Quick Cut Flowers (cont)
By: Joan Huyser-Honig
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
Vase life: 5 to 10 days. Talk about a sure thing. No matter what color (all but blue), blossom shape (button, single, double, dahlia, cactus), bloom size (1 to 8 inches) or height (10 inches to 3 feet) you choose -- zinnias grow easily from seed sown where you want plants to grow. Plants withstand heat and drought, and flourish summer to frost in zones 2 through 11. In my survey, only sunflowers got more votes than this reliable annual cut flower. Harvest long stems with tight flower heads; scald stem ends.
Extending Vase Life
If you want your cut flowers to last, try these tips from Lowell Ewart, professor of horticulture and All-America Selections flower trial judge at Michigan State University, and Anne Halpin and Betty Mackey, authors of Cutting Gardens (Simon & Schuster, 1993).
- Cut flowers before morning dew has dried or in early evening. Snip above a node or dormant bud to spur new blooms. Put stems in a pail of lukewarm water as you cut them.
- Recut stems on a slant indoors under water to eliminate air bubbles that block food and water uptake.
- Remove bruised leaves and foliage below the water line to prevent decay.
- Where advised, scald stem ends in boiling water for 20 seconds or over a candle flame to stop nutrient-rich sap from oozing.
- Condition flowers several hours before arranging. Rest stems in lukewarm water in a dark, cool place, so they can absorb water.
- Arrange conditioned flowers in a vase of warm (110°F) water.
- Put the vase in a well-ventilated cool place (as low as 38°F) to slow aging. Don't store flowers near unsealed fruits and vegetables, which produce ethylene, a gas that hastens ripening.
- Change water every couple of days. In mixed bouquets, flowers may give off sap toxic to other varieties in the vase.
- Freshly cut flowers have enough stored sugars to survive in a vase. MSU tests found commercial floral preservatives less effective than this formula. (Increase proportionately if you need more liquid.):
- 1 cup regular 7-Up (the sugar provides energy)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon household bleach (controls bacteria)
Joan Huyser-Honig has contributed many articles to National Gardening.
Photography by Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association and Sabin Gratz/National Gardening Association