Whether it’s a bouquet of gorgeous roses from your significant other, a friendly bunch of birthday daisies from your bestie, magenta peonies fresh from the garden, or that impulsive bunch of tulips you grabbed on your way through the grocery store check out line, there are some helpful concrete things you can do for keeping cut flowers fresh, lasting longer and looking their best.
We’ll even cover some of those old wives’ tales you may have heard — like putting a penny in a vase of tulips. Does it work? Come see.
10 SECRETS FOR KEEPING CUT FLOWERS FRESH
Most of the time you’ll probably find flowers bunched together, held with either a rubber band or twine, packaged in cellophone or paper. When you get flowers from the florist, try to buy from one that has a high turnover so you can be sure you’re getting really fresh flowers. If possible, it’s a good idea to befriend your favorite florist, . They are going to be your best resource regarding specific flowers, and they might just let you in on good deals or specials, or tricks only the pros know.
Tips like Secret #1: when shopping for roses, gently squeeze the rose where the petals meet the top of the stem. If it’s soft and squishy, the roses are old and you shouldn’t buy them. If it’s firm, the roses are fresh.
Florists and floral sections of grocery stores will keep some flowers in refrigerated areas in buckets of water. The cooler temps help keep the flowers fresher, and the water is of course to keep them alive. Speaking of water, flowers will wilt quickly without it. Secret #2: If you have a ways to go before purchasing your flowers and putting them into a vase, be sure they are A) packaged with individual water containers, or B) that you plan ahead and have a bucket of water with you, or at the very least C) wrap the stem bottoms in damp paper towels.
Once you get home, inspect the flowers. I find this is especially true with roses.
Remove any severely wilted petals or leaves, and Secret #3: remove any greenery from the bottom of the stems that will be submerged in the water — you’ll be amazed at how much removing lower leaves will help keep the water clearer.
Next, take a look at the stems. Sometimes you’ll see that they’ve been burnt, or are severely dried out. Water is changed regularly at the florist, but they leave the stem trimming up to us. Time to trim those ends!
Cut off 1-2″ of the stems, under running water or in a bowl of water, at a 45 degree angle. Doing this underwater will help prevent extra air from going into the stems. Secret #4: It’s a good idea to trim a bit from the stems each day or every other day to help the flowers receive a steady flow of nutrients and water.
What should you use to cut the stems? My florist says scissors squish the stems too much. They can damage the end of the stem and prevent them from absorbing the water from the vase. So I take her advice and Secret #5: I use a very sharp knife to get a clean cut. For woody, thicker stems, you can also use sharp garden shears.
If you don’t cut the flowers underwater, be sure to get them in water as soon as possible after cutting. They should stay in fresh, clean water until you transfer them to a vase or put them into an arrangement. There are only a very few flower stems that can handle being bashed or split, so steer clear of that unless you know for sure it’s good for a particular flower.
When you’re ready to arrange the flowers, remember Secret #6: Always, always, always use a sparkling clean vase that has been washed in hot, soapy water and rinsed well. This will help remove any microorganisms. Those pesky microorganisms equal slimy water and dead flowers.
Some flowers will continue to grow even after they have been cut from the main plant. Anemones (the pretty purple flowers pictured) will keep growing and taking in large amounts of water every day, as will tulips. In just two days, the anemone blossoms opened and the stems grew about 1/2″!
Flowers take in more water than you might think. Look carefully at the hydrangeas below and you’ll notice that in a little over 24 hours they drew in 3/4 of the vase water. I use good old tap water, but you can also use demineralized water — like the distilled water you’d put into an iron. Florists don’t recommend using soft water. There’s too much sodium in the water which is not good for the flowers.
Which brings us to Secret #7: Since cut flowers are no longer receiving nutrients from their roots, it becomes your job to keep them fed and happy. This will also help any unopened buds bloom.
There are homemade vase solutions you can make, but when I asked my florist to give me the down-low on that, she said the best thing is the same thing the pros use: commercial flower food in packets. When buying your flowers, ask for a few extra food packets, because you will want to change the water every day or every other day, and each packet is only enough food for 1 pint of water.
Secret #8: In addition to the food, adding a tiny amount of bleach to the water — 1/4 tsp. per quart of water — will also help keep the water clean and clear and prevent harmful microorganisms from taking over. But please don’t use too much or you’ll damage the flower you’re trying so hard to preserve!
Secret #9: Besides drawing water from their stems, almost all flowers benefit from a daily mist of water. This is a fun “chore” my kids enjoy helping with.
Lastly, cut flowers will keep fresh longer if kept at cooler temperatures. Remember how florists keep flowers in those large refrigerators? Secret #10: You don’t have to keep your flowers in the fridge, just move them to a cooler spot every night and keep them away from hot spots in your house — this includes being near fireplaces and heaters, and away from direct sunlight, which can harm the delicate petals.
Temperature also matters when cutting the flowers from the garden. Cut in the morning when the temperature outside is cooler.
MINI-APPENDIX FOR KEEPING CUT FLOWERS FRESH
I’ve also gathered random bits of flower-specific advice that don’t fit in the general discussion above, but they’re too good not to share. Take a peek:
– You might have heard that aspirin or vinegar will help prolong the life of cut flowers, but it doesn’t really have much of an effect. One thing that does seem to work is using lemon-lime soda. Word on the street (from an elementary science fair project) is that filling a vase with straight 7-Up instead of water will keep roses looking fabulous for up to 2 weeks. Wow!
– There’s an old wives tale about putting a penny in the bottom of a vase of tulips to keep them standing up straight. It really seems to work!
– Another one for tulips: dipping stems in ice water each morning and cutting off 1/4″ will make them last a lot longer.
