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How to Make a Bouquet Last: 10 Ways to Keep Cut Flowers Fresh

Updated: May 6, 2021


Written by the MasterClass staff

Follow these tips to extend the life of your cut flowers, but be mindful that some types of flowers will naturally keep longer than others. For example, carnations, chrysanthemums, orchids, and zinnias typically stay fresh much longer than dahlias, lilies, roses, and sunflowers.

  1. Cut two inches off the flower stems before placing them in water. Garden shears will give you the cleanest cut, but regular scissors will also do the trick. Cut at a 45-degree angle to allow for greater water flow into the stem. Some flowers, like roses, tend to get air bubbles stuck in their stems, blocking water flow; to prevent this issue, cut the flower stems underwater.

  2. Choose a clean vase appropriate for your flower type. Lighter, more fragile cut flowers belong in a taller vase. Cut heavy blooms short, and place them in a low vase where they'll have extra room to spread out. Make sure you wash your vase first to eliminate bacteria that could contaminate your water.

  3. Make sure the water is the right temperature. Regular flowers keep best in room temperature water, and bulb flowers keep best in cold water. For either cold or lukewarm water, fill your vase so it’s three-quarters full.

  4. Separate harmful flowers into their own container. Fresh-cut hyacinths and daffodils produce toxic chemicals that can kill other plants sharing the same water source. Keep these flowers in a separate container for a day before combining them with other flower types.

  5. Prune any leaves below the waterline. Any leaves submerged underwater can rot and cause bacterial growth, so it's important to regularly check your flowers and remove any underwater leaves.

  6. Maintain your flowers consistently. Replace dirty vase water with fresh water and clean your vase every single day. Re-trim your flower stems every two to three days.

  7. Keep cut flowers out of harsh environments. Refrain from placing your fresh flowers in direct sunlight, near hot appliances (tulips are particularly sensitive to heat), and near gusts of air from fans, air conditioning, or open windows. You should also keep cut flowers away from fresh fruit, as it emits traces of ethylene gas that can speed up a flower's wilting process.

  8. Nurture your flowers with a flower food packet. Florists and supermarkets sell pre-packaged mixtures of all the essential preservatives that help cut flowers last. These flower food packets contain a balanced blend of sugar to give the flowers energy, acidifiers to control the pH of the water, and a biocide to eliminate harmful bacteria.

  9. Make your own flower food. Instead of buying flower food packets, concoct your own using one of several methods. The most popular recipe is to fill your vase with three parts water, one part non-diet clear soda (for sugar), and a few drops of bleach to kill bacteria. Another common flower food recipe is to mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons sugar, and half a teaspoon bleach into a quart vase of water.

  10. Slow down wilting with a few drops of vodka. Giving a little alcohol to your cut flowers can actually decelerate their aging process. This is because the alcohol in vodka impedes flowers from producing ethylene gas, which causes flowers to wilt.


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