowers do tend to fade faster when placed next to fruit.

So play it safe, you may want to keep your cut flowers away from your open fruit bowl to prevent premature decay.

Place Flowers Away From Grills And Fire Pits

Natural gas and petroleum are also major sources of ethylene (a natural byproduct of combustion), meaning they can be harmful to plant life.

For evidence of this, Chang points to one study conducted on a busy highway in Washington, D.C., which found that the high ethylene levels from car exhaust caused nearby plants to grow stunted. “When the ethylene was chemically removed from the environment however, the plants looked much better,” she says. Further, back in the 1800s, when street lamps were lit with gas, the trees surrounding the street lamps tended to drop their leaves.

For this reason, Chang recommends placing all your plants – cut or not – away from any gas source (car exhaust, fire pits, barbecue grills, oil lanterns, etc.) to keep them growing vigorously.

The Bottom Line

There are many ways to get a few more colourful days out of your cut flowers. Besides the basic care tips like cutting their stems at an angle, cleaning out their water, and keeping them away from direct sun, placing them out of ethylene hot spots may help them bloom brighter and for longer.