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How to Remove Pests and Bugs from a Cut Flower Garden

How to Remove Pests and Bugs from a Cut Flower Garden

Last summer I took a break from my vegetable gardens and decided to join the ranks of amazing flower growers worldwide. I knew I wanted to plant flowers so that I could have the full blooms in my house all summer long. Cut flowers brighten up our homes and bring a touch of nature indoors plus I love gifting them to friends and family. I love going outside early morning and checking on the outdoor plants to make sure they look healthy and vibrant. 

However, along with their beauty, they can sometimes bring unwanted guests – bugs. Before I started cleaning my blooms, I would notice tiny bugs crawling on my kitchen counter and I needed a good solution. I started doing research and while dealing with bugs in cut flowers can be a challenge, it is definitely not the end of the world! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore effective methods for removing bugs from cut flowers, ensuring your floral arrangements remain pest-free and vibrant.

Before diving into solutions, it’s essential to understand why bugs may be present in cut flowers. Insects are naturally attracted to flowers for various reasons, including shelter, food, and reproduction. When flowers are cut and brought indoors, insects that were previously living on or around the flowers may come along for the ride. Common pests found in cut flowers include aphids, thrips, mites, and even spiders. Despite homemade bug spray or removal of weeds, it is inevitable that bugs will survive inside a flower despite good shake. You’re going to need to do more to remove the flowers and the best option in my experience is to wash them. Here’s how.

How to prepare flowers for washing

how to get rid of bugs in cut flowers
Prepare your flowers for washing
  • The first step in bug removal is a thorough inspection of your cut flowers. Take the time to carefully examine each flower and its foliage for any signs of insects. Look for small bugs, eggs, webs, or other indicators of pest presence. These may not be visible to the naked eye, but I promise those pesky bugs are in there! Pay close attention to the undersides of leaves and inside flower petals, as these are common hiding spots for pests. There are thousands of plant bugs that hide in huge numbers inside flower buds and plant tissue. Insect pests aren’t necessarily a bad thing, you just don’t want those plant pests all over your counter or inside your home. 
  • Shaking and Tapping: Once you’ve inspected your flowers, gently shake or tap them to dislodge any insects that may be hiding. This method can be effective for larger bugs or those clinging to the outer surfaces of the flowers. Be careful not to shake too vigorously, as you don’t want to damage the delicate petals or stems.
  • Trimming and Pruning: Next, trim the stems of your flowers at an angle and remove any damaged or wilted leaves. Not only does this improve the aesthetic appeal of your bouquet, but it also removes potential hiding spots for bugs. Dispose of any trimmings promptly to prevent pests from spreading to other plants or areas of your home.

How to remove bugs from freshly cut flowers

  1. While still outdoors, give them a gentle rinse with a handheld shower head or a hose with a gentle spray attachment. The force of the water can dislodge insects from the flowers and foliage, effectively removing them from your arrangement. Be sure to rinse all parts of the flowers thoroughly, including the stems, leaves, and petals. When using a garden hose, use it on the most gentle setting. 
  2. Grab a large bowl or tupperware and fill with room temperature water and dish soap. You’ll want to start with about a gallon of water (cool water might shock the plants, so for best results, use room temp water). Make sure the water is sudsy. For more stubborn pests, soaking your flowers in a solution of lukewarm water and mild dish soap can be highly effective. Fill a basin or sink with the soapy water and submerge your flowers, allowing them to soak for several minutes. The soap suffocates and drowns the bugs, making it easier to remove them from your flowers. Add an extra cup of water if you haven’t fully immersed the flowers into the liquid. Do not leave them in there for a long time, just a minute or two will remove any fruit flies, plant lice, chinch bugs, mealy bigs or any other pest problems hanging out in the roots of plants and flowers.
how to get rid of bugs in cut flowers
Submerge your flowers in soapy water
  1. Take the freshly washed flowers and place them into a bowl of clean water. Use your hand to move the flowers inside the water. Soak completely and then remove the blooms. You will notice that there will be hundreds of little bugs floating in the water. 
wash flowers to get rid of bugs
Look at all the bugs the soap removed!
  1. After soaking, rinse your flowers again thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue and remaining bugs. Take care to rinse all parts of the flowers, ensuring they are completely clean before proceeding to the next step. This final rinse also helps to freshen up your flowers and remove any lingering odors from the soap. It is deeply satisfying to see all of those little bugs in the water. Upon close watch, you will notice the many varieties of mealy bugs. Ew!! They’re especially bad in late summer.
rinse flowers to get rid of bugs
Rinse your flowers
  1. Once your flowers are clean and dry, take the time to inspect them once again for any signs of remaining bugs. If you spot any stragglers, you can use a soft-bristled brush to gently remove them from the flowers. Be careful not to damage the petals or foliage while brushing. If upon closer inspection you still see bugs, you will want to start the process again by placing the bigs inside the sudsy water. The best way to deal with the bugs is not by using insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Soap is the best way. I love the dish soap that comes inside the spray bottle. 
  2. Cut stems if necessary so that all of the flowers can be arranged in a cohesive manner. The first thing to remember is that young plants are fragile and you will want to work with care.
  3. Finally, allow your flowers to air dry completely before arranging them in a vase or floral display. Make sure they are completely dry to prevent mold or mildew growth. Once dried, arrange your flowers as desired, and enjoy your beautiful, bug-free bouquet!
how to get rid of bugs in cut flowers
Let your flowers dry before arranging

Removing bugs from cut flowers doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the right techniques and a little patience, you can effectively rid your floral arrangements of pests and enjoy their beauty indoors. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure your cut flowers remain vibrant, healthy, and pest-free for days to come. So go ahead, bring the beauty of the outdoors inside, and let your flowers shine!

If you love summer crafts, don’t forget to check out this post on how to make a DIY shishi-odoshi fountain!