Up close image of a pink rose.
Roses, a Valentine’s Day staple, have been hybridized to where they can last up to nine days longer than the traditional rose. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Michael Miller)

Gifting bouquets of flowers is a staple around Valentine’s Day, as it represents love and compassion. When buying flowers for your loved one, it is important to know what to choose and how to care for them so they can be enjoyed to their fullest potential. 

Bill McKinley, an instructional associate professor in the Department of Horticultural Sciences in Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, explains how to pick a good bouquet of flowers and provides tips on how to keep them fresh. 

Looking for a flower that will last? Try mums or roses 

“Many roses now are considered longer lasting,” said McKinley, who is also the director of Benz School of Floral Design.

The traditional rose used to last three to five days, whereas some roses can now last for up to two weeks, he explained. 

McKinley said this is because the genetics of flowers have been hybridized at the breeder level, and many of them have a longer vase life because of it. Other flowers that have a long vase life are alstroemeria, commonly called the Peruvian lily, and many types of chrysanthemums such as daisies, button or cushion.

How to preserve your bouquet after you buy

The consumer can add quality professional floral food to the water when putting the flowers in a vase. Typically, what is provided when you purchase cut flowers is acceptable. 

“Depending on the species, it can make your flowers last anywhere from 30% to 150% longer,” McKinley said. 

The consumer should not make their own floral food, despite many different recipes that are circulating on the internet. Homemade floral food typically doesn’t work as well for keeping flowers fresh, he said. 

Another way to promote freshness in your bouquet is by properly cutting the stems. 

“If you’re buying loose flowers or mixed bundles, you need to always cut at least 1 inch from the stem end,” McKinley said. “That will make sure the stem is clean and no bacteria or debris is in the base.”

When cutting flowers, he suggests using sharp cutters to avoid breaking the stems. If the stems are broken, the cell structure is damaged, whereas a clean cut allows for the water and nutrients to be properly absorbed. 

When placing your bouquet of flowers around your home, it’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight and away from heat or air conditioning vents. 

“Keeping them cool is a good idea, but not with the air conditioner vent blowing right on them,” McKinley said. “Heat and air conditioning air is very dry, which will desiccate or dry flowers out.”

When looking for fresh cut flowers, green is gold

Up close image of bright green small mums.
Fresh bouquets are colorful and are absent of brown and yellow leaves. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Michael Miller)

While shopping for cut flowers, pay attention to the petals and leaves. McKinley suggests avoiding petals with brown edges and yellow leaves, and to pick flowers that are rich in color with green, vibrant leaves. He also recommends avoiding flowers that look like they have been smashed tightly into buckets. 

When it comes to picking out a bouquet, timing is important with the blossoms. 

“You don’t want the flower to be fully open, you want it to still have some opening capacities,” said McKinley. “This will allow the flower to continue to open, which can make the bouquet enjoyable for longer.”

Expect big-ticket bouquets

While breaking the bank is not necessary to pick a good bouquet, the price of flowers typically increases around Valentine’s Day as demand increases amidst cold weather conditions. 

“It is a very poor time to try to grow flowers,” McKinley said. “It’s winter, it’s cold, and there are low light levels.”

So, consumers should be prepared for those higher prices. But those price increases do not mean the florist or store is making a higher profit. 

“Oftentimes, the profit level is not as high as other times during the year because it costs florists so much more to get the product,” McKinley said.

When making the final pick, trust your instincts 

If roses, lilies or chrysanthemums are not the preferred flower of your loved one, get them something that you know they will like even if the blooms may not last as long.

While certain types of flowers are traditionally used for certain occasions like Valentine’s Day, McKinley said flowers possess symbolism and are given for a variety of reasons, whether it be a reference to a memory or a personal favorite. 

“I think purchasing flowers is a really personal thing,” McKinley said. “It shows a tender side, and it can be sentimental.” 

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