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How to Revive Wilting Cut Flowers

By Michelle Miley

You can cut many of the flowers you enjoy in your garden to place in a vase -- bringing the outdoors in adds a touch of brightness to your home. Bright annuals like zinnias (Zinnia elegans) and marigolds (Tagetes patula) are perfect for indoor arrangements. Many gardeners in U.S. department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9 also enjoy hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.) as cut flowers, but may be disappointed by how quickly these flowers wilt in cut flower arrangements. Fortunately, when your flowers start to wilt, there are steps you can take to revive them and extend their life by 24 to 72 hours so you can enjoy them longer.

Banish Bacteria

Remove your flowers from the vase, and then wash the vase thoroughly to kill any bacteria that rotting leaves and flower stems may have introduced. Use a mixture that is 1 part bleach and 9 parts water to do the cleaning, and then rinse the vase thoroughly.

Prepare the Vase

Fill the vase with fresh warm water. Ideally, the water temperature should be between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Add 3 teaspoons of sugar and several drops of bleach to the water, and stir gently. Adding several drops of bleach into the water kills any bacteria that will develop if only sugar water is used.

Trim the Stems

Hold the flower stems under warm running water, and cut them with a sharp knife or pair of scissors, removing about an inch of stem. Make sure the knife is sharp, because you want to cut the stems without crushing them. It's also important that the knife blade is clean, so wipe it with rubbing alcohol or bleach before you start. Cut the stems at an angle. This exposes more of the vascular system and prevents the stems from sitting flat on the bottom of the vase, improving their water intake.

Choose a Location

Place your newly revived flowers in a spot that's out of direct sunlight and away from drafts. You may also want to store your arrangement in the refrigerator when you're not admiring it to prolong its life. If you do, don't put it directly in front of or below the cooling vents inside the fridge.

A Note on Roses

Most everyone likes to receive a bouquet of roses (Rosa spp.), and there's a variety of rose that grows in every USDA plant hardiness zone. Roses in cut flower arrangements can be revived in a unique manner. To revive roses, follow the steps you would for any other flower, but soak them before placing them back in the vase. You can soak the entire rose in a bath of warm water for 30 minutes, allowing the whole flower to absorb the water and plump back up quickly.


Things You Will Need

  • Floral Preservative
  • Vase Or Similar Container
  • Sharp Knife Or Shears

About the Author


Writing professionally since 2008, Michelle Miley specializes in home and garden topics but frequently pens career, style and marketing pieces. Her essays have been used on college entrance exams and she has more than 4,000 publishing credits. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in accounting, having graduated summa cum laude.