Keeping Cut Flowers as Fresh as Possible, as Long as Possible

It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the finest flowers on the earth. If they’ve been cut into a bouquet, they will only retain their beauty and aroma so long. However, there are certain things which can be done that have the ability to extend that period of time quite far—perhaps further than you thought was possible.

Whether you’re trying to keep seasonal flowers fresh longer, or just make a bouquet retain its vibrancy more than a few days, following are five best practices to most effectively preserve cut flowers.

preserve cut flowers

The Right Container

It’s very important to assure whatever flowers you’re trying to preserve have the proper container. You’re looking for something clean and circular, like a vase, that doesn’t have any sort of chemical residue which could damage the plants. You’re looking for something clean.

Detergent isn’t healthy for flowers, so you don’t want any sort of lingering compound like that in the receptacle. (Keep in mind, detergent isn’t “bleach”, we’ll get to that shortly.)

Flowers that are less strong should be in a longer vase, the water will provide a good deal of “structural support”, if you will, and the lengthy vase keeps them from bending over in ways that aren’t aesthetically pleasing.

For blooms that have shorter stems, you want to give them a more compact, squat receptacle so they can spread out. Essentially: make sure the container is clean, and match the container to the flowers it will be containing.

The Value of “Conditioning”

Martha Stewart’s website has a segment on “conditioning” flowers, which is key tactic of florists. Essentially, those who sell flowers professionally will carefully trim the stems of flowers at an angle of 45 degrees. Basically, cut the stem in a slant. If you don’t, stems sit at the bottom of a container in a flat way that reduces water absorption.

A slanted cut increases the available amount of area that can absorb water, assuring the cut flowers take in greater quantities of it. It’s also a good idea to cut stems under water. If there are leaves that would remain in the water after you’ve cut the stem, git rid of those, too, so they don’t decompose in the vase.

Generally, with any floral arrangement you’re trying to make stay fresh, you want to get rid of excess leaves. Over time, such leaves produce their own growth—varying algae will scum up a container, and it’s just a hassle you don’t need.

2. The Value of “Conditioning”

Refresh the Water at Intervals; About Every 5 Days

It doesn’t matter how clean the water was when you first put it into the vase, it’s going to stagnate over time, and little microorganisms are going to breed like mad inside. If you don’t refresh the water around your flowers every five days, a scummy residue will build up on the sides of the glass, and natural decomposition will begin imploding your bouquet.

Bleach helps, but only so much (again, more on that shortly.) To get past such scummy residues, you want to simply change the water at five day intervals.

There are cut flowers that retain a fresh appearance for as long as 42 days—that’s six weeks. Laceleaf will last that long. For best results, you’d want to be changing the water every 5 days; over 42 days that’s 8 total changes.

What makes sense is simply developing a habit where twice a week you change the water in the vases—maybe as you’re doing the dishes or some other recurring chore. Internalize the task, and you’ll do it in an automatic way that makes it feel as though the cut flowers you’ve acquired simply stay fresh effortlessly.

“Feed” Cut Flowers Aspirin and Sugar, or Cut Flower Formulas

Sugar and aspirin have different chemical qualities that cause flowers to absorb nutrients even after they’ve been cut. You do want to be careful, though, as insects are also attracted to sugar. Aspirin has an acidic quality which makes plants more absorbent. As it turns out, there are formulas from businesses such as Miracle-Gro that specialize in cut flower food.

It will depend on who you ask, though. Some formulas include bleach, some don’t. The three main ingredients that most florists agree on are some sort of sugar, citrus, and bleach. You can substitute bleach and citrus for the aforementioned aspirin. It will depend on your tastes, and the appetite of your cut flowers.

What you might want to do is try different combinations of cut flower food formulas to see which ones most effectively work. Citric acid through lemon/lime mixes or aspirin tends to lower the pH balance of the water. Sugar is what the cut flowers actually ingest like a food. Bleach keeps bacteria down, though it’s not the only choice.

To get the ratios right, you’ll likely want to do a little research online; it’s very easy to find a cut flower food formula—really it’s just a matter of choosing which one you think will work best in your home or your office.

4. “Feed” Cut Flowers Aspirin and Sugar, or Cut Flower Formulas

Harvest Flowers Near Full Splendor in the Early Morning

Harvesting flowers early in the morning is going to be your best bet for making them last the longest. However, the next step is just as important. You want to be sure the flowers are as near mature as possible.

Too young, and they’ll wilt before total bloom. Too old, and they wilt even faster. You’re looking for that “Goldilocks zone”, if you will. When you see flowers getting near that point, plan on cutting them from your garden very soon.

If you’ve already brought them home from the florist, you won’t be able to use this tip; but the best florists already practice harvesting flowers nearest their apex, and early in the morning. So you might just ask the florist where you’re considering picking up a bouquet whether they practice these things.

Making Cut Flowers Last

Harvest flowers nearest their fullest splendor in the early morning to get yourself started on the right foot—ask the florist how they regularly harvest flowers if you don’t have this opportunity. If you are harvesting, cut the stems at a 45 degree angle so there’s a larger amount of surface area for nutrient absorption.

On the absorption angle, you also want to be sure that you give your flowers the right sort of formula. Bleach, sugar, and citric acid are the primary components of cut flower food, though you might sub out the bleach and citric acid for an aspirin if you like.

Refresh water at intervals, about every five days, and, finally, put them in the right container. Such steps will help your cut flowers last much longer than you may have thought possible.

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