Cut Flower Care for Longer Lasting Flowers

Women resting on grass with bouquet in hand

Whether you picked up a bunch of flowers at the grocery store or you were delivered a hand-tied bouquet by a florist, following a few simple guidelines to care for your flowers will insure you get the longest life out of them.

1.  Strip the stems. Remove from the stems any foliage that will be under water.  Submerged foliage will decay and encourage the growth of bacteria.  The byproducts of these bacteria will clog the stems of the flowers and prevent the uptake of water.  No water = wilty flowers!

2.  Fill your vase with lukewarm water. Flowers draw water up the stem due to a process called transpiration.  Water evaporates from the surface of the leaves, decreasing water pressure at the top of the plant, and creating suction in the stems of the flowers. Essentially, a vacuum is created, and the stem draws water from its cut end.  It’s kind of like a syphon.  When cut flowers have been out of water, air is taken into the end of the stem and the vacuum is lost.  By using water that is warmer than room temperature, the water in the stem expands, the air gets pushed from the cut end of the stem, and the vacuum is again functioning!  Some flowers, such as spring bulb flowers, prefer cool water, but generally, you’re safest using warm water in the vase.

3.  Re-cut the stems before putting them in water. Using a sharp tool such as a knife or floral shears (ok, kitchen shears if you must!), cut at least a half-inch from the bottoms of the stems.  Cutting the stems at an angle increases the surface area exposed to water.

4.  Keep the arrangement out of direct sun, heat, and drafts. Flowers will last the longest if they are kept cool.  Being directly in the sun is tough on cut flowers.  Heat and drafts also speed water loss from the flowers, so don’t put the flowers on your tv or on a windowsill.

5.  Give them some TLC at least every other day. Every other day, remove the bouquet from the vase, clean the vase, fill it with fresh water, rinse the stems, and recut the stems before placing the bouquet back in the clean water.  If any stems begin to wilt, give them a fresh cut and they will usually perk right back up!  If that doesn’t work, remove any wilted flowers from the arrangement.

By following these simple steps, you’ll get the longest life out of your flowers.

2 thoughts on “Cut Flower Care for Longer Lasting Flowers

    • If the flowers have been out of water for some time, warm water is generally best to encourage uptake. If you want your flowers to open more quickly, or if the flowers have wilted, a fresh cut and warm water will help to speed the process. However, for flowers that have already been properly conditioned, and you’re just refreshing the water, cold water is just fine!
      Floral shears should be kept sharp to minimize stem crushing. If the stems are crushed by a dull pair of shears, it is more difficult for water to flow up the stems. So keep those shears sharp!

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