The beauty of flowers lingers best when they are left intact, growing in their place in the yard or garden, as a part of the main plant. If you must capture that beauty and bring it indoors in the form of a cut flower, a few simple procedures will help keep the blossom looking its best for the longest possible period of time.
Limit any damage to the flower by handling it carefully. Gather cut flowers in an open basket or roll them lightly in a layer of protective paper for transport.
Limit the time the flower spends out of water. Ready your vase before you pick. Clean and sterilize the vase by using a diluted bleach rinse or running it through the dishwasher.
Use warm water first. Most extension services recommend a temperature of 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit for a first watering. Arrange your trimmed flowers in the water and allow it to cool on its own. The heat helps the flowers to quickly absorb a greater volume. Change the water every two days and make a fresh cut in the stem in conjunction with every other water change.
Trim the stem of the flower just before placing it in the vase. There is no exact amount to cut away; simply remove a portion of the stem end to allow the cut flower to better absorb water. Whether trimming the stem while you are holding it underwater helps or is an unnecessary step is a debatable point. If you can accomplish this safely and afterward transfer the bloom to your vase without exposing the cut tip to the air again, it may offer your flowers a small advantage. At the same time you trim the stem, remove any greenery and leaves that will sit below the water level.
Use a floral preservative. These products contain a readily usable source of energy for the flower and protective agents that hinder the growth of organisms that cause decay. The University of Minnesota Extension warns that there are numerous flower preservation myths--that the use of items like aspirin and pennies will not help your flowers remain fresh.
Keep cut flowers out of direct sunlight. Provide indirect light instead by placing the vase near a window, but out of the harshness of the sun's rays. The University of Illinois Extension suggests storing blooms in the refrigerator at night to extend their showy look.