6 Ways to Keep Cut Flowers Fresh Longer

Although there's no fountain of youth for fresh cut flowers, there are a few clever ways you can keep your bouquets blooming.

By Jennifer Noonan and Gretchen Heber | Updated Jan 10, 2023 11:32 AM

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woman trimming stems off of flowers in a vase

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Science says flowers make us happy, and who can argue with that? Multiple research studies, including a seminal study conducted by Rutgers University in 2005, have demonstrated that flowers can have a profound and positive impact on our mood. The only problem with a cut flower bouquet is that its beauty is fleeting, and it’s usually only a matter of days before the blooms wilt and die. Though you cannot prevent the inevitable, there are a few ways to forestall it: If your florist included a packet of flower food with your purchase, by all means use it—it can help. If, on the other hand, you cut the flowers from your own garden, try one of these time-tested tricks for how to keep cut flowers fresh for as long as possible.

1. Use clean containers.

Since bacteria and fungi accelerate the natural deterioration of cut flowers, it’s super important to thoroughly wash the vessel in which your blooms will be displayed. When cleaning the container, use hot, soapy water. Otherwise, disinfect the vase with a solution of diluted household bleach (one part bleach for every 10 parts water). Finish up by rinsing it out with water.

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2. Cut your blooms correctly.

Person using pruning shears to cut pink flowers outdoors

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Clipping flowers from your garden? Try to do so early in the morning, before the heat of day saps vigor from the blooms. Along with your pruner, remember to bring a bucket of tepid water. As you cut each flower, place it into the bath so as to prevent the end of the stem from drying out and sealing off.

If you’re displaying store-bought flowers (or a bouquet that was delivered to you), remove about 1 inch from the bottom of each stem. Make your cut at a 45-degree angle, under a running tap, and use a very sharp, clean knife, scissors, or pruning shears. Shortening the stem encourages the flower to take up water again. Before setting your bouquet into its container, remove the lower leaves of each stem to minimize decay, and wash the stems thoroughly to avoid introducing any dirt into the water.

3. Prepare a homemade flower food.

Keep Cut Flowers Fresh Longer -- bleach container next to flower vase

Photo: istockphoto.com

Rather than just filling your vase with water, Popular Science advises storing your flowers in a solution of lemon-lime soda, water, and a little bleach will help them stay fresh longer. Don’t use diet soda; the full-calorie sugar provides valuable nourishment to the flowers. The bleach in this DIY flower food keeps harmful bacteria at bay.

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4. Place the arrangement in a cool location.

Having taken all the right steps toward keeping your cut flowers fresh, go ahead and set them out on display. Be aware, however, that not all areas of the home are equally conducive to flower longevity. Avoid putting blooms in direct sunlight, near heating vents, or next to heat-generating appliances. If there’s an area of your home that’s cooler than others, that’s the best place to show off your colorful arrangement.

RELATED: How to Arrange Flowers Like a Floral Designer

5. Refresh the water.

woman filling vase of yellow flowers with water at kitchen sink

Photo: istockphoto.com

After a couple days, the water in the vase might start to look cloudy or murky. It’s a good practice to change the water at least every three days. Remove the flowers from the water, rinse the stems, trim another half inch off the bottom, and set them in a temporary vessel of plain water while you thoroughly clean the original vase. Create another solution according to Step 3 above, and replace the flowers into the newly cleaned vase.

6. Cull the display.

However many steps we take to keep cut flowers fresh longer, it’s inevitable that some flowers will wilt before others. Remove past-their-prime blooms in a fresh flower bouquet so the remainder of the arrangement looks good as new. If you have an unending supply of hydrangeas or other blooms in your garden, you might consider cutting some fresh flowers to replenish your arrangement.

If you prepare your flowers and their water carefully, and continue to take care of the arrangement, your cut flowers may well stay fresh for up to 2 weeks.