How to Make Some Fresh Flowers Last Longer

Simple Tips to Keep Blooms Looking Good

Winter in many parts of the country can be on the dreary side. The lights and colors of holiday events in November and December are over. Landscapes are buried under winter snowstorms. Spring is many weeks away. Too many.

How do you perk up your living space and spirits?  How about some fresh flowers greeting you indoors?

Florists are great for special events for friends and family! Some offer good deals on a simple bouquet too.

When you want flowers for your own home you
don’t take the time to go to a florist. Instead you pick up a bouquet in groceries or big box stores when shopping.

Here are a few tips to make your pick-me-up-bouquets last longer.

1. Choose flowers that last more than a week.

Mums (Chrysanthemums)

Come in many colors and different flower shapes.  Some shapes include pom pom and spoon, a tiny scoop on the end of the petal. Some remind you of a daisy. It is the flower of November birthdays.

Carnations

Many colors tempt you. It is easy for florists to dye the flower a different color from its original one. Colors in carnations have different meanings. Used as a symbol of many events around the world as well. It has a small scent.  It is the birthday flower of January.

Alstroemeria

Comes in many colors. Sometimes called the Peruvian Lily.

Roses

Who doesn’t love a rose? Such a versatile flower too. Different colors have different meanings. The number of roses you give has meaning, although one is as beautiful as a dozen.

Many people buy roses for the scent as much as for the delicately layered petal flower.

Roses are used in beauty products, rose hip tea and potpourri.

They last beyond the fresh stage and make wonderful dry arrangements.  June is National Rose month. It is the flower of June birthdays.

Sunflowers

This bright sunny flower has many uses.  Food for animals, birdseed and yellow dye are just a few.

Statice

Often used as fillers or accents in bouquets. Comes in many colors. The one most often seen in bouquets is purple and has a larger flower than the tiny ones grown in the garden. These keep their color well when they dry – a medium purple with green leaf and beige stem.

Baby’s Breath

Often used as filler in bouquets. Very small flowers in sprays. Holds color and shape well when dry. Lasts indefinitely as a dried flower. Turns a cream color after a few months.

2. Choose a fresh bouquet.

Signs of less than fresh flowers: brown edges on flower petals or petals look as if they might fall off. Wilted leaves suggest decay.

Sometimes there’s a few wilted flowers or leaves in the color you really want.  If you buy the bouquet realize it might not last as long as you’d like.

3. How to Keep Flowers Alive as Long as Possible

When first home:

  • Use a clean vase. After every use wash the vase and add a little bleach to the water to kill bacteria. Rinse well.
  • Fill the vase with water for the flowers. Add the packet of preservative that comes with the flowers.
  • Cut stems at an angle under water to prevent air bubbles. Air in the stems prevents them from taking up water. Florists have learned how to do this safely with a knife.
  • You’re better off using small pruning shears. Partially fill a sink or large tub with cool water. Cut each stem under water. The stem can take up water right away.
  • Remove leaves from the part of the stem that will go under water. Helps eliminate rot. Set stems in the ready to use vase.
  • Place your arrangement in a cool, low light spot. Keep away from heat sources such as sun, lamps and vents that provide the house with heat.
  • Ripening fruit will cause flowers to wilt sooner so keep fruit in another place.

After a few days:

  • Change water often – every other day or at least every two days.
  • Remove flowers that are losing petals, leaves that are wilting.
  • After a week cut back healthy flower stems. Take a good look at the stem. You can see where the stem is starting to shrivel even while green. Cut above the shriveled spot on an angle under water as before. May need a smaller clean vase for your remaining but shorter flowers.

Some other methods to preserve flowers:

Pro Flowers tested many kinds of home remedies on vases of flowers to see which worked the best. Maybe your favorite was tested in this article by Erica Daniels.

The winners in their test:  Put in refrigerator overnight – approximately 8 hours. Florists keep their stock in refrigeration units.  After all, you pluck flowers out of coolers at the store!

Adding one quarter cup of lemon-lime soda to a vase of water also passed the test.

Dry flowers for an even longer lasting arrangement:

Some people hang flowers upside down by their stems in a cool, dark but dry place for a couple of weeks.

The easiest way to dry them is to just let the water evaporate from the vase once you’re done preserving the fresh flowers.

This may look like a vase of dead flowers and it is. But seeing the possibility of a dried arrangement in this affair is not that difficult!

Once the flowers are dry they can be rearranged as a dried flower bouquet. Use each kind alone in a vase. Add to an existing dried flower arrangement.

Make them an accent in a dried wreath.  Just handle gently because due to dryness they are more likely to fall apart.

Dried roses look pretty inside a glass vase piled one on top of the other.  Break apart the petals for potpourri in a bowl.

One bunch of flowers can go the distance and then some. Make it a contest to see how long you can keep your fresh flower bouquet going!

