Homemade Solutions

moonblooms(z8 AL)May 12, 2006

Does anyone have a recipe for a homemade hydrating or preservative solution? Mostly we will be cutting sunflowers and zinnias with a few fillers. I'm curious to know what others think about using such things as aspirin or lemon/lime soda.

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There aren't any homemade recipes for a hydrating solution. You'll need to purchase a professional hydrating solution for the sunflowers. Zinnias are tricky. In the humidity we find they do best cut directly into plain ol' well water. Super clean buckets is the most important thing for zinnias.

When we use sunflowers and zinnias in bouquets that are made in advance of market (the day before), they are, of course, put in a professional solution such as Chrysal or Floralife.

A couple points on the homemade floral preservative potions: These solutions which would contain such ingredients as sugar, lemon soda, bleach, vinegar and/or antibacterial dish soap haven't proven to be much better than plain water. Sugar is actually detrimental to zinnias.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2006 at 6:17PM
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Octogenarian(z5 Lake Erie)

Jeanne's mix is 1 Tbs. sugar. 1 Tbs. vinegar and i tsp. bleach to a gallon of water. However, as Trish points out, every flower is different. Doug

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 4:51PM
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honeybunny442(z6 TN)

And be careful because mixing the acidic vinegar and the basic bleach can lead to horrible (and deadly) fumes.

I think Jeanne says to just add a tiny bit at a time until well mixed.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 1:22PM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

Hm, that's funny, I thought my mix was 2 tablespoons each of cheapo white vinegar and white sugar, plus 1/2 tsp. bleach, per gallon of water. I usually put the sugar and vinegar in the container first, add a little hot water and swirl to mix, then add cool to lukewarm water. Don't add bleach until at least half of the water is in, to avoid the dangerous chlorine gas fumes. It keeps for at least five days, tightly closed, in my uninsulated garage. If you open the lid and don't smell the bleach, throw it out, it's too old. I've never found that the temperature of the solution matters much, but I've never used it any warmer than lukewarm. I mixed up all the solution the night before harvest and left it tightly closed until needed. I harvested into buckets of it, then took them to the house to condition for a few hours at 65 degrees (cooler would have been better, but I had to live there too). It is always important to get the heat of the field out of the flowers as quickly as possible; the longer they are warm, the shorter their vase life will be. After at least three hours of conditioning, I arranged them into vases and buckets of cool, clean solution, and they stayed in the cool house overnight before going to market - still in solution. I gave my customers packets of Floralife Crystal Clear, since I couldn't hand out packets of my solution. The long vase life of my flowers is what kept my customers coming back. There were three to four flower sellers at the market, but none of them used any preservative or conditioned their flowers. If I could get a customer to buy from me just once, they always came back, even though my flowers were more expensive, because mine lasted so much longer than any of the others. They lasted longer than most florist flowers, too.

It helps to know what causes flowers to wilt, to understand how and why the various solutions work. Flowers wilt when they can't get water or nutrients, and when they are just plain too old. Water and nutrients can be blocked by air in the stem or by bacteria in the stem. Flowers picked when they are past prime are going to wilt from old age. Flowers sitting in a hot place or in the sun will wilt or age prematurely, as a hot flower needs a lot of water, and the cut stem is not as good at feeding the flower as the plant is when it's intact. Flowers stored with fruits and some veggies can age prematurely due to the ethylene gas some fruits and veggies make.

Super-clean buckets and vases are most important for EVERY flower, so bacteria don't clog the stem. Wash your buckets and vases before each use with detergent and bleach for best results, and rinse well. Putting vases through a dishwasher works well without bleach. Commercial solutions have a bactericide in them; mine uses bleach. Also, remove all leaves or broken stems that will be underwater, as they will break down quickly and promote bacterial growth. Don't think the bleach in my solution or the bactericide in commercial solutions will make up for a dirty bucket or vase; it can be overwhelmed by too much dirt (this is why I never use my harvesting buckets for hauling dirt or anything else that would make them harder to clean). Harvesting into water or preservative helps keep air out of the stem, but some really susceptible flowers like roses and peonies benefit from being re-cut underwater before put in the container. That's underwater in a BOWL of water, not under the faucet, since water coming out of a faucet has a lot of air in it. Cut flowers need sugar. When still on the plant, in the sun, the plant's photosynthesis converts sunshine into sugars, but the cut stem has been deprived of that, so it helps to give it some sugar. Most cut flowers prefer their water a little acidic; that's what the vinegar is for.

