Holiday Flowers

iStock / Irina Drazowa-Fischer


The cut-flower trade is now a multi-billion dollar industry with a significant peak in sales during the holiday season. Most of the flowers in our stores this December will have endured long and arduous journeys from distant lands to join us in Bloomington for the holidays.

Growers have succeeded, with the help of scientific techniques and greenhouse technology, in improving production and the timing of flowering. They have also kept prices low. The longest lasting cut flowers, such as carnations, alstroemerias, and chrysanthemums, are real bargains as they provide at least two weeks of vase life. This is even after they have spent many hours traveling in boxes without water before they arrive at stores.

If you are fortunate enough to receive a bouquet of flowers during the festive season, you are hereby admonished not just to shove them into a vase and ignore their needs until you throw them out. You will prolong their lives if you take at least minimal care of them. (You will also avoid incurring the wrath of the horticultural police.)

If you are still searching for the perfect gift for that special, or even not-so-special, someone on your list, consider flowers. The most romantic ones, such as roses, tulips, and lilies, are available in more colors than ever before. These flowers have high status and thus great impact without the expenditure of much money, time, or effort. And one size fits all.

Remember that you get more bang for your buck if you present flowers while murmuring an endearment. For all types of flowers, except prickly, droopy, or pungent-smelling ones, you can get by with the generic, “These remind me of you.” Don’t even think about saying “happy holidays” as a flowery sentiment.

Herewith are some timely tips and a few facts about the care of cut flowers. Even if one is in the unenviable position of not having anyone to get flowers from, the knowledge may still be useful at holiday gatherings. The information is neutral, yet fascinating, and can be trotted out should one be obliged to converse with those of vastly different political or religious persuasions.

1. Flowers that are refrigerated in a store will last longer, once they are purchased, than those that are not. And those little packets of commercial flower food do indeed extend vase life.

2. Cut an inch or so off the bottom of the stems before you first place them in a clean vase of warm water. Also, strip off any leaves that would be submerged. Change the water every day.

3. Roses that look droopy can be plunged into a sink of cold water, stem and all, for up to three hours to rehydrate them. Let them drip dry on a counter. Mist non-droopy flowers lightly to refresh them.

4. Place flowers away from air vents and windows where the sun shines in or where there are drafts.

5. As flowers age, some may wilt first and exude ethylene damaging neighboring blooms. Remove wilted flowers promptly and cut down the stems of the remaining blooms to make shorter arrangements in smaller containers.