Yard and Garden: Caring for Valentine’s Day Flowers



Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and that means, of course, flowers. Many people will give or receive beautiful flowers on Feb. 14, and while the thought is wonderful and they’re lovely to receive, what happens on Feb. 15 and beyond?

Here are some tips from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach on the proper way to care for and extend the life of your Valentine’s Day flowers, with help from ISU Extension horticulturists. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

I received cut flowers for Valentine’s Day. How do I prolong their life?

Several things can be done to lengthen the vase life of cut flowers. Begin with a clean vase.  Wash previously used containers with hot, soapy water to remove debris and destroy bacteria and fungi that may shorten the life of the cut flowers. Remove all foliage that will be below the water line in the vase. Submerged plant foliage may decay and shorten the life of the cut flowers. To promote water uptake by the cut flowers, cut off the bottom one-half to one inch of the stems with a sharp knife.

Immediately place the cut flowers in a vase. Add a commercial floral preservative to the water to prolong the life of the cut flowers. (A small packet of floral preservative comes with most cut flowers. Simply follow directions on the packet.) Place the cut flowers in a cool, brightly lit location in the home or office. Keep the flowers away from heat sources and drafts. Check the water level daily and add water when necessary. Completely change the water if it becomes cloudy or begins to smell.

I received a miniature rose for Valentine’s Day. How do I care for it?

Miniature roses need direct sun. In the home, place the miniature rose in a south or west facing window.  Rotate plants once or twice a week to promote even growth.  

Miniature roses require a consistent moisture supply. When the soil surface becomes dry to the touch, water the plant until water begins to flow out the bottom of the container. Discard the excess water. Fertilize the miniature rose (once or twice a month) with a dilute fertilizer solution.

Miniature roses prefer daytime temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a minimum nighttime temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the plant away from cold drafts or heat sources.  

To promote new growth and additional blooms, remove flowers as they fade. Cut off the stem just above the uppermost five-leaflet leaf. Also, remove any yellow leaves or dead growth.  

Finally, periodically inspect the miniature rose for pests. Roses often have problems with spider mites when grown indoors. Discolored leaves and fine webbing are signs that spider mites may be present. Control spider mites by spraying plants with insecticidal soap. Several applications may be necessary to completely control spider mites.  

In May, the miniature rose can be placed outside. Harden or acclimate the plant to outdoor conditions by initially placing the plant in a shady, protected location. Then gradually expose it to longer periods of sunlight. After the miniature rose has been acclimated outdoors for several days, place the potted plant on a sunny patio or deck. The miniature rose can also be planted outdoors in the garden. While miniature roses are small, they’re remarkably cold-hardy. Select a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil.

I recently received a flowering azalea as a gift. How do I care for it?

Place azaleas (Rhododendron species) in brightly lit, cool locations in the home. An ideal site is one near a window that receives bright light (but no direct sunlight) and temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Proper watering is a critical aspect of caring for an azalea. Check the potting soil daily. When the soil surface becomes dry to the touch, water the plant until water begins to flow out the bottom of the pot. Discard the excess water. When placed in a favorable location and given good care, azaleas may bloom for three to four weeks.  
 
Azaleas sold by florists are not winter hardy outdoors in Iowa and are normally discarded after flowering.