Even though we know that flowers bloom and fade in their own time, it’s hard to be patient. Whenever we bring a fresh bouquet home, the hope is that it’ll stay vivacious and vibrant for as many days as possible.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to play with the water in a cut flower vase to help blooms last longer, and adjusting surrounding air quality can also help stave off decay to a degree.
When it comes to clearing the air so your flowers can stay fresh, ethylene is the name to know. Ethylene is a gaseous hormone that flowers and fruits accumulate and emit as they age. Caren Chang, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland who researches the gas, says that, on the plus side, it helps promote fruit ripening. (It’s why you can stick a green tomato into a paper bag with a nearly gone banana. The banana will emit ethylene gas that helps the tomato ripen.)
The downside, Chang explains, is that ethylene can also cause leaves to drop and flower petals to die off. Injured flowers—like those that have just been collected for a bouquet—will give off a lot of ethylene as a last resort, hence why cut flowers tend to lose their vigor relatively quickly. As such, to keep them in good shape for longer, you’ll want to minimize their exposure to any excess ethylene gas. Here are two easy ways to do so: