Secrets to great arrangements

Los Angeles floral designer Danusha Kibby has nearly three decades' experience arranging flowers, including a year in the Netherlands. She offers these tips on arranging flowers and caring for your creation.

1. Remove any foliage that will be under the water line. If it is not removed, submerged foliage will decompose, leading to a buildup of bacteria.


2. Make sure the water level in the vase covers any part of the stem where the bark has been stripped away.

"The majority of flowers drink from most of the stem," she says, "the rose being the most thirsty. Roses," she stresses, "drink from the entire stem and drink most from the highest cut. If you're removing thorns, never remove thorns from above the water. If you do, the rose is going to die faster."


An exception is for flowers from bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils. These drink only from the bottom of the stem.

3. Treating the bottom of the stem is simple. Make a fresh cut so the flower can drink easily. Smashing and splitting the stem is gratuitous. After a clean cut, the most important thing is clean water. Ideally, it should be changed every day. "Dirty water is deoxygenated and kills plants," she says. "Clean water is readily absorbed."

4. As for the folklore about flower food, about pennies in the water, and sugar, even bleach, only one treatment makes a dramatic difference, says Kibby: the addition of commercial flower flood, the kind that comes in little paper packets with bouquets.

Samantha Suiter of Floralife Inc. says Floralife and other products like it have three basic ingredients: sugar to replace what the plant would make during photosynthesis; an acidifier such as citric acid, because plants drink better in a slightly acid environment; and a chemical she calls a "stem unplugger."

5. Choosing flowers and vases is personal, but keep in mind how the two work together.

For blue flowers, she leans toward silvery containers, because the blues and grays achieve a certain pewtery beauty.

6. Arranging doesn't have to be fussy. Often, all that is needed is making a bouquet in your hand as you trim, then dropping them in a vase.