PLEASE, NO PENNIES FOR YOUR TULIPS
Why Old Wives' Tales Persist
Old wives' tales often persist long after scientific evidence proves them wrong. Take the case of cut tulip flowers. Home remedies abound for keeping cut tulips fresh longer in the vase. Add pennies, they say, or aspirin, bleach or a dilution of 7-UP! "Bunkum," say Dutch flower bulb experts. Tulips thrive on just plain clean water.
While each of these home remedies provides some "quick fix" benefits, none are actually the best additive for cut flowers and certainly not for tulips which don't need any help at all for long life in the vase, according to Frans Roozen, technical director of the International Flower Bulb Center, in Hillegom, Holland.
"Tulips are self-sufficient. Just add clean water, that's all," says Mr. Roozen. The old wives' tales keep circulating, he says, "because people use these remedies, see immediate results with their own eyes and say 'yes it is true!' But what they see is merely a mini-surge of energy in the flower and not the aftermath, which is often a shortened lifespan."
One would do better to focus on keeping the vase clean, the water fresh, recutting the stem ends every day or two, and (except for tulips!) using the little packets of commercial plant food provided by the florist, says Mr. Roozen. To a cut flower, the secret to long life is fresh water and lots of it, he says.
What Commercial Flower Foods Do And Home Remedies Don't
According to experts at Florists' Review, a leading independent floral trade magazine that is based in Topeka, KS, most cut flowers benefit from the addition of three things to their vase water: sugars, citric acids and antibacterials. The sugars feed the cut flower, the citric acids make it easier for the flower to draw up water into its stem (they "make the water wetter" as they say at Florists' Review) and the antibacterial keeps the water fresher longer by diminishing bacteria growth.
While commercial flower food provides a balance of components addressing all three areas, home remedies generally address only one or two. In fact, lemon-lime drink is actually closest to commercial flower food in providing both sugar and citric acid, but it lacks an antibacterial. Unfortunately the abundance of sugars encourages bacterial growth. As for pennies and aspirin, both provide an acidic touch but no sugars or antibacterial. Both could be considered useful but not optimal. Adding bleach adds a good antibacterial. However, should a spill occur, bleach can be hazardous to tablecloths and other surfaces.
The commercial flower food is simply better, being more complete, better balanced, much easier to use plus the florist usually gives it for free, adds Mr. Roozen.
Still, try to convince the true believer! Laments Mr. Roozen, "Even in Holland, a country so sophisticated about flowers, our Dutch grandmas must treat their flowers with copper pennies and cans of 7-UP!"