Making Your Cut Flowers Last Longer

Having fresh cut flowers is a great way to decorate and add beauty to your home. The longer the flowers last, the more you get to enjoy them. This is a guide about making your cut flowers last longer.

Making Your Cut Flowers Last Longer, Red Roses in a Vase
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Article: Cut Flowers on a Budget

By EllenB 793 1

Peonies in a vaseFew things can elevate your mood like a pretty vase filled with a bright bouquet of fresh flowers. Whether you buy them at the store, or grow and cut your own, here are some budget conscious tips for to getting the most out of your cut flowers.

Stretching Your Flower Dollar

Double Duty Your Perennials: The cheapest way to enjoy cut flower is to grow your own. This doesn't need to be an ongoing expense, because most perennial flowers can easily serve double duty as cut flowers. Here are some good examples: black-eyed Susan (Rudbekia), blazing star (Liatris), chrysanthemum, delphinium, false sunflower (Heliopsis), goldenrod (Solidago), iris, peony (Paeonia), purple coneflower (Echinacea), Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum), and yarrow (Achillea).

Incorporate Alternative Plant Materials: Whether you buy a bouquet of cut flowers at the store, or grow them yourself, an easy way to add more color, texture, and interest to your arrangements is to utilize all of the plant materials that are available to you. This may include incorporating things from around your yard (like branches, seed pods, cones, herbs) or kitchen (like sliced fruit or vegetables) into your arrangements.

Use Flowers That Go From Fresh to Dry: Another great way to stretch your cut flower dollars is to choose long-lasting flowers that can be used when fresh, and then dried and used again. Good choices for fresh-to-dry flowers include globe amaranth (Gomphrena), lavendar (Lavandula), cockscomb (Celosia), statice (Limonium), strawflower (Helichrysum), annual salvia, heather (Erica), baby's breath (Gypsophila), cattail (Typha), and goldenrod (Solidago).

Tip: Some flowers hold their color after they dry better than others. You'll get the best color retention if you dry your plants in a dark location, because light can bleach the colors. Blue and yellow flowers retain most of their color when air-dried, whereas pink flowers tend to fade.

Hunt for Bargain Containers: Anything that can hold water has the potential to be fashioned into a vase for cut flowers. From a simple glass jar, to a pair of old rubber boots, there are plenty of places to find inexpensive and interesting vases and containers: yard sales, dollar stores, antique stores, Goodwill, and your own kitchen cupboards and closets.

Remember, Simple Can Be Beautiful: You don't need to create an over-the-top, show-stopping arrangement for beautiful design. Don't overlook a single beautiful flower alone in a vase-simple, yet effective.

How to Keep Your Cut Flowers Fresh

  • Cut your flowers early in the morning, while the plants are fully hydrated.

  • To avoid crushing the stems, cut them off at a slant using a sharp knife or scissors.

  • The stems of plants with milky sap (e.g. butterfly weed or poppies) should be dipped in boiling water to seal the stem cuts and prevent the sap from leaking out into the vase water.

  • Remove all foliage below the water line.

  • Once cut, get your fresh flowers into warm water as soon as possible. Add a packet of floral preservatives (follow directions) to replace the food that the cut flowers are no longer receiving from the plant.

  • Cloudy or fowl smelling water signals the growth of bacteria. Replace the water immediately with properly mixed flower food solution. If possible, re-cut stems by an inch or two to reduce bacterial growth.

  • Keep your fresh cut flowers in a cool location. Keep them away from large, sunny windows, overhead fans, heating vents and fireplaces, heat generating appliances, and fruit.

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Article: Conditioning Cut Flowers for Lasting Arrangements

By EllenB 793 1

vase with hydrangea flowers on white table with brown background

Every professional florist knows that the methods used to cut flowers and condition their stems can significantly extend their vase life. Here are a few easy tricks that will help you lengthen the life of the flowers you cut from your own garden - adding days of enjoyment to your floral arrangements.

Cut Stems Cleanly

When to cut: If you cut flowers during the heat of the day, they may already be droopy from the heat. Instead, cut them in the early morning, late afternoon, or evening when temperatures are cooler. Choose blossoms that are just about to open fully. Mature blooms that are heavy with pollen will not last as long as newly opened flowers.

The exceptions to this are daffodils and forsythia. Their tightly closed buds will not open up after they've been cut. Roses will continue to open as long as one outside petal has unfurled when cut.

Daisies, tickseed, and blanket flowers should be cut when the flowers are fully opened, but the centers are still firm and slightly green. Spiky flowers like gladiolus, lupine, and delphinium should be cut when lower flowers are in full bloom and upper buds are just on the threshold of opening.

What to use: Believe it or not, scissors are not the best tools for cutting flowers. They tend to crush the stems rather than severing them cleanly, which closes off the water channels in the stem that carry the water up to the flowers.

Picking flowers by hand isn't a good idea either, as you risk tearing the stems or uprooting the plants. The best tool for cutting flowers is a very sharp knife. If you can't find a sharp knife, a scissors or pruning shears will do, just make sure they are sharp.

How to cut: When heading out to the garden, take along a bucket of lukewarm water (100 to 110 degrees F) for transporting freshly cut flowers back to the house. When cutting, slice across the stems at an angle. This provides the largest surface area possible for water uptake and prevents the stems from resting on the bottom of the vase (which would also prevent water uptake).

Conditioning Cut Stems

The vase life of flowers can be extended significantly by conditioning the stems so they can absorb as much water as possible immediately after being picked. After cutting them, condition the stems appropriately according to type (see below), and let them stand in a bucket of lukewarm water (around 100 degrees F) for at least six to eight hours, in a cool, dark place.

It's okay to immerse the foliage, but be sure to keep the flower blossoms dry. Conditioning the stems in this way will let the flowers drink in the water and be at their sturdiest before you start to work with them in arrangements.

Woody Stems: The blossoms of some flowering trees, shrubs, and vines have woody stems that have difficulty taking up water. Examples include dogwood, forsythia, honeysuckle, lilac, mimosa, and apple trees, as well as flowers with fibrous stems like mallow, thistle, and chrysanthemum.

To condition their stems, strip off the bark 1 inch above the cut, then use a wooden rolling pin or rubber mallet to lightly crush the tip of the stem to break down the fibers. An alternative method is to use a sharp knife to cut a series of 1 inch long vertical slits up through the center of the base of the stem.

Milky Stems: The stems of some flowers are filled with a sticky, milk-like sap which prevents them from drawing up water when they are cut. If not conditioned properly, this oozing milky sap can quickly contaminate the rest of the flowers in your arrangement. Examples include daffodils, poppies, hydrangea, and hollyhocks.

To condition flowers with milky stems, cauterize (seal) the tips by passing them through an open flame or plunging them into a hot water bath. If you need to cut the stems to length when it's time to arrange them, you'll need to seal the tips again before placing them in a vase.

Hollow Stems: One of the secrets of conditioning flowers with hollow stems (e.g. amaryllis, daffodils, dahlias, delphinium, and lupine) is to fill the stems with water and then plug the openings. Simply hold each stem upside down and fill it with water using a medicine dropper. Tap the stems gently with your fingers to release any air bubbles, and plug the hole with a tiny, wadded up piece of a cotton ball. Return the flowers to their bucket of water until you are ready to arrange them.

Soft Stems: Soft-stemmed flowers should be cut longer in the garden, because when you bring them indoors you'll need to re-cut their stems under water. This is done to prevent air lock. Dunk the stem tips in a shallow bowl filled with water and use a sharp knife or pruning shears to re-cut the stems at an angle. Then condition the flowers in tepid water before arranging. If possible, cut the stems to the length you'll need in the arrangement before soaking them, so you can avoid re-cutting them.

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Tip: Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh Longer

By Luana M. 82 149

I have tried many things when it came to getting flowers on special occasions; even picking ones from my rose garden. Sugar and aspirin are the couple I did most often. With this I added a penny. I was never sure why, but my Grandma always did this so of course it was a good thing!
I recently was reading a article in some magazine while waiting to go into the doctor appointment. I found a very interesting fact, today's pennies do not have enough copper in them to do anything as a helping fungicide. So if you do this helpful idea make sure your penny was made before 1981. Find one and keep it just for the bottom of you cut flowers.
You'll be able to enjoy them so much longer. If cutting them from your yard, early morning is better, flowers are holding the moisture from the night before.

Source: Article at doctor's office from older magazine.

By Luana M. from San Diego, CA

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Tip: Make Your Own Bouquet Preserver

By Jennifer 33 93

What is that magic stuff in the little packet that comes with flowers delivered by the florist? How can you get some to help your home-grown bouquets last longer? It was news to me when a friend who used to have a flower shop told me the secret. Just add a few drops of chlorine bleach and a teaspoon of sugar to a quart of water for a home-made equivalent. Mystery solved, money saved.

By Jennifer from Gilbertsville, NY

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Tip: Reviving Drooping Roses

By pam munro 522 790

My husband knows that I love fresh flowers so he brings them home to me quite often. Last week, I received some beautiful fresh red roses, which I immediately put in a vase. However, we happened to go away that weekend, and when we came back the roses had drooped considerably, but otherwise were not in bad shape.

I remembered that florists sometimes use wire to hold up the heads of flowers. I had the idea of using sections of clear plastic straws instead. I cut the straw in 3 pieces, and then slit them along the side. That way, I could slip the straw section over the part of the stem near the bloom, where it was sagging. Voila! A little fussing with the placement in the vase, and I had a bouquet which would last a few more days.

For more support of the drooping stem, you can tape the straw section together, once it's on the stem, with clear tape. Also remember that it's best to try to arrange the flowers with the reinforcement AGAINST the droop to better withstand it.

By Pam from Los Angeles, CA

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Tip: Caring For Cut Flowers

Did you get some cut flowers? Here's a little prep work you can do to make them last longer. Using pruning shears, make a fresh cut at the bottom of the stem. Do this under running water. Don't use scissors for this, they will crush the stems and make it harder for them them to absorb water.

Strip away all leaves that will be below the water line of the vase. Those leaves will rot more quickly if you don't remove them. Make sure to clean out the vase before putting the new flowers in. Change the water once a day add 2 tablespoons of sugar to act as preservatives for your flowers.

What are your tips for caring for cut flowers? Post them below.

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Tip: Making Your Cut Flowers Last Longer

Another tip for keeping flowers fresh and even for revival is to put some fizzy clear lemonade into the water. This will revive them fantastically.

Penny from Cornwall, England

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Tip: Use Soda In Your Flower Arrangements

To make fresh cut flowers last longer, use 1/2 water and 1/2 soda, such as Sprite or any clear color soda. Your flowers will last for weeks and weeks and they will remain beautiful.

By Dawn from Newburgh, NY

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Tip: Making Cut Flowers Last Longer

By grandmadan 5 1

To make cut flowers last for weeks instead of days, use 7-Up or Sprite instead of water. Cut the ends every other day or so and freshen the liquid. Roses last for weeks!

    CommentWas this helpful? Yes

    Tip: Keeping Cut Lilacs Fresh Longer

    By Teresa A 3 10

    When cutting fresh lilacs, use a hammer to lightly crush the woody part of the cut ends to about 2 inches up the stem. The lilacs will then take up more of the water in the vase and stay fresher longer.

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Crush Stems of Woody Cut Flowers

      By Twila 4

      Bouquet of Siberan iris, peony, and mock orange blossomsI like to use flowers from my garden and yard to share with our church family to aid in worship at our little country church. In this photo, I used Siberan iris, peony, and mock orange blossoms. The mock orange have woody stems. In order to prepare them to draw more water in the vase, I crush the stems with a hammer. The flowers can last longer that way.

      By Twila from Versailles, MO

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Pennies for Cut Flowers

      Throw a couple of pennies into the water with your fresh cut flowers to keep them alive longer!

      By Katherine B.

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Making Cut Roses Last Longer

      Do you mash the stem on fresh cut roses or not? I have rose bushes that I cut regularly. I am told to mash the stem before putting in a vase. I say no to that and that they go into the vase after a slant cut. Please let me know.

      By Maggie

      AnswerWas this helpful? Yes


      Most Recent Answer

      By Mare7 2 Flag

      August 17, 2015

      All you need to do is cut your roses on an angle, about 1" or less and add some sugar to the water. They should last a few extra days longer than usual. Enjoy! Take lots of pictures!


      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Use Plastic Floral Tubes for Cut Flowers

      By Laurie 3 3

      If your children are like mine, anytime I cut fresh flowers, they ask to take a pretty bloom to their teachers. Rather than trying to keep the stems moist by wrapping them, use a plastic floral tube. You can purchase several for a dollar at the floral counter in your grocery store. The small plastic tubes hold water and have a rubber tip the stem slips into, making them spillproof. I have also used these at recital time on bouquets that will be out of water for a few hours.

      By Laurie from TN

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Use Warm Water For Fresh Flowers

      By marie cecchini 204 2

      Fresh cut flowers should always be placed in warm water rather than cold because the stem will absorb the warm water more rapidly. This prevents air bubbles from blocking the stem.

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Preserving Cut Bittersweet for Decorative Use

      bittersweetShould you put freshly cut bittersweet in water or hang it to dry if you want to use it in a decoration? I have found conflicting information.

      By Janet F from New Haven, CT

      AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Use Ice Water for Cut Flowers

      By Vicki 24 428

      Keep them in ice water, as much as you can. Store them in the refrigerator at night (in the winter, you can put them outside on the back porch). I have gotten cut flowers to last 2 weeks this way.

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Place Short Hydrangea Blossoms In The Refrigerator

      By Nancy Blankenstein 2 2

      I have magnificent hydrangeas bushes in my back yard. Sometimes, a flower will break off or has a very short stem. Rather than throw it away, I put it in the refrigerator in a shallow bowl with water. I enjoy it every time I open the door!

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Make Your Cut Flowers Last Longer

      By Teresa Bowen 5 3

      To prolong the life of cut flowers in a vase, add a couple of drops of chlorine bleach. Never submerse any of the stem with leaves in the water. It adds to the decay factor.

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Keep Cut Flowers Longer

      By Joshua 2

      To keep your freshly picked flowers alive longer, add sugar. Add 1/2 tsp sugar for every cup of water.

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Making a Rose Bowl

      By Susan Koenig 1

      I would like to know how to make a rose bowl. I have seen roses preserved in a liquid inside an inverted, sealed "vase". I would like to know where to get such a "vase". What liquid is used to preserve the roses?

      By Susan from Alameda, CA

      AnswerWas this helpful? Yes

      Tip: Prune Your Bouquets for Longer Lasting Flowers

      By pam munro 522 790

      Fresh flower bouquets are wonderful and can last much longer if, besides all the usual methods of adding conditioner/aspirin to the water, and freshly cutting stems and so on, you prune your bouquets. . .

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Home and Garden Gardening FlowersOctober 19, 2011
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