9 Easy Ways to Keep Fresh Cut Flowers Alive Longer

by Flower El
fresh cut dahlia in vase

Fresh cut is the most widespread way of selling flowers. Once the flowers have been harvested at the farm, they are efficiently processed and presented to the market. Fresh cut flowers are characterized by flowers, the plant’s stems, and in most cases, the plants’ leaves attached to the stems.

If you are a newbie flower farmer, it’s advisable to start with one aspect, say selling fresh cut flowers, and then you can diversify into other options after gaining necessary experience.

1. Harvest fresh and healthy blooms

Before harvesting the flowers, ensure that they are fresh. And once cut, the flowers should be processed with speed, and efficiently delivered to clients/buyers using the fastest and most secure means available. Once a flower is cut from its root, every second afterwards is precious and should be properly utilized to shield it from drying up.

Only harvest healthy blooms. Pest infested or disease infested blooms have shorter life spans once cut from the garden. And anyway, why would you want to sell unhealthy blooms to your clients? Healthy blooms have greater life spans after cut. For small scale farmers, you can dip the fresh healthy blooms in clean and fresh water, and let the flowers stay overnight in a cool setting (in case you intend to sell them on the next day).

2. Grow flowers with proven good longevity after cut

One of the best ways to guarantee that your freshly cut flowers can maintain their freshness for long hours is by growing flowers with proven good longevity after cut. A flower like Iris does not last for long once cut. On the other hand, Lilies and roses have favorable extended life spans after cut. And chrysanthemums and carnations have greater life spans after cut.

If you lack good preservation machines, adequate means of transport, or your farm is located far away from flower markets/clients, you should focus on growing flowers with proven greater lifespan after cut, and have good local demand.

3. Timely harvest: Harvest the flowers very early in the morning, or late in the evening

When cut under cool/cold temperatures, flowers will retain their moisture (water) content for long hours as compared to when they are cut under warm/hot temperatures. From personal experience, I would highly recommend cutting the flowers early in the morning, after they have gathered enough dew through the night. And once harvested, don’t take too long to process them before selling.

4. Keep the flowers in a cool setting

Keep the flowers in a well ventilated room. Once cut from the garden, the period that your flowers will last before wilting depends on how effectively they preserve their moisture, and how fast you deliver them to clients. Do not store cut flowers in heated rooms or close to radiators, fires or large microwaves. Instead, keep them in a well ventilated room with cool temperatures to shield them from warmth/heat. Notably, it’s advisable to invest in an appropriate cooling refrigerator to help maintain the flowers’ moisture and keep them fresh for long hours.

5. Observe general hygiene

Ensure that anyone handling the flowers from harvesting, storage and transit, exercises hygienic measures. They should handle the flowers with clean and properly washed/disinfected hands/gloves and other tools. If you are doing packaging at the farm level, then the packaging materials should be neat, clean, and be well ventilated.

From time to time, check the flowers with focus on removing any wilted ones or those showing signs of rotting. One rotten flower can infect the whole bouquet in a vase and make them start to wilt. That’s how dangerous the ethylene gas being emitted by rotting flowers is.

If you are in pursuit of ways to make cut flowers; including bouquets and other special flower arrangements to last for an extended period of time, you can try some of the below tips:

6. Put the flowers in clean warm water

Immediately you’ve cut the flowers, put them in clean container with clean fresh warm water. Keep the container in a cool place to allow the flowers properly absorb the water.  It’s only the stems of the flowers which should touch the warm water and not its leaves or flowers. Doing this will ‘harden’ the flowers and allow them last for an extended period of time. Do not dip the entire cut flowers in the warm water.

Afterwards, transfer the flowers in vase filled with mild-warm/luke-warm water. And ensure that you replace the water every day to remove any bacteria or fungi which may attack the flower. And as you replace the water, carefully trim leaves of the flowers; removing the ones which may be showing signs of wilting, rotting or infection. Ensure the leaves of the flowers do not touch the water in the vase as they may easily start to rot.

7. Keep the flowers in a non-heated environment

Keep the flowers in a safe and cool place away from direct sunlight or heating sources such as on top of a TV set, in the kitchen close to the gas cooker etc. Ensure the room is appropriately ventilated.

8. Use commercial flower preservatives

A good number of flower preservatives are readily available from local florists, retail stores and other flower vendors. These preservatives posses the necessary ingredients that flowers need to live an extended life after cut. Significantly, these preservatives are usually sold with prescriptions of how to use them. Read those prescriptions keenly and carefully follow each step outlined for you to realize good results.

9. Use homemade preservatives

Soda and bleach: Sodas contain necessary sugars needed by flowers to thrive.  Bleach on the other hand has acidic content which has the potential to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. Use clear sodas such as sprite or seven up by mixing one part of soda to three parts of water. Then add few drops of bleach. The flowers will continue to thrive well while protected by the bleach from attack by microorganisms. However, you should take precaution not use too much bleach as it might end up discoloring the flowers’ stems.