References

Proflowers.com blog article: How to Make Flowers Last Longer: 9 Tricks by Erica Daniels, published May 17, 2018

Copyright Juli Seyfried 2019

Peperomia: an Undemanding Houseplant

Grow several kinds of Peperomia – they don’t ask much!

“Give it up, it’s dead.”

That was gardening advice I got as a college freshman from some guys visiting us from another dorm. The cute little green plant I bought and placed in the special little ceramic pot was no more. It was a little stump, shriveled and brown.

“I thought it might grow back,” I said.

Laughter all around. And the conversation moved on to other things.

I pretended not to care but inside I was crushed. I had killed it. Maybe I couldn’t grow plants – all plants.

The thing was, I bought this little plant on a visit to a local garden shop. I knew after this trip I really wanted to grow houseplants:

Just curious and with nothing else to do, a group of us walk to a campus houseplant store we’d heard about. Upstairs on the second level of an old wooden building we see plants covering the inside of the windows like living curtains. This is it.

Through the door and it’s magic! Humidity in the air thickens the earthy smell of living greenery. Everywhere rows and rows of small happy plants grow in black plastic containers, a different kind in every row.

Larger potted plants sit in any available space showing off shiny or fuzzy or textured leaves, some with flowers. From rafters, hanging plants trailing lush leafy stems catch my head and shoulders as I walk by. Endless colors and textures up and down.

I want to be a part of this lively tangle – or at least bring a little of it to my dorm room.

A wondrous plant store. A purchase of a small Peperomia and a ceramic pot. The beginning of a lifelong fascination with growing plants.

Back at the dorm, the cute little plant sat on my dorm dresser. In a ceramic pot measuring two inches across it dried out pretty quickly.

The dresser was right next to the steam heat radiator. Behind the radiator was the window giving light to our room and the plant. The radiator pumped out so much good warm heat that to balance the temperature, we had to open the window to get some cold winter air.

Super hot air and super cold air and not enough water – I was right.  I did kill the plant. Not because I wanted to. I just didn’t think of the needs of this pretty living plant that I dressed up in a cute ceramic pot. Once I figured out that there was a little more to this plant growing fascination, I was up for the challenge of growing all kinds of plants.

Despite my poor gardening start, Peperomia has turned out to be one of the easiest plants to grow because it’s really not too demanding.   

Features of Peperomia

  • Native to:  Tropical areas in Central and South America.

Name:  Piperaceae family which counts peppers as a member.

  • Leaves:  The reason they are so popular as a houseplant! There are many different shapes, textures and designs in leaves.   

The three most common ones sold at neighborhood stores are:

Watermelon Peperomia – Smooth, striped leaf that look like its namesake.

Emerald Ripple Peperomia – Ridges and valleys on each leaf.

Baby Rubber Plant Peperomia – Round thick leaf. One variety is all green, the other yellow green marbling. Not related to the true rubber tree.

More varieties are available online.   

  • Blooms:  Shaped like a rat or mouse tail – greenish reddish stalk, ending in a pale green or cream fuzzy tip.
  • Height: Varies by species but can be a few inches in the trailing varieties to 12 inches for upright plants. 
  • Width: Varies by species.

Care

Sunlight:  Bright but indirect light. Too much sun burns the leaves. Grows well in fluorescent light.

Soil: Medium potting soil that drains well. Repot when it outgrows the current one. Use the next size pot – too much soil holds water which creates potential for rot.

Water:  Check to see if most of potting soil is dried out. Water well every week to week and a half.

Fertilize:  Light use of soluble fertilizer spring through fall.

Propagation: Grows from seeds, roots, cuttings either from leaves or stems. Most grow new plants by rooting a stem cutting.  When making a cut be sure a node, the lumpy joint of the stem where leaves appear, is close to the bottom of the cut stem. Place in water. New roots grow from the node.

Problems/Pests

Root rot is the biggest problem. They don’t require a lot of water.

Some things I’ve learned:  Pay attention to the plant’s growth requirements. Some plants are easier to grow than others. Don’t give up on a plant. Try another strategy or two, but know when to move on.  I never did successfully grow the first variety of Peperomia that I bought. I have done well with others!

Copyright 2019 Juli Seyfried

5 Ways to Add Humidity to Indoor Plants


Indoor heat is very drying for all parts of the houseplant. Tips on what to do.

Winter time in the garden is special. Minus the leaves and flowers the bare architecture of the landscape is visible. When a cold weather front comes through everything is covered with frost or ice or snow. Each frozen form of water creates a different scene with the natural structures!

When temperatures outside drop, heating systems inside turn on. Indoor air gets dry and so do people, pets and plants. For plants in particular, this means struggling to thrive or even stay alive. Time for action!

