The secret elixir that comes in packets from the florist to use in bouquets and other floral arrangements contains the basic elements that preserve cut flowers. The University of Massachusetts Floriculture website advises flower growers to recommend homemade cut-flower preservative formulas to their customers. These formulas contain simple ingredients for preserving flowers. Floral preservative is also called floral food. Sugar, as either table sugar or non-diet citrus soft drinks, provides carbohydrates to nourish the cut flowers and help keep them alive. Learn the proportion of ingredients to make your own inexpensive flower preservative at home.
Squeeze the juice of fresh lemons or limes to obtain two tablespoons of juice. Depending on the size of the fruit, one lemon or two limes should be enough.
Add a quart of lukewarm tap water to a jar or vase. Use cold water for bulb flowers. If it's a mixed bouquet of both bulb blooms and other flowers, use cool water.
Add 1 tablespoon of regular table sugar to the water and dissolve it by stirring with a spoon. Add a ½ tablespoon of household bleach. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice.
Stir gently to mix the sugar and other ingredients. Put the cut flowers in the container.
Change the water at least every other day. Wash the vase and follow Step 3 to add a new batch of cut-flower sugar and preservative. Change the water daily in warm weather to keep the cut flowers at their best.
Add non-diet citrus-flavoured soda to cut flowers when you don't have lemons or limes available. The sugar and citric acid in the soda will help preserve the flowers. Use one can of soda with three cans of water. Clip off all the lower leaves from the cut flower stems before putting them in the vase. This helps reduce rot. For a larger vase, make a larger batch of the preservative. To make a gallon of the formula, multiply all amounts of all the ingredients by four. Cut the flower stems at a 45-degree angle before putting them into the vase. Keep the flowers in water continuously. Don't leave them sitting out of water. Cut flowers in the morning when they are full of moisture and they'll last longer. Use a sharp garden shears or clippers to cut flower stems. Dull implements crush the stems and reduce the flower's ability to receive water and nutrients.
Cut away from yourself when trimming leaves and cutting flower stems with a knife. Many people find garden clippers easier and safer to work with. Keep cutting implements and household bleach out of the reach of children. If you have cats, use narrow vases so they can't drink the preservative water or dip their paws in it, to keep them from having contact with the bleach.