– Hydrangeas like water so much, that instead of misting them, they can handle a quick dip in a bowl of cool water!
Now you’re ready for all those gorgeous Springtime flowers! If you have life-extending flower tips that have worked for you, I’m sure we’d all love to hear them. And I’d also love to know what flower you’re most looking forward to as the weather warms up. (Preferred flowers can be a passionate topic!) As for me, I can’t decide between peonies and hydrangeas.
P.S. — Hungry for more secrets? You can find all of the posts in this series here.
Created by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.
90 thoughts on “How To Keep Cut Flowers Fresh”
Not only are your pictures just gorgeous, but there is so much useful info in this post! Love it.
I’ve always wondered how I could make my flowers last longer- this is a wonderful post! And my favorite flowers are lilies, of almost any kind, but especially tiger lilies!!
Oh, I love tiger lilies! I can’t wait until they start blooming again this year. My neighbor has a bunch in her yard.
I absolutely love the smell of freesia, thanks for the tips.
Isn’t it intoxicating? Makes me want to pack up and head to Hawaii…sigh.
I agree with Sharon, the photos are amazing! I also love the tips. I’ve always cut off the stems (although I’ve been using scissors – never again!) and removed lower leaves, but many of these tips are brand new to me. I may just have to stop by the florist on my way home!
Thank you, Amy!
Gorgeous flower pictures!
Freesias I planted last year are popping up all over my yard, they are a favorite. The cut flower I love the most is hydrangea, mostly because they last so gosh darn long if you change the water: two weeks+
I’m incredibly jealous! Freesia has got to be one of the best smelling flowers. The hydrangeas in the pictures just keep getting prettier every single day and make me so happy to look at. They do last a long time!
This is so useful, can’t wait to put all the tips to the test with Spring flowers. Thank you very much! I can give yet more anedoctal evidence of the soda trick: I use a can of Sprite (funny thing is that even the diet version works!) and it makes most of the flowers last for two weeks or longer. A colleague from work who’s always had the most beautiful flowers on her desk thaught me that several years ago and it never fails.
That’s a good reason to keep soda on hand, isn’t it? :) That was one I didn’t know about until I asked my florist. Yay for pretty flowers! Thanks, Raquel!
Wow I didn’t know hydrangeas need so much water! I don’t think there’s a flower I don’t like-every single has its charm- but I’m really looking forward to peonies. I adore them.
Thanks! Great tips, I’ll definitely try the 7up. My Aunt used to cut the ends of roses when she got them, dip the end into boiling water and hold it there until bubbles stopped coming out of the stem. It took a few minutes sometimes, and then put the rose into its new fresh water. Its pretty laborious but it does make roses last longer!
The colors are so gorgeous! I love fresh cut flowers around the house.
I never knew about freesia until I was looking for purple flowers to go in my wedding bouquet. They are so beautiful! And they dried beautifully too. I have the dried flowers in a vase on my bedroom dresser. These tips are wonderful! Can’t wait to use them next time I pick up some cut flowers.
p.s. Great post again Lindsey, I always love your’s :)
What a great post. Wonderful tips, amazing photographs!
Oh, I just read a new tip I hadn’t heard of this amazingly gorgeous book called Bringing Nature Home (by Rizzoli) that you should change the water frequently to prevent bacteria and if you do that you don’t need the food packet or you could just add a little sugar to the water but that changing the water should really do the trick. :)
These are so great. I love buying fresh flowers and am always sad to see them die so quickly. Will definitely be giving these a try next time I purchase! and will be great incentive to have a weekly rotation of lovely flowers, they add such a homey feel the place :)
I have also always heard a little sugar does the trick just as much as flower food and I am sure that is exactly the ingredient in 7up which helps. But I would certainly never add any bleach – flowers are natural after all! (Sorry to be critical but I cannot agree with using chemicals unnecessarily.)
Good call! I was also thinking – I’m gonna give the bleach a pass😀!
I live in the Netherlands where cut flowers seem to last a ridiculously long time (I once had peonies on my sill for nearly three weeks!) but these tips are pretty great!
A tip from my neighborhood florist: when bringing roses from the cold into a warm (heated) indoor environment, leave them in cold water for an hour before putting them in room temperature water. The adjustment to the temperature helps lengthen their life span.
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Thank you for your tips about care of cut flowers. My flowers wilted fast because of too warm room temp. . . No AC for 2 days. I live in Phoenix area. b.
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the flowers are sooooooooooo beautiful my rose bushes and flowers are growing great thanks alot for the tips
and thanks for showing me how to take care of my flowers after i cut them
I’m going to give you a another tip for hydrangeas after you cut them in a angle dip the end of the stem on alum. Then put them on water. It’s a trick from us flower designers ;).
Thanks for all those tips.
What is alum?
Tulips will not flop as quickly if you pierce the stem right through, just under the flower head. Also singe the ends of Poppies to prolong their life.
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Can you give me any advice please I am doing wedding flowers for my lovely niece she is getting married on the 28th of december I have asked my local market when the last delivery date is and they tell me the 23 December five days before my niece wants roses and another wedding flower which she hasnt decided I have never done a winter wedding and am nervious incase the flowers dont last Iv taken the 7 up advice on board can you give me any more advice thanks !!!!
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Wow, that’s what I was looking for, what a data! present here at this web site, thanks admin of this site.
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Hydrangeas can actually be soaked up to four hours in cool water, I use ice cubes or bagged ice to cool the water for their entire body. I do this when first arriving from the farms, in some deep soaking sinks or even in a clean bath tub, it is especially important for wedding work that has lots of hydrangeas depending on time of year for outdoor weddings with warm temp months.
Thank you so much you helped me alot with my science fair project:)
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