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Conditioning Cut Flowers

Martha Stewart Living, June 1998

If you are buying flowers from a shop, the florist should have conditioned them for you. But whenever you pick flowers from your garden or buy a growers' bunch at a farm stand, follow these simple steps to keep them in good shape for a week or longer.

To cut and properly prepare any kind of stem, keep on hand: a sharp knife, scissors or garden shears, and pruners.

Cut all green and woody stems at a 45-degree angle. This prevents stems from sitting flat in the vase and creates a large surface area, ensuring maximum water absorption. Use clippers or shears for woody stems and sharp scissors or knives for other flowers. If possible, cut stems under water.

For all flowers, remove any leaves that would otherwise sit under the waterline in the vase; leaves rot when submerged, encouraging algae and bacteria in the container and shortening the life of the blooms.

For cut flowers to survive, they need sugar for nourishment and an acidic ingredient, such as aspirin, to help them absorb water. Cut-flower food provides all the nutrition stems need, but you can also use this formula: For every quart of water, add two aspirins, a teaspoon of sugar, and a few drops of bleach (to reduce bacteria). Check water level frequently to make sure stem ends are covered; change the water and re-cut stems every five days.

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