Signs of distress:

  • Stricken look of the whole plant. It’s not full and green. It looks stiff.
  • Plant begins to droop.
  • Stems wither or shrink. They have ridges where they should be filled out and smooth.
  • Leaf edges are brown and crunchy.
  • Before they open buds dry up and fall off. New flowers that survive the bud stage, dry up.
  • Insects like spider mites take over because they thrive in hot dry conditions.

First Solution:

Keep up with watering needs of houseplants. Check water level in plant pots regularly. Since winter heat causes rapid loss of plant moisture, it may be necessary to water houseplants more often than in summer when the air conditioner is on.

Don’t forget dry heat in winter may cause succulents and cacti to dry out more quickly too. Their stems and leaves shrivel. While they need less water overall, drier conditions in the house can accelerate the need for more.

Five More Solutions:

Houseplants benefit from extra humidity in the air during winter.  Following are some common ways to increase humidity around your plants.

Non-energy user ways to humidify

1. Pebble tray

Use waterproof items like:

-A plastic tray with at least one half inch rim on all sides for several plants.

-Plastic saucer for one potted plant, again with at least one half inch rim all around.

-A ceramic or plastic pot with no holes in the bottom to serve as a sleeve to set your potted plant in.

-Get creative with the “tray” and use deep plates, old pie dishes, aluminum pans – whatever you find attractive.

Whichever you choose, the tray should be waterproof to protect the surface it sits on. Add a layer of pebbles, small smooth rocks, aquarium gravel or even small broken pottery to bottom of plastic tray or saucer or sleeve pot – the plant should stand on a level surface.

Add enough water to the pebbles so the plant sits on a dry surface. A water level just below the tops of the pebbles works well. Don’t allow plants to stand in water as that will cause root rot.

Set potted plant on top of the wet pebbles. As the water evaporates humidity increases around the plant.

Check the level every day or so until you figure out how often you need to replenish the water. Don’t let it go bone dry.

It’s tempting to water the plant in the tray allowing the runoff to serve as a humidity maker. What often happens is the runoff level goes above the rock layer and the plant winds up sitting in water.

To conserve water: water your plants over a bowl and use the runoff for the pebble trays.

2. Group like plants together

Whether using pebble trays or individual saucers or nothing at all, group like plants together based on their watering needs. Tropical plants for instance have the highest need for extra humidity. After all they are natives to balmy humid climates.

Grouping creates a sauna for them. As they transpire water from their leaves and soil, the humidity level increases for all.

Succulents and cacti need less watering. Group them together away from other plants to provide them the slightly drier environment they need.  

3. Bowls of water

Placing bowls of water in different spots near plants will increase the humidity. Make sure the surface area of the bowl is wide to allow the most evaporation.

All you have to do is check the water level every few days and figure out when to add more without letting the water level get too low or go dry.

4. Cloches and Terrariums

Sort of upside down or right side up keepers of humidity depending on how you look at them. These could be temporary solutions to winter dry air or a year round way to grow plants that require humidity.

Cloche: a glass bell shaped jar that’s open at the bottom. It’s placed on top of a plant to provide extra moisture for plants like ferns that thrive in high humidity.  Not only does it provide higher humidity, watering is reduced. 

Use of a glass cloche does require regular checking as air ventilation is limited. Keeping water in might work too well as the plant could have too much and rot. Propping open the bottom of the glass occasionally would provide some fresh air.

There are plastic cloches sold for outdoor plants that have a simple ventilation device at the top to regulate heat and moisture. A possible winter solution for creating moisture for indoor plants?

Terrarium: any shape glass jar that’s open at the top.  Plants grow in soil inside the jar. Ventilation of course comes from the top. Regularly check for water needs as humidity escapes more easily.

Another idea is to find glass jars even aquariums large enough to place a potted plant inside on a bed of pebbles. The enclosure provides extra humidity for a plant that needs it. Since watering might be a little tricky – remember no plant standing in runoff water, remove the plant to water.

Energy user way to humidify

5. Humidifier

Although an energy user, a room humidifier will improve the moisture in the air. Follow manufacturer’s directions.

Keeping houseplants happy with the right level of warmth and humidity makes the house an indoor garden during winter. It also means they’ll be ready for growing season once spring arrives.

Copyright 2019 Juli Seyfried

Poinsettia After the Holidays

Tips for growing Poinsettia as a houseplant and how to get it to rebloom.

What’s the best selling potted plant in the U.S. and Canada? Poinsettia – OK the title of this article gave it away. Another fact about this colorful plant:  most sales of it occur in the six week period before Christmas.  The best-selling plant in the country purchased in only six weeks!  In fact it may be impossible to find it in stores at any other time of the year.