I have proved to myself, by experimenting, that my solution is way better than plain water for most flowers. By all means, test it for yourself, and use it if you like the results. I came up with it by lots of experimentation. Had I felt that I could afford a commercial preservative, I'd have gone with that, just for ease of preparation if for no other reason. I always had to pinch pennies, though, and was quite happy with my own mix once I got it figured out. Now that I've retired from selling flowers, I'm cutting just for myself, and I've bought some commercial solution just for ease of preparation. The expense is okay when I'm not making up 50 gallons of solution at a time!

The trouble with the aspirin system is that all it does is acidify the water. It doesn't give it sugar or prevent bacterial growth. Lemon-lime soda gives it sugar and might acidify the water, but there's no bactericide. Also, I've never heard of a formula for those, so you can end up with too much sugar and/or or too much acid, either of which may do more harm than good. I've never seen a study that included an exact solution of water, vinegar, bleach, and water, but the ones I've seen that tested solutions with just aspirin or with just lemon-lime soda gave the results flowerfarmer mentioned - no better than plain water.

There are certainly individual flower needs to consider. Zinnias really hate preservatives and are best in plain water. I've been told that sunflowers and glads and lilies don't like preservatives, but they do fine in my mix. For some reason, the bleach causes fragrant kinds of dianthus to lose their fragrance, so I use half as much bleach for dianthus. No other fragrant flowers seem to be affected.

I also have never heard of a homemade hydrating mix, but since I always harvest directly into buckets of solution, the stems don't get dehydrated, so they don't need to be re-hydrated. If for any reason I didn't put stems directly into the solution in the buckets in the field, but brought them to the house dry, re-cutting their stems, possibly underwater, always took care of it.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 12:58AM
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It is confusing sometimes as a new cutflower grower.

We grow thousands of zinnias and sunflowers each season; and, we've experimented with different professional hydrating solutions and preservatives. The statement, "Zinnias really hate preservatives" is incorrect. Zinnias are harmed by sugar found in some preservatives. We find they actually do best when held in a professional holding solution such as Chrysal Professional 2.

Sunflowers, especially some of the newer ones such as ProCut, are affected by post harvest preservative treatments. Sometimes they do need hydrating. We find, however, sunflowers generally do best in plain water.

We wouldn't recommend using any homemade potion for zinnia and sunflower bouquets. If you can't find a source for professional solutions, you're better off cutting and holding these flowers in water.

One more point: A hydrating solution such as Chrysal OVB is not a rehydrating solution. Hydrating solutions help the stems take up water quickly. These solutions contain a germicide, a wetting agent and an acidifier.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 7:58AM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

Trish, sunflowers were absolutely fine in my formula. They lasted 1 1/2 - 2 weeks. Have you tried it?????
Also, it must have escaped your notice that I specifically recommended no homemade potion for zinnias.

Freshly cut stems, put in preservative when cut, take up water just fine. If I cut them dry and kept them that way for awhile before putting in water, I suppose a hydrating solution would be needed. I imagine that anybody who harvests that way would be well advised to use one.

Anyway, back to moonblooms, the best practice is to try all the alternatives and find out what works for you. You might get different results from any you've read on here, depending on what's in your water already, so try them out! Be sure to evaluate cost and ease of preparation as factors - for cost reasons, homemade is cheaper, for ease of preparation, professional mixes are faster.


    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 1:15PM
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Noni Morrison

I wonder how much our different soil and water supplies makes a difference with home made solutions. I imagine the water varies a lot through out the country with different trace minerals and levels of acid or alkiline, addition of flouride, etc.

I was using the vinigar in my solution until one customer complained of fruit flies! Now I have never seen fruit flies around my bouquets, but I figured out that our well water is probably a bit on the acid side since our soil is acid. Note, that this is well water without a treatment plant. It is a 4-family very deep well and the water is excellent. I have not noticed any differnce since I omitted the vinegar.

