Ask the Master Gardener: Getting the most life out of your flowers in vases

Keep them in a cool location, out of direct sunlight. If the water starts to look cloudy, recut the stems, and replace the water and floral preservative.

A vase with flowers in it.
To extend the life of your cut flowers, recut each stem before putting them in a vase containing water and floral preservative.
Contributed / Jennifer Knutson

Dear Master Gardener: What flowers have the longest vase life?

Read more Ask the Master Gardener
Plant a climbing rose in an open, sunny area in moist, well-drained soil. They have an extensive root system and need lots of space to grow.
Baptisia can act as a shrub, or make an excellent addition to a perennial border or cottage garden.
Pansies like cool temperatures — high temperatures can cause them to get leggy and pale.
Because they have aggressive growth potential and improve soils, alders are useful for land reclamation after disturbances.

Answer: Lisianthus probably has the longest vase life of any cut flower and can last for two weeks. Chrysanthemums, carnations, alstroemerias, hypericum, lilies, freesias, Leucadendron, Eryngium (sea holly) and baby’s breath are also known for having a long vase life. To extend the life of your cut flowers, recut each stem before putting them in a vase containing water and floral preservative. Keep them in a cool location, out of direct sunlight. If the water starts to look cloudy, recut the stems, and replace the water and floral preservative.

Dear Master Gardener: We are going on vacation for three weeks. What can we do so our plants don’t die while we are away?

Answer: Keeping plants watered while you are on vacation can be difficult. Plants suffer if the roots are too wet or too dry. If you don’t have someone to come in and water while you are gone, you can do several things to reduce the water needs of your plants. If you lower the temperature in your home while you are away, the plants will use less water. If you have plants in direct sunlight, move them to a location with bright light, but not direct sunlight. Grouping plants together raises the humidity in that area. There are glass watering globes you can purchase that will keep potted plants watered for up to two weeks at a time. Before you leave, give your plants a good, deep watering. Don’t leave them sitting in water! Surplus water keeps the potting medium saturated which will cause the roots to die due to lack of oxygen.

February Garden Tips

  • Great Horned Owls begin nesting in January or February. Barred Owls nest in March. Take a walk or snowshoe by the light of the moon to listen for their unique calls. The Great Horned Owl has a low-pitched “Hoo Hoo” and the Barred Owl’s call is “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.” “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen is a great book to read with children. The February full moon lands on Sunday, Feb. 5, and is known as the Snow Moon due to the heavy snowfall that usually occurs in February. The final full moon of the winter season is March 6 and 7. March’s full moon is known as the Worm Moon, but also called the Lenten Moon or Sugar Moon (Ojibwe).
  • Start saving and washing out small yogurt containers for seed starting next month. Punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage. 
  • Big, beautiful amaryllis blossoms are delightful in the dead of winter. Treat them as sun-loving houseplants. Put them outdoors in summer, fertilize them in spring and summer, and move them to slightly bigger pots as the bulbs get larger and develop offshoots. They should bloom annually for years to come.
  • The end of February through the end of March is a good time to have shade trees pruned. Unless the trees are still small and accessible, you may want to hire an experienced professional to do the job. Do not use pruning paint!
  • Check on your calla lily, dahlia, canna, gladiola and tuberous begonia bulbs you are storing over the winter. It is not unusual for them to rot in storage, especially if they are not kept cool enough. Discard any that are soft and mushy.
  • Plant begonia tubers in a flat of peat moss or vermiculite now for bloom in June.
  • Rather than buying cut flowers for Valentine’s Day, consider buying a potted, flowering plant that will last longer, such as an African violet, miniature rose, orchid, cyclamen, kalanchoe, or clivia. Choose plants with a few open blossoms and a lot of healthy-looking buds. Protect them from the cold on the trip home by wrapping them very well. If flowering plants are exposed to cold drafts, they may drop their buds (bud blast).
  • Mid-February is the time to sow seeds indoors for pansies, violas, wax begonias, heliotrope, and coleus. Two weeks later sow impatiens, petunias, snapdragons, vinca, and lobelia. Most flowering annuals may be started later, about eight weeks before they are transplanted outdoors. Starting them too early can result in large or leggy plants that do not transplant as well as more compact ones.
  • Note areas in your landscape that could benefit from additional winter interest. In the spring consider adding plants, such as spruce, pines, junipers, and fir trees. Other possibilities include ornamental grasses and other tall perennials that can hold up to snow, red twig and yellow twig dogwoods, and flowering crabapples that hold their fruit all winter.
  • By the end of February, the days are getting longer and many houseplants are resuming active growth. Provide the nutrients they need by fertilizing them at half-strength every three to four weeks. Don’t fertilize if the potting soil is bone dry or you don’t see active growth.
  • If you didn’t get to it in the fall, prepare for the spring planting season by cleaning your garden tools. Clean off soil residue and use steel wool to remove any rust that has formed on metal surfaces. Wipe spades, rakes, pruners, shears, etc. with ethyl or isopropyl alcohol. Alcohol will not rust your equipment. Sharpen the edge of trowels and shovels with a mill file. Coat all clean, sharpened, metal blades and the heads of shovels, hoes, and rakes with a light oil.
  • Increase your houseplant collection or share new plants with friends by propagating pothos, ivies, philodendrons and other houseplants. Fill an oblong plastic bag with fresh vermiculite. Add water and seal the opening. Make small slits to poke cuttings into, then move the “pillow pack” to a bright location. When all cuttings root, open the bag and transplant them into containers of fresh potting soil.
  • If you have little insects that look like fruit flies flitting about your houseplants, you probably have fungus gnats. These larvae live on decaying matter in soil. Allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions. To get rid of adult fungus gnats, hang a yellow sticky trap nearby.
  • When perusing seed catalogs, look for vegetable and flower cultivars with superior disease-resistance and make sure they will mature in our relatively short growing season.
  • Heavy snow can weigh down and break branches, especially on evergreens such as arborvitae and junipers. Gently brush off or shake off the snow by hand. A long-handled broom can be used to reach higher branches. If a branch remains bent or curved, let it bounce back on its own. Avoid pulling off ice or snow frozen to branches as it may cause damage to the branches and foliage. Let them thaw naturally. When possible, remove any broken branches with a sharp, clean pruner, lopper, or tree saw.

You may get your garden questions answered by calling the new Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A Master Gardener will return your call. Or, emailing me at and I will answer you in the column if space allows.


University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. Information given in this column is based on university research.

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