Ever wonder what’s in the little plastic packets that come with cut flowers, including those sold at the Co-op? These “flower-fresh” packets contain three ingredients: sugar, citric acid and bleach. Sugar provides food for the flowers; citric acid lowers the water’s PH, which allows water to travel faster up the stem, thus reducing wilting; and bleach fights the growth of microorganisms — promoted by the sugar — that not good for the flowers.
Bleach is toxic, though, and we certainly don’t need any more plastic, so what’s an environmentalist to do when presented with a Mother’s Day bouquet?
Turns out you can make your own flower preservative by using sugar and lemon juice — 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and one tablespoon of sugar in a quart of warm water. The lemon will lower the PH of the water, and the sugar will provide the food. To skip the bleach, be sure to change the water in your vase often, even daily.
Also, since many cut flowers are contaminated by pesticide residues, try to buy flowers that are grown sustainably. When available, the Co-op sells local and organically grown flowers from Love ‘n Fresh Flowers of Roxborough. (They never come with flower preservative packets!) The supply is limited, though, and the flowers are available only from spring to first frost.
If you do buy conventional cut flowers from the Co-op but don’t want the packets, talk to the flower purchaser in the store where you shop about asking the supplier not to include them in flower shipments.