FloristsWhen talking to garden clubs, I like to hold up one of those little packets of flower food that comes with floral gifts, and ask, “How many of you have a stack of these little packets in a drawer at home?” Almost everyone proudly holds up his or her hand. “Shame on you,” is what I tell them; those little packets should be used to prolong the life of flowers.

Flower foods contain sugar, a wetting agent and an antibacterial, all the necessary ingredients in the proper proportions. Sugar feeds the flower, helps it open at an even rate and stay open, and keep the color bright. A wetting agent balances the pH level of the water, not too acidic or alkaline, and an antibacterial agent cleans the water by preventing bacteria growth.

Urban myths recommend common household items to prolong flower life, but don’t be swayed. Clear soda, such as 7-Up, has sugar and will feed flowers, but has nothing to control pH balance or bacteria. It is the same as you eating a candy bar for energy; you have it fast but burn out when a piece of fruit would have kept you going longer and better. Aspirin also has sugar, but again nothing to fight bacteria or balance the pH. Placing a penny in water might have worked when pennies were made of copper. And don’t waste whiskey, gin or vodka on flowers. My least favorite myth involves bleach. Never use bleach with flowers. It is harsh, and you’ll mask the fragrance of the flowers.

Please use the little flower food packets that come with your flowers. Follow the directions on the packet for longer-lasting, more vibrant flowers. If you need more packets, talk to your florist.

For more flower care advice, visit aboutflowers.com.