If you’ve ever gotten a bouquet, you may have also received a mystery packet of powdered plant food.
What’s in there, anyway? Fun Dip? Ground-up Lunchables? Your middle school memories tap you and whisper “photosynthesis,” but what do cut flowers snack on?
1. These packets typically contain three ingredients: citric acid, sugar, and — believe it or not — bleach.
Plants do produce sugar during photosynthesis, but when they’re cut, so are their food pipelines. And since flowers can be collected before they’ve fully developed, they need a little food to bolster their buds.
Citric acid like lemon juice lowers the water’s pH level. This allows water to travel faster, which can reduce wilting, according to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.
Feeding them sucrose nourishes them, but it also can invite the growth of unfriendly microorganisms. That’s where a biocide like household bleach comes in: It keeps bacteria from clouding up the water and hindering the stems’ water uptake — and making them stink.
Cut the stems at about a 45-degree angle (this exposes more area for water uptake) and take off all the leaves below the water line to curb bacterial growth. Then you can mix together this easy recipe from floral designer Rose Edinger:
Homemade Flower Preservative
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon household bleach
2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
1 quart lukewarm water
2. But not everyone uses the packets: A disinfected vase can boost longevity, too.
“We find it’s best to simply trim the stems of cut flowers and place them into a sterilized vase,” said Suzanna Cameron, owner of Stems Brooklyn. Just clean the vase with bleach and water before putting in your blossoms, and voilà! Your flora will look fresher, longer.
Cameron also suggests changing the water and sterilizing the vase daily to keep the flowers at their prime. And be sure to keep them in the shade with cool water, not in direct sunlight or warm H2O (unless you want to “push” them to open up faster, she said).