It's well known that the sight and smell of flowers in the home or workplace are instant picker-uppers. Whether you cut flowers from your own garden or purchase them from the florist, you want to enjoy them as long as possible. You can prolong the life of cut flowers.
Cut Flowers from the Garden
Cut flowers in the early morning or late evening. Flowers cut in the heat of the day are more likely to wilt.
If you are cutting blooms from a woody shrub such as lilac or forsythia, use sharp pruning shears. Cut stems on which at least two-thirds of the buds have opened.
Look for flowers at the best stage for cutting. If buds are still tight, they might not open after being cut. If flowers are fully open, they won't last long. For those flowers that open in a cluster, choose ones that are half to two-thirds open.
Carry a pail of lukewarm water with you if you plan to cut a lot of flowers. If you are only cutting a few flower stems and are bringing them inside right away, carry them with the heads down. This keeps the stems straight and prevents breakage.
Buy Cut Flowers
Look for the freshest flowers possible. Choose flower stems on which the buds are just beginning to open. Pass over any that have droopy flowers or leaves.
Check the stem ends. They should look green or white, and appear freshly cut. Don't buy flowers with dark stem ends; this indicates they are old and will not be able to take up fresh water.
Protect cut flowers on the way home from the florist or the grocery store. Make sure flowers are well-wrapped, particularly if it is cold or windy outside.
Place Flowers in a Vase
Fill a clean vase or other container with lukewarm water because the flowers will absorb warm water faster.
Dissolve flower preservative in the water. Preservative is often packaged along with florist flowers, or can be purchased separately.
Remove the lower leaves of the flower stems. There should be no leaves below the water once the flowers are in the vase because they might encourage bacterial growth.
Using a sharp knife or scissors, make an angled cut an inch or 2 from the ends of the stems (you might need to cut more from long-stemmed flowers). Gently plunge stems into the water immediately after cutting. Sharp tools are important because if the flower stems are crushed during cutting, they will not be able to take up water.
Maintain Your Floral Arrangement
As water is used up, top off with more fresh water. Avoid water that has been chemically softened. Use neither hot nor very cold water.
Keep cut flower arrangements out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat. They will last the longest if kept on the cool side.
Some flowers will last even longer if you provide them with a fresh stem cut every other day. This allows them to keep taking up the maximum amount of water.
Discard the bouquet when it is finally finished. Wash the vase with hot soapy water so it will be ready to hold its next arrangement.
About this Author
Gwen Bruno has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009, with her gardening-related articles appearing on DavesGarden. She is a former teacher and librarian, and she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Augustana College and master's degrees in education and library science from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin.