Preserving Fresh Cut Flowers

Kathleen Roberts
Keep your flowers vibrant longer.

Preserving fresh cut flowers correctly will enable you to stretch the enjoyment of your arrangements. By following a few simple tips your flowers will last longer than you ever thought possible, whether they are store bought bouquets or flowers that you have grown yourself.

Cutting Fresh Flowers

There are a few things to keep in mind if you are cutting flowers for an arrangement in your home, as a gift, or to sell at a farmer's market. Follow these steps for longer blooms to brighten anyone's day.

  • Flowers are best cut in the morning when the blossoms are fresher and the sugar content is highest. If you cannot cut the in the morning, opt for late afternoon when it is cooler outside.
  • Use a sharp (not serrated) knife, not scissors, to cut stems without crushing them.
  • Stems should be cut at an angle to allow water to penetrate a larger surface area of the stem.
  • Immediately after cutting, place flowers in a bucket of water. It is best if the water is slightly warm because this will allow it to fill the stem more easily. This is a critical step. Failure to do so will result in air bubbles forming in the stem. Air bubbles will prevent water from getting into the flower resulting in a short-lived blossom.
  • If the flowers you are selecting have been grown from bulbs, like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, they should be placed in cold water after being cut.
  • Flowers like roses, daffodils and irises should be cut as buds to last longer.
  • Remove from the stems any leaves that will be below the water level in a vase. Thorns should not be removed as this will shorten the life of the flower.

Store Bought Bouquets

Roses will brighten anyone's day.

If you have been given, or just purchased, a bouquet from a florist or supermarket, you can help your arrangement to add beauty to your home for a longer than average period of time. Just follow these steps:

  • Re-cut flower stems at the opposite angle that they were originally cut. This will open the stem and allow more water to get inside.
  • Stems should be cut under water to prevent air from getting inside the stem.
  • Add the preservative that came with your bouquet to warm water and then place your flowers in the water. The preservative feeds your flowers with sugar while it disinfects to kill bacteria and keep it from prematurely killing your flowers.

More Tips for Preserving Fresh Cut Flowers

Here are a few more tips for preserving fresh cut flowers, wherever they were grown. Remember these simple tricks to keep your blooms fresher, longer.

  • Your flowers' water should be completely changed, not just topped off, every two to three days. Water that sits longer can encourage bacteria to grow which will cause flowers to wilt.
  • Re-cut stems every time you change their water so as much water can be absorbed as possible.
  • Daffodils should be alone in a fresh bouquet. They release a compound that will cause other flowers to die too soon.
  • Remove dead flowers immediately because they release ethylene gas. This will cause the rest of the flowers to die as well. Ethylene gas is also released by fruit, so don't put your vase next to a bowl of fruit if you want your arrangement to last.
  • Keep your bouquet out of drafts, direct sun or heat to prevent them from wilting early.
  • Place your vase in a cool place, like your refrigerator, at night to keep flowers fresh and bright.
  • With each water change, add a preservative to the water. You can make you own with one of these methods:
    • A crushed aspirin in the water will help kill bacteria and make flowers last.
    • Add a quarter of a teaspoon of citric acid to a gallon of water and mix well. Use this for your water changes.
    • One tablespoon of sugar with one quarter teaspoon of bleach acts as a preservative for fresh flowers.
    • Use two parts water and one part lemon-lime soda is also good to keep flowers fresh longer. Make sure you do not use diet soda though, because your flowers need the sugar that is found in regular soda.
  • Flowers with straw-like stems, like tulips, can have water poured directly into the stems. Hold them upside down and pour the water right in. This will prevent air pockets from forming inside the stem and blocking the water.

Good to the Very End

Even following these easy tips, your fresh flowers cannot last forever. However, you can keep them nearly that long if you learn how to dry flowers and try preserving your fresh cut flowers with dried arrangements. These are a wonderful way to keep the bounty of summer to brighten your home in the fall and winter.

You might also enjoy making potpourri with flowers and herbs that you have grown yourself. This will make a lovely garden gift as well.

Preserving Fresh Cut Flowers