A Florist's Guide to Flower Care and Maintenance

As many flower enthusiasts will tell you, there is nothing more beautiful than a flower in bloom. They'll most likely also tell you that there is nothing more upsetting than seeing a beautiful set of flowers begin to wilt before their time. While wilting is a fate that all flowers will eventually experience, wilting can be delayed through careful flower care and maintenance. The following information will outline some tips on caring for flowers.

Garden Flowers

Sunlight

There are three main factors when working with garden flowers outdoors - sunlight, water, and the soil. The amount of sunlight a plant is recommended to receive is often included on the tag that comes with a plant. The amount of recommended sunlight is generally broken into four categories - full sun (6+ hours of direct sunlight), partial sun (4-5 hours of sun), partial shade (2-4 hours of sun), and shade (less than 1 hour of sun).

Signs that a plant is receiving too much sun include:

  • Flower petals drying out
  • Leaves drying out or looking burned
  • Leaves or flowers have the coloring appearing washed out

Signs your plant aren't receiving enough sun include:

  • Lanky and sparse stems
  • Fewer flowers
  • Entire plant lengthens and stretches towards the sun
  • Sparse growth

Water

Water is an extremely important resource for plants, and is often a source of plant distress. It is difficult to prevent excess water from an abundance of rain, however one thing that you can do is to ensure that your plant has proper drainage. Water pooling next to plants interferes with the respiration of the plant and can cause rotting.

Signs that your plants are getting too much water:

  • Wilting with the leaves not being crispy
  • Leaves turn yellow or brown and are limp
  • Edema - blisters will form on the leaves as the water pressure in the plant builds

Signs you are under watering your plant:

  • Wilting with the leaves being dry and crispy
  • Soil is very dry
  • Slow growth

Soil

Most plants benefit from a rich organic soil. There are 16 different elements that are known to be important to a plant's health. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are the three primary nutrients and are the nutrients that gardeners are most familiar with. Fertilizer that is purchased from a store almost always has the concentrations of the three primary nutrients. Different soil compositions have different effects on nutrient levels and effect plants in different ways. Sandy soils have excellent drainage, however nutrients are often leached out as the water passes through the soil. Clay soils have poor drainage however are able to retain nutrients much easier than sandy soil.

The pH of the soil is also an important factor in gardening. pH is a scale of acidity and goes from 0 to 14, with 0 being extremely acidic, 7 being neutral in acidity, and 14 being an extreme base. Most plants prefer slightly acidic soil, ranging from 6.0 to 7.0. Soil additives such as lime can be mixed into soils to modify the pH of the soil. Adding organic material to soil is another way to modify the pH of the soil, and has the effect of adjusting the soil to be more neutral in pH.

Indoor Potted Plants

Indoor potted plants require much of the same flower maintenance that garden plants do. With an indoor plant, many more of the variables are directly under the gardener's control. If a plant is receiving too much or too little sunlight, the plant can be moved away from or towards a window. Watering of the plant should be done on a consistent basis, generally once or twice a week. Make sure your pot has a tray and holes in the bottom so that excess water flows out the bottom of the pot and into the tray so the plant doesn't drown.

Cut Flowers

Once a flower is cut, it loses its source of sustenance and begins the process of dying. Once a flower is cut, it should be placed in a vase of water as soon as possible. Often times the florist will make a fresh-cut on the bottom of the stems, however it doesn't hurt to give them another cut when you get home and before you put them in the vase. Stems should be cut at an angle to maximize their ability to take in water. Make sure that you don't have any leaves submerged in the water, as they will decay quickly and severely lower the quality of the water. Every day or two, flower maintenance should be performed, where the water is changed if it is dirty, and a fresh-cut is made on the stem.

Once a flower is cut, it no longer is able to pull in nutrients from the roots of the plant. In order to prolong the lives of the flowers, special flower food that is often provided by the florist should be added to the water. Cut flower food is often made of an acidified (to prolong life), sugar (for plant energy), and other nutrients. With appropriate flower care and maintenance, cut flowers can last up to 3 weeks or sometimes even longer.

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