Hey Petal, Are You Struggling To Keep Your Flowers Alive?

Need a bit of flower power?

By Guest Styler | 11th February 2020

Serial flower killer? Whether it be plants or a fresh bunch of flowers, they can be tricky to keep alive in many households. Like anything, they need love and a little bit of TLC for optimum brilliance and longevity. As an ex-florist, I thought it might be time to spill the seeds on some industry hacks, just in time to let your Valentine know before Feb 14th!


A stem of a flower sucks up water the way our lungs breathe in air. However, if a cut stem is left in the open, little pockets of air can get trapped in the stem causing blockages and therefore water can’t feed the flower as effectively. When you’ve trimmed your flowers it’s important to put them in fresh water straight away. Or you can even try cutting them underwater.

A little tip I learnt from my mum (also an ex-florist) is called searing the stem. Now, this technique works for most flowers with solid stems (opposed to hollow) as some flowers may be a little too delicate for this. For perking up droopy blooms, in particular roses, this is the perfect hack. Cut your stem at a 45-degree angle and hold in boiling water. The hot water forces the oxygen out of the stem and you’ll see the tiny bubbles popping up. Once the bubbles taper off you can plunge the flowers straight into fresh water to keep them healthy. They’ll be able to drink up perfectly!


Soak It Up:

Maintaining the cleanness of the water your flowers sit in is key to their health. Change the water every two to three days depending on if the weather is hot (which it usually is here in Brissy!). Make sure you give your vase a quick scrub as well to remove any bacteria on there. Cut your stems every time you change the water at a 45-degree angle; the key to keeping your blooms hydrated. When you cut your stems straight they will sit flat to the base of your vase and will restrict the water flow to the bud. Also, here in QLD, I like to give my flowers cold water from the fridge to give them an extra boost! As counter-intuitive as it sounds, a little cap of bleach diluted in a full vase of water is perfect for killing nasty bacteria in the water.

Strip It Down:

So many people ask me why florists remove all the leaves from the stems. It may seem wasteful but it’s actually key to the longevity of your blooms. Leaves on the stem will decay faster than the bud of the flower. When leaves stay under the waterline, they’ll die off quicker and create bacteria in the water that speeds up the life cycle of the bouquet. Florists strip the stems roughly to where the water line is to avoid this. It also makes the bouquet easier to hold when arranging. Moral of the story, strip it down!

Shut Up and Take My Money:

Look, I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve never bought flowers from Woolies cause that, I have indeed done. And although that brings me deep shame, I’m not going to judge anyone for trying to save a couple of bucks! The truth of the matter is, flowers are a luxury item for most of us. When I was in the industry it was pretty much a daily discussion I would have with customers about why florist flowers cost what they do. So, I’m going to bring you the 411 on as to why.

For the standard range of flowers, supermarkets and florists quite often seek these from the same wholesaler. The difference lies within the care and time taken into maintaining the flowers on the shelf, so to speak. Often as soon as they arrive at supermarkets they are chucked in the buckets with no time taken to maintain them, nor not looked at again thereafter. Most of my days at the florist were taken up with the prep work to get flowers beautiful and ready to sell. The difference from how they arrive from the growers, to what we give to customers is VAST and that takes time and adds to the price tag.

Plus, florists take the time to order a much bigger variety of produce so you create something completely personalised. The cost of this variety bumps up the prices as products have to be imported from other states or countries, too. Unfortunately, our tough Aussie climate doesn’t lend itself to growing a large variety of flowers. As such, a lot of the blooms you see in florists are imported from overseas or grown down south where it’s cooler. Either way, it’s a bit pricier. For example, all those delicious red roses you’ll see this Feb will likely have come from Columbia. Florists are highly skilled workers with qualifications that they spent time and money on – you’re paying for their time and expertise as well as the higher quality of produce.

Feeling Fresh:

When it comes to seeing how fresh the flowers are upon purchasing, there are the obvious tell-tale signs such as brown marks, falling petals and droopy buds. However, here a few of my secret tips to checking the freshness of your blooms.

Signs of decay will often show up on the stem before they do on the flower bud. Make sure to check the health of the leaves and stem before purchasing. Also, if the stems feel somewhat slimy it usually means the water has not been changed and they are starting to die.

When it comes to roses, my sure-fire way to test their freshness is to have a quick squeeze at the base of the bud. If the bud feels firm, the flower is fresh. As the rose continues to bloom, the bud will feel more and more aerated. Those gorgeous, big, fluffy roses you see on Pinterest or Instagram are at the end of their life cycle! As gorgeous as they are, they aren’t going to be here for long. If longevity is important to you, make sure you conduct a squeeze test before buying.

Beware Of Order Takers:

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the amount of ‘order-taking’ companies that are seriously affecting the florist industry. These guys are basically call centres that take orders online and over the phone. They will then farm out the orders to legitimate florists near the delivery area yet they take a HUGE cut of the cost for literally just taking the order. In fact, way less than half of what you pay will actually go towards your flowers and the florist’s time is not factored into the costings at all! Meaning, they basically don’t get paid for creating your bouquet.

What’s worse is that these companies buy up Google ad space so when you search a florist in your local area they are in the first few results when they’re actually most likely based in a warehouse in a completely different city or state. These companies are seriously affecting local, bricks and motor florists as their websites are quite deceptive and it’s easy for people to believe they’re legitimate. The easiest way to weed these guys out is to scroll right past the ads on Google until you hit the regular search results. Also, when you’re on a website, keep an eye out for a street address on the site. Order takers will usually only have a 1300 phone number (also a tell-tale sign) and an email…no street address. If you can find the florist on Google maps, it’s legit.


Flower Food Faux Pas:

So those little sachets of flower food you get at the supermarket are actually not doing your flowers any good. Most of the time all they do is encourage the flowers to bloom quicker. We would sometimes use them for weddings or events if we needed them to open on-time! But for everyday arrangement, it’s not a good idea. Some florists will sometimes give out little packets of flower preservatives which are much better than flower food and copper pennies in your vase. Just make sure you check the packet before feeding it to your flowers.

No Sniffing the Roses:

Don’t worry, it’s not that you’ve got a blocked nose, it’s actually quite rare to buy naturally fragrant roses. I know, I’m devastated as well. Most commercially grown roses don’t have a scent as growers have bred them for long stems, large buds and a lengthy life and somehow in the process, the scent gradually started to fade. There are a few varieties of flowers that have a natural smell such as Oriental Lilies, Jonquils, Freesias and Stock.

Spraying Flowers:

Another myth I’d like to bust is spraying your petals with water. I personally love to do this as it gives the flowers a lovely dewy look but it isn’t actually doing anything to hydrate them. Most flowers don’t actually absorb water through their petals, it’s usually only through the stem. So, while you can spray your flowers for aesthetic purposes, a full vase of clean water is the best way to treat your flowers. The exception to this rule is Orchids who do absorb through the petals!





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