My dad, Seo Rae Kim—also known as John Kim to many—has been in the floral business for over 30 years. What started out as a day job to make ends meet transformed into an exciting passion for bringing others joy through flowers, and his love for flowers really began when he started his own business, BB Flowers.
“Flowers are so beautiful on their own and they're unique pieces of art,” he says. “They have the ability to cheer anyone up with their beauty or put a smile on their face on any given day—they’re so powerful.”
So given his decades of floral experience, and with Valentine's Day just around the corner, I asked my dad to share his tips with me about choosing the freshest flowers and how to keep them looking their best at home.
Meet the Expert
Seo Rae Kim (also known as John Kim) has been in the floral business for over 30 years. He was the founder and owner of BB Flowers.
Take Your Time Choosing
All cut flowers and bouquets are different, so it’s important to take your time looking around and choosing the right one.
“When people are buying flowers, they often go for the fully closed ones because they’re under the impression they’ll live longer once they’re brought back home—this isn’t always the case,” he says. “It’s best to choose ones where the buds are slightly opened because the tightly shut ones have a higher chance of never opening, or being harder to take care of in the long run.”
Whether you buy your flowers in a flower shop or a grocery store, he recommends taking a close look at the quality of the flowers, especially the petals, for sign of wilting, brown spots, or dryness.
“So many people automatically assume they’re all in pristine condition. However, flowers are organic things and they’re transported multiple times from so many different regions of the world—a lot can happen to their quality in that time span,” he says. “You want to make sure you’re examining what you’re getting beforehand so your flowers don’t wither quickly.”
When it comes to roses, lilies, or tulips, he suggests gently feeling their petals to see if they’re firm. Any petal transparency or flimsy texture is an early sign of damaged or weak flowers.
Ask for Flower Food
Typically, flowers will come with a small powder packet known as flower food. This supplement helps preserve your flowers and stay fresh longer. If you don't see the packet included in your bouquet at a flower shop, don't be afraid to ask your local florist for one.
"I always encourage people to ask for the flower food if they don't see it already in their bouquets because they really do make a difference," he says. However, if you usually buy your flowers from a grocery store, buying some to keep on standby or making your own is also a great idea.
Personalize Your Arrangement
With so many videos and tips showing you how to arrange flowers, it's easy to get overwhelmed by different techniques. Arranging your flowers can seem like a hard task initially, but you should follow your intuition and go with what works and speaks to you.
"You chose those specific flowers because they spoke to you or you liked them—right away, they're already personal to you," he says. "Take that a step further and go with what flows. There are no rules when it comes to arranging, so have fun with it. Play with what works and what doesn't and the arrangement you end up with will be the best reflection of who you are and something you enjoy looking at because you created it."
Regulate Your Temperatures
Different flowers thrive in different climates, but in general, they don’t do so well in warm temperatures.
“High temperatures may cause your cut flowers to wilt faster, so regulating its temperature is essential to keeping them alive longer,” he says. “However, if you're in a situation where you can’t regulate your temperatures, try refreshing its water daily and putting ice cubes in the water to make up for it.”
Refresh Your Water and Stems
Dedicating a few minutes every day to refreshing your flower's water will go a long way, especially if you take the time to cut the bottom of each stem.
"Whether it be scissors or a florist knife, cut the stems at a diagonal angle, so more water can reach the actual flower," he says. "How much care you put into your flowers will determine how long they'll live."
Don't Be So Hard on Yourself
My dad emphasized this tip more than any other: don't be hard on yourself. He wants every avid flower lover, buyer, or admirer to embrace the life cycle flowers go through and how they all vary. He often sees people be too hard on themselves when their flowers wilt quickly, even though they may have tried every trick in the book.
"The moment you buy flowers, you need to embrace the fact that they're living creatures and have a limited life span," he says. "You can use every single tip and take care of your flowers super well and they may still die early and that's okay! They've served their purpose to brighten up your days regardless of how long they lasted, so say 'thank you' and don't be so hard on yourself—you did the best you can."