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Home & Garden

Yard and Garden: Caring for Valentine’s Day flowers

AMES — With just the right amount of love and care, flowers received on Valentine’s Day will continue to express the feelings of the sender.

Use these tips from horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to extend the enjoyment of cut flowers and flowering plants. To have more questions answered contact 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. Also, remove all foliage that will be below the water line in the vase. Submerged foliage may decay and shorten the life of cut flowers. To promote water uptake by cut flowers, cut off the bottom .5 to 1 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 cut flowers. A small packet of floral preservative comes with most cut flowers. Simply follow directions on the packet. Place 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 flowering azalea as a gift. How do I care for it?  

In the home, place the azalea in a brightly lit, cool location. An ideal site is one near a window that receives bright light (but no direct sunlight) with a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Proper watering is an important 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. The pots of most azaleas are placed inside decorative pot covers. When watering the azalea, carefully remove the pot cover, water the plant in the sink, then drop the azalea back into the pot cover. When placed in favorable locations and given good care, azaleas may bloom for three to four weeks.  

Azaleas sold by floral shops are not winter hardy outdoors in Iowa and are normally discarded after flowering.  

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 the plant once or twice a week to promote even growth.  

Miniature roses also require a consistent moisture supply. When the soil surface becomes dry to the touch, water the plant until water flows out the bottom of the container. Discard the excess water. Fertilize miniature roses 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 plants away from cold drafts and 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.  

In May, miniature roses can be placed outside. Harden or acclimate the plant to outdoor conditions by initially placing the plant in a shady location. Then gradually expose the plant 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 actually more cold-hardy than hybrid tea roses. Select a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil.  

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