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Say "I Love You" with Flowers

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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It's not too early to think about Valentine's Day flowers. If you're planning to send the traditional red roses, the sooner you order them, the better. But be aware; the laws of supply and demand mean they'll be rather pricey at holiday time.

Flowers are such a special treat in the middle of winter you really want to make them last as long as possible. Follow these easy tips to wring extra days of enjoyment from those beautiful Valentine blooms:

Your vase must be immaculately clean. Use a bottle brush to scrub the inside, or fill it with water and drop a foaming denture cleaner in it overnight to remove dried residue.

Dissolve a packet of floral preservative in warm water, according to directions.

Strip off any foliage that will be under water; left intact, it is likely to break down and foul the water.

Recut the stems at an angle, so they won't rest squarely on the bottom of the vase. Use a sharp knife rather than a scissors that might compress them. Cut the stems under running water to prevent air blockage of the freshly cut tissue.

Place your flowers in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, if possible. When you're not around to appreciate them, put them in the basement or a cool hallway. Except for orchids, the cooler you keep cutflowers (without freezing, of course) the longer they'll last.

Consider some of the alternatives; other cutflowers, flowering potted plants, and for some, tropical houseplants. A foliage plant which can be dressed up for the occasion with foil, ribbons, and a valentine ornament, will last for years in a home or office, so long as your choice doesn't demand terribly bright light.

If you're less concerned with the plant's longevity, you may opt for one with showy flowers, instead. You'll find azaleas, begonias, chrysanthemums, kalanchoes, Persian violets, and exotic kangaroo paws among those expected to bloom for several weeks. Hibiscus plants bloom indoors under bright light, then stop until they're put outside for the summer. And newer African violet hybrids bloom off and on, year-round.

Besides roses, there are dozens of different cutflowers available, from spring tulips, daffodils, and iris to exotic anthuriums, heliconias, and birds-of-paradise. You'll find graceful spider mums, stems of sweet-scented lilies, sprays of delicate orchids, and spicy carnations. Old-fashioned mixed bouquets have become very popular in recent years.

But when all is said and done, remember there's something romantic about one perfect rose. You needn't spend a fortune to say "I love you" with flowers.

This resource was updated February 2003 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

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