Following a few suggestions can prolong the beauty of flowers given on Valentine's Day and other special occasions, says a retired University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
"Whether you are giving roses, carnations, mums, or some other type of flower, you want them to last," says James Schuster. "Start with buying young flowers. Young rose buds have just their outer petals open, show no browning and on red roses there is no noticeable 'blue blush' showing through the red.
"The flower head stands straight up--the stem just below the flower has not become limp so that the flower head leans to the side."
The best carnations are not fully expanded and show no browning or wilting. Spike flowers like snapdragons and gladiolas should have the top third of the spike with the flowers still in bud. Daisy-like flowers should have the center look like a smooth flat to roundish button with a slight green color rather than a fuzzy-looking button.
"Whether the flowers are cut or potted, always check the age," says Schuster. "Check for browning and other aging/injury problems and check for wilting. Old flowers, diseased flowers, and wilted flowers have a short life expectancy."
Avoiding frost and freeze damage is another way to make gift flowers last longer. Make sure that there is adequate protection on the cut flowers and potted plants. Since heat rises, an opening at the top of the wrapped cut flowers or sleeved potted plants lets the heat out and the cold in.
"Make sure that the wrapping or sleeve folds over to cover this opening before leaving the store to go to your car," Schuster says. "Also consider how cold the car is inside and how long it will take you to get home. The paper used to protect your plants is only a short-term protection. If the cut flowers or potted plant remain in the cold too long, the flowers will not last."
Cut flowers need to be placed in water as soon as possible to reduce the chance of wilting. Those receiving cut flowers should cut about one to two inches of the stems under water and, if possible, put the flowers into a vase while still under water.
"This prevents air bubbles from interfering with the uptake of water," explains Schuster. "Change the water frequently--at least once a day. If a preservative is used, do not use all the preservative on the first day. If no preservative is available, it becomes more important to change the water daily.
"Changing the water frequently reduces decay and its foul odor. Potted plants should be moist but not wet. Keep them cool and in lots of bright light but not direct sun."Source: James Schuster, Retired Extension Educator in Horticulture