A small shrub with a lively colorful leafy look, tiny yellow flowers peeking out from the branch tops, its base covered in shiny foil – green, red or gold.  Together several pots of Poinsettia take charge in a space instantly creating a stunning decoration for the holidays!

The combination of leaf shape, color and tiny flowers is appealing. Many green branches form this plant. Often each leaf on a long stem has several lobes. Uppermost on the plant the leaf is a solid color like the popular red one. Some cultivars have two tone splashes of color. Lower on the plant the leaf is green with veins of another color. Topped off with circles of tiny yellow flowers this plant steals the show!

Features

  • Native:  Southern Mexico on the Pacific coast continuing south to Guatemala.  They grow in tropical forests at mid – mountain elevations.
  • Name:  Honors Joel R. Poinsett who was an ambassador to Mexico from the United States in 1825 – 1829. He was also a botanist who brought the plant home to South Carolina.

December 12 is National Poinsettia Day honoring the man who is considered the father of the Poinsettia industry, Paul Ecke Jr.  The date chosen commemorates the day Joel R. Poinsett died.

  • Zones: 9-11
  • Leaves:  Modified leaves called bracts come in red, pink, burgundy, white, yellow and mottled or bicolored which look as if they’ve been splashed with a second color.
  • Blooms:  Tiny yellow flowers located in the middle of the bracts. No scent to detect.
  • Height:  In their native habitat they are considered a small tree or shrub and can grow from three to ten to even fifteen feet tall.

Cultivars sold as indoor plants range from a miniature three to six inches up to a large three feet.

  • Width: In nature they can grow three to seven feet wide.

Cultivars sold as indoor plants are generally about as wide as they are tall.

  • Safety:  A study done at The Ohio State University found poinsettias are not poisonous. Some people and pets have a reaction to the sap which is latex and that’s it! People and pets are not supposed to eat houseplants of any kind.  Curious children and pets should be kept away as a precaution.  If unsure about unpredictable kids or pets, don’t buy one. Instead visit and enjoy displays elsewhere.

Care

Keep for the season only:

Sunlight:  Indoors give it bright light but not direct light. Windowsills are generally too chilly for this tropical plant. It likes a warm 60 – 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) room with some humidity.

Fertilize:  No need.

Water:  Regularly but let top dry out before watering again. Too much water leads to root rot. Too little water causes the plant to dry out and drop leaves.

If keeping it in its foil wrap for decoration, remove plant from the foil, water it in the sink, let the water drain until finished and return plant in pot to the foil wrap.

Throw it in the compost pile at the end of the season.

Keep for next year:

Sunlight:  Indoors – same as above.

Outdoors:  Part shade in summer.  Watch the temperature!  This tropical plant likes temperatures between 6o -70 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Soil:  Potting mix for houseplants.  Remove it from the pot it came in and transfer it to the next size pot to give roots room to grow.

Water:   Same as above. Until it is moved outside it would benefit from sitting on a tray of moist pebbles for extra humidity.  No standing in water!

Fertilize:  Feed with standard houseplant fertilizer once a month.

Propagation:  Take cuttings from the plant in spring or early summer when it begins to grow again. Cuttings should have an exposed node – the bumpy joint where the leaf grows from the plant. Expose the joint by removing any leaves from it.  Roots grow from this spot.

Place cuttings in a sterile and moist growing medium such as sharp sand.  Water when top inch is dry, but don’t allow it to stand in water.  Mist the cuttings to keep the top leaves healthy.  When you can gently pull on the plant and it doesn’t come out of the growing medium, it has roots and is ready to go in its own pot of soil. New leaves will be green. 

How to get Poinsettia to rebloom:  Cut the plant back by midsummer. Keep a few leaves on the plant. If the plant has been outside, bring it in when temperatures drop below 60 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Beginning in October in addition to sunny days, the plant needs 14 hours of complete darkness at night. Some move the plant into a windowless room or closet where no light gets under the door.  Some cover the plant with something that is light blocking, again, so no light shines through or underneath.

However light is blocked, Poinsettia has to be in total darkness 14 hours every day until the plant’s bracts become colorful. Then stop moving it to a windowless room or covering it. Leave it in its day location and it should rebloom.

Problems/Pests

Water amounts are the biggest problem. Too much or too little causes leaf drop or root rot.

White sap that oozes out when the plant is cut can be a skin irritant for those with latex sensitivity. Wear gloves when working with the plant.

The usual houseplant insects and fungus attack plants. Clean off the insects. Check the watering and location. Perhaps it needs an adjustment.

Uses

Décor for the holidays is the most common reason people buy them. After the holidays remove the foil and transfer the plastic pot with plant into an every day pot like clay or ceramic. Follow directions above for growing them indoors.

Poinsettias shine during the holidays.  Dressed down for the remaining winter their colorful leaves make the home festive. Whether or not keeping them the rest of the year, they are a delight!

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried