Whether you grow them yourself or pick them up at a florist shop, fresh flowers are such a treat, you want them to last as long as possible. Here's how to get the most out of your cut flowers.

By Deb Wiley
Updated January 29, 2020
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There’s nothing quite like a vase full of flowers to brighten up a room with their scent and color. They're even more special when they come from your own garden, or if you receive a bouquet from a loved one to celebrate a special occasion. Sadly, cut flowers don’t last forever, as much as we might want them to. To keep your fresh flowers from wilting too quickly, try these cut flower care tips and hacks to enjoy their blooms even longer. They still won't last indefinitely, but even extending their lifespan by an extra couple of days is worth the effort.

Credit: Peter Krumhardt

How to Keep Flowers Fresh

Before arranging them in your favorite vase, there are a few things you can do to help your cut flowers stay fresh longer. Follow these three tips whenever you're displaying fresh flowers around your home.

1. Use Clean Materials and Water

First thing's first, always start with a sparkling-clean vase. When you bring a flower bouquet home, immediately plunge the cut ends into fresh tap water. Letting too much air into the cut stems can prevent water uptake later on.

2. Cutting Flower Stems

Once you find a permanent home for your cut flowers, cut the stems using clean scissors or pruners. You can even cut the stems of flowers (especially roses) underwater to be sure air doesn't sneak in. Different types of stems do better with different cuts. Cut thick, green stems at an angle, but separate woody stems with an X-shape cut. Use a funnel to fill hollow stems with water, then plug the end with a cotton ball.

3. Prepare Flowers

Before starting an arrangement, remove any extra leaves on stems. Leaves contribute to bacteria buildup in the water, shortening the life of your cut flowers.

Credit: Kindra Clineff

Cut Flower Care and Feeding

Your work isn't done once your flowers are in their vase. Changing the water and adding cut flower food will also help your blooms look their best for a week or more.

1. Cut Flower Food

Use a cut flower food formula to keep your blooms looking fresh. Commercial flower preservatives contain chemicals that stop microorganisms from growing and make water—which is usually alkaline—more acidic to match the cells of the flower stems. Flower food also includes sucrose (or sugar) to provide energy. If you don't have commercial flower food, try adding a sugary soft drink to the water or a spoonful of sugar, along with a teaspoon of white vinegar or bleach to help control bacteria. No matter which preservative you choose, always add it first to your vase, then fill with warm-to-the-touch water to help it mix in and dissolve.

2. Change Vase Water Often

Change the water in the vase every day by completely emptying your vase, then refilling with fresh water or making another solution of water and cut flower food. Make sure the water is lukewarm before adding the flowers back to the vase. Snip a little off the ends of the stems every time you change the water and remove any spent blooms; infection can spread easily from dead petals and wilted leaves.

How to Get Flowers to Open Faster

To get flower buds to open up, try shocking them: Place the stems in hot water for one minute, then transfer them to lukewarm water. This will shorten bloom time. For peonies, you can also try placing them in warm water, then moving the vase into the sunlight to encourage the blooms to open faster.

Where to Put a Flower Arrangement

Keep the bouquet out of direct sunlight or hot locations (like near a heat vent or radiator). Place it in the coolest spot in the house overnight (as long as it's not exposed to freezing temperatures). If you want, you can even put your flowers in the fridge overnight to help prevent bacteria from growing and slow down the aging process of the flowers. Just keep them away from the crisper drawer with fruits like apples, which release ethylene gas that causes flowers to wilt.

Your cut flowers may not last forever, but these tips can help you stretch their lifespan a few extra days. If you pick up your flowers from a florist, you can also ask them for advice on making them last, or you can plant perennials in your personal garden that make beautiful cut flowers. Plus, if you plant your own, you can enjoy them whenever you step outside, and you'll always have plenty of cut flowers available for sprucing up your home.

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