To prolong the life of your flowers at home, treat the bunches like toddlers: don't let them get hot and bothered, feed them, water them, and change them before they get smelly.

HERE'S HOW TO MAXIMISE YOUR PETAL POWER

 

Keep it cool 

Get your flowers home quickly. Leaving a bunch in a hot car for an hour will take days off its life.

Keep it clean: The two things that shorten the life of cut flowers are bacteria in the water and blockages on the stems that prevent the flowers taking up water. Scrub your vases thoroughly with bleach, and rinse them well.

 

Make the cut

Make a clean cut with secateurs or sharp scissors and preferably do the cutting underwater to prevent air bubbles entering the stems. Cut off at least the bottom 2cm of each stem (and all of the white part of the stems of bulb flowers like tulips and daffodils). Always cut at an angle, to maximise the cut surface area, and prevent stems being blocked when resting on the bottom of the vase. Strip off any leaves that will be underwater, which will rot.

 

Water! Water! 

Whenever possible, use softened, de-mineralised water, or leave it to stand overnight beforehand. Vases should be at least half-full - thirsty flowers can drink a lot. But hairy-stemmed flowers such as gerberas don't like to get out of their depth – a maximum of 7cm of water is all they need. Hard-stemmed flowers such as roses can respond to warmer water, but bulb flowers such as daffodils, hyacinths and tulips should have cold water - they love an ice-cube in their drink.

 

Open up!

To encourage flowers to open in time for a special event they need heat and light: a warm, sunny room (avoid fan-heaters), warm water, and leave the lights on overnight. Don't remove the greenish outer petals around rosebuds to make them open faster - they just die sooner. Don't mix: Bulb flowers such as daffodils and narcissi shouldn't be included in mixed bunches. The "daffodil slime" they emit from their stems is toxic to other flowers.

 

Bold arrangements of flowers and fruit can be very striking, but they won't last as long: the ethylene given off by fruit speeds up the deterioration of any produce around it. Dying flowers do the same thing, so pull them out to extend the life of the whole arrangement.

 

Feeding 

Flowers need to be fed. Always use the sachet that arrives with a bouquet of flowers, or buy liquid flower-food from us. Or make your own home-made flower preservative from 3 parts of warm water to 1 part of lemon-lime soda (not diet drinks), or a tablespoon of sugar and two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per litre of water. Add a quarter of a teaspoon of bleach per litre to both recipes.

Change that water

This is the single most effective thing you can do to prolong the life of cut flowers. Daily is best. You don't need to take the arrangement apart: stand the vase in a sink or bath and run plenty of fresh water through it to flush out the old water.

 

Where to put them 

Keep your arrangements away from heaters, electrical appliances such as TVs, and sunlight. Moving them somewhere cooler overnight will prolong their life. And keep that vase away from the fruit bowl.