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A guide to sustaining cut flowers

Fresh flowers in the house are a thing of fleeting beauty. However, with plenty of tender loving care, your flowers will last longer, giving your home a fresh, vibrant feel. Before you go shopping, consider these things:

1. Will you have the time to regularly change the water in your vase? To stay fresh, many plants require a change of water, so as to protect the stems from bacteria. Flowers like gerberas and chrysanthemums need frequent water changes. If you won't have the time to change the water too frequently, opt for flowers with harder stems like orchids. Trim a centimetre or so off the stems of your blooms with each change, and only use sharp scissors for this purpose.

2. What height should your flowers sit at? Consider this when buying your blooms, as what vase you have at home will determine what flowers will look good in them. Taller, larger vases tend to work for lilies and tulips. If you want the delicate purple-blue beauty of hydrangeas in your home, make sure you have a low-sitting, wide-set vase.

3. How many flowers are you going to need? If you've got plenty of room for extra blooms in your home, why not buy in bulk? Buying in bulk from wholesale florists is a lot cheaper than buying per stalk in boutique flower shops.

4. How long do you want your flowers to last? This is a bit of a no-brainer, because we want our flowers to last as long as possible. To ensure this, make sure you keep your flowers away from harsh sunlight and too much heat, as this will cause them to mature and wilt quicker. And as tempting as it is to decorate your dining table with fresh flowers and bowls of fruit, do refrain, as ripening fruit releases ethylene gas that induces your flowers to drop their petals to become fruit.

5. Are you comfortable with using flower food? Many Asian households may balk at the idea of adding sugar into flower water and leaving it out (what about ants!), but one teaspoon of sugar with vinegar or vodka, when added into your flower water, actually protects against bacteria. You'll want to change this water every day, however. Otherwise, try dissolving an aspirin tablet in your plant water; it'll work the same way. Note that some flowers do not do so well with flower food, like zinnias, sunflowers and the gladiolus.