Phenomenal Florals

8 June 2010 By Tom Dowd of Water Mill Flowers
Photo courtesy of Water Mill Flowers

Flowers can brighten a room or brighten your day, but in order to keep them looking lovely – whether they’re fresh cut or live – they need proper care and maintenance.

Cut Flowers and Floral Arrangements:

Keep in mind that cut flowers are still living plants even though their roots have been severed. By employing a few simple techniques, you can maximize their vase-life.

Remember these key guidelines for long-lasting cut flowers:

1. Change the water frequently.

2. Each time the water is changed, remove any foliage from the lower half of the stem that will be below water level. Using a sharp knife, re-cut the stems on an angle, removing about half an inch.

3. Immediately put flowers in a container with warm water and a floral preservative. Using warm water rather than cold will greatly increase water uptake. Dissolving a commercial floral preservative in the water will not only help flowers to last longer, but also will help to check the growth of rot organisms. As an alternative to commercial floral preservatives, make your own by dissolving four heaping teaspoons of cane sugar and two tablespoons of white distilled vinegar in one quart of warm water. Another sample mix that really does work for many types of flowers is to use the soft drink Sprite diluted with an equal part water.

4. Be sure that the vase or container to be used was cleaned thoroughly. If using florist’s foam, saturate it by submerging it in water for several minutes.

5. Place the flowers in a cool room away from drafts, direct sunlight and sources of heat.

6. Avoid exposing your cut flowers to ripening fruits or vegetables. These materials produce ethylene gas, which will greatly shorten vase life.

Liveaboard Plants and Flowers:

Temperature:The minimum-maximum range of temperature that will support plant growth is usually between 40 and 98 degrees. Plant growth shows a direct relationship to the surrounding temperature as it increases. Optimum growth of a plant in relation to temperature depends on its place of origin.

Light: There is nothing like sunlight for growing plants. Light is the single key to the successful cultivation. Plants produce most of their food through photosynthesis, triggered by sunlight, which produces carbohydrates, the plant’s food. Without light, production ceases and the plant survives only on its stored energy.

Watering: Watering is the most inexact of all horticultural sciences. It is usually done by “feel.” While some plants like their soil constantly moist, but not wet, others prefer to dry out between watering, but not to the point of being bone dry. The key in watering is good drainage. Remember, there is a big difference between moist and wet soil. A good rule to go by is to allow the top one third of the soil to dry down in between watering and thoroughly saturate the soil when you do water; don’t allow the plant to sit in water for more than a couple of hours. Each plant will dry down in its own time depending on light, temperature and type of plant. This is all derived from the plant’s natural environment, which you are duplicating.


Humidity: Orchids come from very tropical climates and require a good amount of humidity. They have thick, sponge-like roots that thrive when misted in a warm environment.

Sunlight: Tabletop exotic Phalanopsis and Dendrobium varieties require little to no direct light on their leaves to grow. These varieties have been acclimated to prosper in a shade environment. If your orchid will be exposed to sunlight near a window, make sure it receives no more than five to 10 minutes of direct sunlight daily. You may also move your orchid away from the window or to another room where the light it receives is filtered (indirect sunlight).

Water: Tabletop orchids should be watered thoroughly by drenching them with water from a sink or watering container. After drenching your orchid, you will notice that pot feels weighted. This means that the moss or bark is saturated with water and the orchid will not require water for a period of time. Remember, orchids should never be left in standing water. Discard all excess water. Also, dry off the excess water on the leaves with a towel or napkin if it will not evaporate naturally before night fall.

Tom Dowd is part owner of Water Mill Flowers in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs, Florida, a full service florist serving all of South Florida. Water Mill offers floral care training classes in conjunction with the American Yacht Institute's Yacht Crew Silver Service Course. It also offers a seminar at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Water Mill’s unique team are experts in yacht floral design and provisions. Recently, Water Mill was the florist of Choice for the MIASF 2010 Annual Awards dinner.;; 954-486-8045