How Do Cut Flowers Drink Water?

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How Do Cut Flowers Drink Water?
Image Credit: Kara Gebhardt /iStock/GettyImages

Everyone knows that you have to put freshly cut flowers in water as soon as possible to prevent them from wilting and dying. Without it, most varieties won't even last for a few hours. Florists put flowers in the water right after they snip them unless they package them immediately for customers to take home. It's the best way to keep them fresh as long as possible.

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How Much Water in a Flower Vase?

Flowers absorb water through their roots, which contain xylem. Xylem is a vascular tissue with water-conducting cells that act like straws. It works with phloem, a tissue that directs sugars to feed the flowers. Once the florist (or you) has cut the stems, this vascular system keeps working as long as there's a water source.

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You should always cut flower stems at an angle with a sharp knife. Those open ends begin forming a seal when out of the water, so if you take them home or have them delivered, you might want to snip the ends for the most water absorption. Longer stems mean that the water has farther to travel upward, so making the stems a bit shorter isn't a bad idea either.

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Arrange the blooms in a vase and don't crowd them too closely together. Avoid giving cut flowers hot or cold water; lukewarm is best. Fill the vase three-quarters of the way. Do flowers need sunlight after being cut? No, they don't; bright, direct sunlight will dry them out. Indirect light is better and will keep them happier. Also, never place them near heating vents or anywhere else that gets a lot of heat.

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Watering Flowers in Vases

You'll want to care for your cut flowers in other ways. Remove any blooms and leaves below the water because they will rot and spread bacteria that kill the other flowers. Change the water at least every three days and trim about 1/2 an inch (on an angle) from the stems before returning them to the vase. You can add the packet of plant food that comes with purchased flower bouquets or make your own plant food. Just combine a few drops of bleach, a few drops of superfine sugar and a crushed vitamin C tablet and mix it all.

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How long can flowers go without water? It depends on the variety and environmental conditions, but as a general rule, don't expect them to last more than a day or so. Flowers that are not cut obviously last much longer, and you'll want to read up on the variety to learn how often they get thirsty. This thirst level also applies to outdoor flowers that are in garden beds.

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How to Water Flowers

When watering outdoor flowering plants, avoid getting the foliage wet. Instead, use a soaker hose on the soil or water the roots because that is where it needs to go for the flowers to gain the benefit from it. Flowerbeds also benefit from mulch but don't put it too close to the base of your shrubs and flowers because this can encourage pests, insects and disease growth, lowering the life expectancy of your plants.

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Don't overwater your flowers either, as they only need about 1 inch of water a week. Check your soil at least twice a week and make sure that you're watering as needed. You should resist the urge to water them too much. The best time to water them is in the morning between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m. since that's when it is cooler. If you water them when it's hot, the liquid will quickly evaporate.

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