Colorful, cup-shaped tulips make beautiful flower arrangements, but their longevity is short-lived once they have been cut for use in vases and bouquets. Extend their life beyond a few days by following the advice of tulip and flower experts, and change the water completely every two days.
Choose Fresh Tulips
Though lovely to look at, tulips that have already opened up offer a shorter window of enjoyment. Those in full bloom have probably been languishing in the floral section for a while, but tulips that are still tightly closed are more likely to be fresh and will last longer.
Cut the Stems
Cut the stems diagonally instead of straight across, using a sharp and un-serrated knife. A diagonal cut reveals more of the stem surface and prevents the stems from resting flat against the bottom of the vase, being deprived of water and nutrients. When cutting your own tulips, early morning is the ideal time to do so because this is when plants are most filled with stored food and offer the strongest fragrance.
Pretreat the Tulips
Protect and hydrate the tulips, from head to stem, by wrapping them individually in damp newspaper. Leave the top portion of the newspaper open to allow for air circulation. Place the stems in water and leave them overnight.
Carefully remove the newspaper, re-cut the stems diagonally and place the tulips in a vase containing fresh water, additives and plant food. Flowers grown from bulbs, like tulips, prefer cool water. Avoid placing tulips near heat or in direct sunlight and keep them looking fresher longer by completely changing the water every two days.
Once considered an old wives' tale, adding a few pennies to the bottom of the vase really does help preserve tulips and other fresh cut flowers. The copper from the pennies works as a fungicide. Aspirin makes the water more acidic and is often added along with a penny. Or, other alternatives include: adding 1/4 tsp. of bleach per 1 qt. of water prevents mold from growing and keeps tulips from dying prematurely. Bleach can be used alone but also works when 1 part non-diet lemon-lime soda is added to 3 parts water. Listerine mouthwash is also a good additive, according to Marion Owen, co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul." Listerine contains sucrose and a bactericide, and its acidic nature helps water move up the cut stem. Owen recommends 2 oz. of Listerine for every 1 gallon of water.
Adding 1 tbsp. of sugar to every 1 qt. of water provides food for the tulips and works best when combined with 1/2 tsp. of bleach and 2 tbsp. of lemon juice per quart. A packet of flower food should also be added because it contains nutrients for the tulips and ingredients that promote thriving by keeping the water balanced and healthy.