How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer

How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer

Floral arrangements make the perfect centerpieces for outdoor dinner parties and are a great way to bring nature indoors.

Vibrant blooms can brighten your day, and the act of creating bouquets is a calming activity that can reduce stress levels.

They are particularly popular for special occasions and, whether you harvest your flowers from your own cutting garden or are surprised with a bouquet on a special day, we all want to keep our floral arrangements fresh and beautiful for as long as possible.

If you have a flower garden or potager (kitchen garden), you have the perfect opportunity to grow your own centerpieces for indoor and outdoor entertaining, or to simply beautify your home.

This is a great way to create decorations on a budget, to enhance a party theme or to bring an increased level of elegance to more formal gatherings.

To help you get the most out of your cut flowers and to enjoy your floral arrangements longer, read on to learn tips and tricks for keeping your bouquets fresh and vibrant.


When to Cut Flowers from Your Garden


If you have a cutting garden or a flower bed with pretty blooms, you are fortunate to have a readily accessible supply of flowers for making arrangements to use as decor or gifts.

To get the most out of your garden and enjoy your floral arrangements for as long as possible, it is important that you cut your flowers at the right time of day.

It is best to cut them early in the morning or later in the evening when the weather is cooler.

Avoid cutting them during the hotter afternoon hours.

For the most fragrance, cut your flowers in the morning, which is also when they have the most moisture in their stems.

Flower Bed

How to Cut Flowers from Your Garden


For the longest lasting floral arrangements, and to maintain the health of your plants, take care when you cut flowers from your garden.

To cut flowers from your garden, you will need a bucket of lukewarm water and a sharp knife, scissors or shears.

Some flowers, such as daffodils, have only one bloom per stalk, which means you can use a little less care when cutting them; for others, you will need to find a spot above a node to allow the rest of the plant to continue to flourish and create more blooms.

Many popular cut flowers, such as roses and irises, will provide you with a longer-lasting floral arrangement if you cut them before the bud is fully open.

Others, such as sunflowers or marigolds, should be allowed to open completely before you cut them.

Flower stems should be cut cleanly and at an angle for the best results.

Stems that are damaged during the cutting process will not deliver water as effectively to the flower.

Remove any leaves that will be below the water level once in the vase, and place your stems immediately in your bucket of lukewarm water.

Flowers absorb warmer water better, so you can also place them in a bucket with hot water (up to about 110 degrees) for an hour or two before arranging them if you prefer.


12 Tips for Making Cut Flowers Last Longer


Whether you cut flowers from your own garden, or pick up a bouquet from the farmers market or florist, you can make your arrangements last longer by giving them a little extra care.

Here are 12 things you can do to make your cut flowers last longer:

1. Always use a clean vase, and sanitize your vases in the dishwasher between uses.

Bacteria is not your friend when it comes to making floral arrangements last, so set things off right by starting with a clean vase.

2. Fill your vase with lukewarm water to the desired water level before you begin arranging your flowers.

This allows you to take stems from your bucket, prepare them, and then immediately place them in the warm water in the vase.

3. Prepare your water with a commercial or homemade solution to feed your flowers and increase their longevity.

If you do not have a favorite floral solution to add to your water, check out one of the options listed below in this post.

4. Add a little bleach to your water.

Adding about 1/4 teaspoon of bleach per quart of water will help deter bacterial growth in your vase, which can help your flowers last longer and keep your vase water cleaner.

Cutting Flowers

5. Before placing your stems in the water, cut them one more time.

If they are about the length you want for your arrangement, trim just a little off of the end of the stem.

If you need to shorten them, cut one or more inches from the bottom of the stem.

Remember to cut your stems at an angle.

6. Remove leaves that will be below the water level.

Underwater leaves encourage bacterial growth, which will shorten the time you can enjoy a beautiful bouquet.

They also rot, which can significantly impact the aromatic effect of your arrangement.

7. Change the water and trim the stems every two to three days.

To stave off wilting and help your flowers receive the water they need, trim the ends of the stems at least 1/4 inch each time you change the water.

Change the water every two to three days, or more often if it becomes cloudy.

8. Display your floral arrangement away from heat and cold sources.

Cold drafts and dry heat flowing from vents both can shorten the life of your blooms.

The heat given off from your television or other appliances can also shorten their life.

It is best to also keep them out of direct sunlight.

9. Lengthen the life of your arrangement by keeping it in cold storage.

If you are making arrangements beforehand in preparation for an event or dinner party, you can keep them looking fresh longer by storing them in a refrigerator.

This works best if you have an extra refrigerator that is not keeping your fruits and vegetables cold.

Produce that gives off ethylene gas can shorten the life of your flowers.

10. Give your flowers an afternoon spritz.

Misting your flowers with a little water on dry days will help them stay hydrated and give them a bit more of the humidity they love.

11. Remove blooms as they wilt.

Wilting blooms give off ethylene gas, which will cause nearby blooms to wilt faster.

12. Lightly mist the undersides of your blooms with a little natural hairspray to keep them looking fresh longer.

Flowers vases make every occasion special.

Floral Preservatives and Flower Food


When you purchase bouquets from a florist or some retailers, they will usually come with a small packet that contains a solution to help keep your arrangement fresh and beautiful longer.

This solution usually is a combination of a sugar, an acid and a bleaching agent.

The bleaching agent helps deter bacterial growth, the acid enhances the pH level of the water, and the sugar feeds your flowers.

These commercial packets usually work best, but if you prefer to make your own (or did not get a floral preservative with your flowers), try one of these popular options:

    • For each quart of water, add one tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon bleach and one tablespoon sugar (do not use artificial sweeteners).
    • Add one part lemon-lime soda for every three parts water. Do not use diet soda, and only use clear, citrus sodas. You may also want to add a 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of bleach for each quart of water to combat bacterial and fungal growth.
    • Add a few drops of vodka to your floral preservative to inhibit ethylene gas production.
    • For each quart of water add one tablespoon white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon bleach and one tablespoon sugar. If you do not have lemon juice on hand, you can also use white vinegar as an acid. Just keep in mind that lemon juice is generally considered superior.
    • Add one tablespoon of a sucrose-containing, antibacterial mouthwash for each quart of water.

Mason Jar Flowers

How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer: Final Thoughts


It is fantastic to be able to cut flowers from your own flower beds, but not everyone has the time or space for a cutting garden.

If you love floral arrangements but are not able to grow your own blooms, it is best to bring a bucket of water with you when you go to the florist or farmers market to purchase freshly cut flowers.

Any amount of time spent out of water will shorten the life of your arrangement, so keeping them in water during the drive home can keep your flowers looking fresher longer.

If you are concerned about your bucket spilling, set it inside a box or crate to help stabilize it.

How do you make cut flowers last longer? Share your tips in the comments below!


Photo Credits (in order of appearance): morgueFile, jade; Belgard Hardscapes; morgueFile, kakisky; Belgard Hardscapes; morgueFile, christilper