The language of flowers, and tips for extending vase life

assorted flowers including carnation and daisy
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While flowers can be gifted for any occasion, they are most popular on Valentine’s Day, a tradition that started several hundred years ago. Floriography, the language of flowers, was a common practice in the Victorian era that allowed messages and emotions to be shared with others.

Flowers are a great way to send a special message without even saying a word. Each flower or color was assigned a special meaning (or even multiple meanings), allowing many sentiments represented in one arrangement or bouquet, from true love to friendship.

Calla lilies symbolize beauty, daisies symbolize innocence and loyal love, peonies say happy life/happy marriage, red carnations convey admiration, yellow tulips say there is sunshine in your smile, and gladioli display sincerity. Send someone a primrose to let them know you can’t live without them, or even a gardenia to your secret love!

Roses are the most popular flower on Valentine’s Day and they can represent many different meanings depending on the color, bud stage, and amount of buds in an arrangement. A single bud represents simplicity, two roses exhibit engagement, and a bouquet of roses shows gratitude. Red roses show love and respect, while yellow roses represent joy and gladness. A small rosebud portrays young and beautiful and a fully open bloom simply means “I love you.”

By taking a few simple steps to care for your fresh floral arrangement this Valentine’s Day, you can maximize their beauty and extend their vase life. Replace the water every two days and add clear, lemon-lime soft drink (3 parts water, 1 part soft drink) to the water to provide food for the flowers (sugar) and lower the pH of the water (citric acid). You can also add bleach (1 tablespoon for each gallon) to the water to kill any bacteria. Place arrangements in a cool, bright spot, but away from direct sun or heat sources. Make sure you discard any flowers or leaves from the arrangement that have wilted.

As flowers fade from the arrangement, move the ones still blooming and healthy to a smaller arrangement to enjoy even longer. Flowers received on special occasions can also be preserved or dried in a press and put on display.

Be creative when giving flowers this year—use flowers to communicate to those you love or appreciate dearly.