Keep your blooms healthy and vibrant with at-home or professional-grade flower foods.

By Kelly Manning
November 16, 2020
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Credit: Getty / d3sign

Whether you're unwrapping a beautiful bouquet of flowers purchased from a florist or an arrangement shipped to your door, you're likely to find a small packet of white powder food tucked inside. Don't be too quick to toss it aside—your blooms rely on this food to thrive and remain healthy. "It really does prolong the life of your flowers," says Emily Pinon, the creative director of New York City-based florist Ode à la Rose, of its myriad benefits, which include stimulating the opening of closed buds as well as preventing bacteria and fungi growth. "People often don't realize what a significant difference it will make in extending vase life." Ahead, floral experts help us understand the ingredients behind this precious powder—and share a few ways to make your own at home.

What's In It?

According to Valerie Ghitelman, the Vice President of Product Development, Design, and Sourcing at 1-800-Flowers, packets of flower food typically contain a mixture of sugar, which acts as a nutrient for the stems; citric acid to lower vase water pH; and bleach to ward off bacteria. "Since sugar often invites the growth of unfriendly microorganisms, bleach counteracts this and keeps the water from clouding and giving off an unpleasant odor," explains Ghitelman. Some food mixtures, she notes, also contain chemicals known as "stem unpluggers," which drain bacteria buildup, thereby allowing stems to soak up hydration. Adds Pinon, "the food acts as a vitamin for your flowers, giving them nutrients for strength and longevity."

Making Your Own at Home

Experts agree that concocting your own version of flower food is certainly doable. If you're up to making your own cocktail, or running low on professional-grade varieties, Ghitelman suggests mixing together one part lemon-lime soda with three parts lukewarm water. Alternatively, mix two tablespoons lemon juice, one tablespoon sugar, one quarter-tablespoon bleach, and one quart lukewarm water. And if you're against using bleach? Try her vinegar-centric formula, instead, comprised of two tablespoons white vinegar, two tablespoons sugar, and one quart lukewarm water. Store extra portions of the mixture, or additional store-supplied packets, with your garden supplies so you have them on-hand when needed. "This way, you're always prepared if your bouquet doesn't include food or you run out," advises Pinon.

What Not to Forget

While flower food is a critical component to achieving a long-lasting floral arrangement, basic flower care is still necessary. Start by cutting stems at an angle, one to two inches from the bottom, to ensure proper water intake. Similarly, remove any leaves touching the water, which will promote bacterial growth. Don't forget to change the water every two to three days, adding additional flower food in the process; lastly, prevent arrangements from drying out by keeping them away from direct sunlight or heating and cooling vents.

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