What has made the biggest differnce to me is learning to break woody stems into warm treated water and then set them to cool. Things like lilacs and roses have lasted much longer for me since I started doing that.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 10:27PM
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Wow.... this is why I rarely post here any more. Too much bickering.

I am obviously not up to Trish's standard. But my little U-Pick flower farm does very well, thank you.

I started out using Jeanne's formula. Worked well for me and well for the customers. Then I changed to floralife. Thought that would be more professional. Until my customers asked me to go back to the homemade preservative. They said they saw a noticeable difference.

Now I don't know as much as Frank and Pam Arnosky. I don't know as much as a lot of people. But I do know -- when something makes me money -- and my customers like it -- that is a keeper.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2006 at 9:25PM
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Noni Morrison

I enjoy this forum so much when we are not trying to prove who is right and who is wrong! Can we please share our ideas without passing judgement on each other, please, please please! I love it when I ask a question and different people give the solutions they have found work for them. If I have an northwest question I will address it to others in the maritime northwest or take it to the northwest forum, but I still enjoy hearing what is is like to flowerfarm in Texas or Florida or Alabama...or anywhere else. And I love hearing what works for other people.

When I first started Calico Gardens I felt so unsure of myself, having only worked in the family garden, had a mom who loved flowers, and tried a bit on my own while too busy with growing kids to give it the effort it needed. YOu are the ones who taught me much of what I know and helped me gain confidence. I love each member of the group who contributes in a helpful, sharing attitude. Its like we are all family working together. I hate it when family fights!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2006 at 9:44PM
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I am not putting down Trish! She is a well-educated, bright, funny and successful farmer.

What I meant was that I didn't have acres and acres of cut-flowers and volumes of the latest research at my fingertips!!

But what I will say, is that the homemade solution has worked very well for me. My customers like it, including several florists.

Now I will go back to my weeding................


    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 12:37PM
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This comes from the show Creative Juice on DIY Network. I've used it and it works well.

Floral Preserver

Mix 8 oz. water, 8 oz. lemon-lime soda and 1 tsp. bleach together. Pour the preserver into the vase and top off with water.

* With scissors or a kitchen knife, trim the ends of the flowers to the desired lengths. Trim the flowers at an angle if possible; it's best to cut flowers under running water and place in the vase immediately.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 6:09PM
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moonblooms(z8 AL)

Oh, why did you resurrect this post. I had almost gotten over the guilt of causing so much negative energy. If you are reading this, go back and read flowerfarmer's post of May 31, 06. It is the best advice you will find.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 9:12AM
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One posting mentioned that mixing Chlorine Bleach and Household Vinegar can be a deadly mixture. Speaking as an experienced chemist I do not believe this to be a problem, especially in the quantities mentioned for a home-made cut-flower solution.

Bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite) is strong oxidizer in concentrated form, but is added only in small amount and diluted. The bleach serves to discourage bacterial growth.

Vinegar (dilute Acetic Acid) is already "weak" as supplied and diluted additionally with water when making the flower solutions. The general rule is to add acid to water (NOT water to acid) when diluting acid. In this instance the Vinegar is mostly water to begin with, so any dilution method should work without any problem.

With any chemical, one would be advised to avoid skin contact, and to wash the skin well with tap water if accidental contact occurs.

The warning with Bleach is to never, ever, ever, (etc.) mix Ammonia and Bleach. This mixture can produce deadly chlorine gas. Chlorine is DEADLY. The pool additive is Sodium Hypoclorite, not Chlorine, although it is often called the latter. Real "Chlorine" is a gas that can KILL you, and your loved ones if inhaled. Other deadly products can also result from this mixture. See the link below for detailed information.

Vinegar does not exhibit the same reactions with bleach that occur with bleach and ammonia, and should present no unusual safety issues in solutions designed to help preserve cut flowers.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Dangers of Mixing Bleach and Ammonia

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 3:00PM
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Here is a link to an article in Scientific American on solutions to preserve cut flowers. I have used the mixture of lemon-lime soda, water, and bleach. It seems to be effective.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fact or Fiction?: Vodka and Citrus Sodas Keep Cut Flowers Fresh

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 3:07PM
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