Sugar and lemon juice: In the absence of a soda and bleach, you can use sugar and lemon juice. For one part of lemon juice, use three to four parts of water, and some pinches of sugar. Both will serve the same purpose as soda and bleach.

Aspirin or vinegar: You can grind up aspirin or apple cider vinegar as both are good alternative sources of acids needed to kill any microorganisms in the flower vase.  Be cautious though not to use too much of aspirin as it might decolorize the stems of flowers.

Vodka and sugar or soda: Vodka may also act as a good antibacterial. If mixed with sugar or soda in a vase of a flower, will help extend the longevity of cut flowers. Vodkas even have the potential to stop cut flowers from emitting ethylene which is responsible for wilting of most flowers.

fresh cut rose

Tips For New Flower Farmers

Time is precious

Flower farming is a very delicate venture. Every second counts. You must plan well and cautiously execute those plans with speed. Always time your planting to allow you harvest the flowers at peak seasons; when the market demand for flowers is high. The worst experience you can ever have as newbie flower farmer is to harvest your flowers during low seasons (low peak seasons).

Once flowers are harvested from the farm, it is always a race against time. You should process them with speed and deliver them to clients using the least time possible. To enable you achieve this, you must be effective at making and executing decisions.

Take timely notes on the types of flowers you sell, and how much you sell per day, week, month, and year. Equally, take notes of the best days or weeks or months that you make most sales/least sales. This will help you to appropriately plan on when to plant and when to harvest.

Focus on quality

Focus on delivering the best quality of flowers to clients. Such quality flowers will get you a high reputation amongst clients, and you will never lack where to sell your flowers in the subsequent harvesting seasons. It’s always very easy to acquire a new client than maintain a client who has had a bad experience with your flowers/services. Focus on quality and deliver your promise. Quality flowers will always reward you handsomely.

Grow flowers with proven growth and purchase potential

Grow flowers with proven potential to do well. Significantly, grow flowers with proven qualities to grow well within your region, and have good market demand. To identify such flowers, you can visit a few established flower farmers or florists within your region and learn from them.

Be aware of your competitors

Know the new varieties of flowers that they are growing, any new technology they have adopted, and any unique tactics that they use to market and sell their flowers. Never be afraid of your competitors. The market for flowers isn’t fully tapped. Even if you were the lone flower farmer in your own country, you would never be able to fully meet the local demand for flowers.

Start small

There is so much to be learnt in the flower farming. Start small to allow you learn all the A to Z involved in the growing, marketing, and selling of flowers, and only expand when you feel you are ready.

Walk to local flower markets and engage players in the flower trade. Visit local flower farms and florists to learn more from them. Ask them about some of the best flowers you should focus on, and any other question which should make your venture a success. When you are starting out, try not to re-invent the wheel, but focus first on maximizing on what is working.

Have an emergency cash reserve

For smooth running of any business, you need an emergency kitty to enable you push through unexpected low financial moments should they surface. When faced with an emergent financial need, the safest way to sort it out is through using your emergency cash reserve.

Be friendly, passionate, and involve others

Behind every lovely flower there is a lovely farmer. Be friendly and passionate about flowers. This will open your world to a number of players in the flower business and the rewards will always be massive. Be friendly to workers at your farm (if any), to your suppliers, and your clients. Have passion for flower farming and for quality output. Involve the input of professionals such as agronomists. Readily, involve the input of relevant professionals. You can never be a master of all knowledge or information. Relate well with other people and know that you can only be truly successful if you have the support of more new and repeat customers. Treat your clients well; you can never be in business without their support.

Be persistent

Even the once glorious Rome was never built in a single day. To succeed, you must be persistent all through. Not every day will be rosy. There are certain days when your resilience may be tasted. You may be faced with unexpected eventualities that may tempt you to quit. However, you should brave such storms and strive to see the clear light at the end of the tunnel. You may lose your products due to theft, or due to natural effects such as drought, flooding, or unexpected pest/disease outbreak. Always use such incidences (if any) as learning platforms, and correctly apply the lessons learnt in the future running of your farm.

Don’t get discouraged when you see other farmers profitably sell their flowers with much ease. Perhaps, they may have been in the business for long and have learnt all the useful tricks. Just hang on there and learn all that you can. Learn when to plant, what to plant, how to plant, when to harvest, how to package, pricing, and how to handle clients.

Find some time to rest

You need to create some time to have adequate rest in order to re-fresh and rejuvenate your body and mind. Too much work may wear you out. Take some time away and be with your loved ones; family and friends. But most significant, resting will give you an opportunity to renew you energy which is an essential ingredient in managing your flower farm.

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