Six Tricks Florists Use to Keep Flowers Alive

You Can Extend the Life of Your Cut Flowers with These Easy Tips

Cut Tulips in Red, Pink and Yellow on a black bench

It doesn't matter whether you’re growing flowers in your garden or purchasing your flowers from a flower retailer we want to help you make your flowers last. We compiled a short article detailing six tricks that are simple and easy to use to help you preserve your flowers, so they last longer and extend the happiness they bring into your life and home. At Green Fresh Florals + Plants, we pride ourselves in delivering the freshest cut flowers to maximize the life of your arrangement, and the joy our flowers bring into your world.

Here are the six tricks (and an extra tip or two thrown in for good measure), we share with our customers so they can extend the life of their cut flowers. Some you may already know and use all of these tricks, some may be new. Either way, I hope you find them useful in keeping cut flowers alive longer.

Selection of pink, yellow and red cut tulips on a black bench

1. Always Cut the Stems Before Placing in Water

If you purchase your flowers, you should always cut the stems before putting them in water.  If you are buying an arrangement from a professional florist, they should already be cut, and your flowers will be good for a few days. However,  it’s still important to clip the stems after a few days. This will allow fresh water to penetrate the stem. It also is helpful to replace the water every couple days.

Every three days or so, using sharp scissors or pruning shears, cut about one inch from the bottom of each stem at a 45-degree angle. Doing so prevents the stem from squishing and allows it to absorb more water.  You can either cut each stem individually or a small group at the same time. Either way, remember to keep the angle at 45 degrees.

2. Cut back or pull-off the extra leaves and foliage

Before you place your cut flowers in a vase, take some time to remove any extra leaves at the base of the stem that would likely rest under the waterline of the container. Eliminating extra foliage will decrease any bacteria in the water, helping keep the water clear and clean longer and free of any foul odors. This will also allow the flower’s energy to be focused on the main bloom, helping keep it alive longer. At Green, cutting and removing extraneous leaves is a regular part of how our designers spend their day.

Table with cut tulips in a variety of colors with two women arranging flowers

3. Choose the right size vase or container

The right size vase or container is an essential element in the life of your cut flower arrangement. At Green, our trained florists can help you choose the right size vase or container to ensure that the clipped stems fit nicely into the opening or mouth. If the opening is too narrow, the stems might appear to be cramped or actually squished. Either remove some of the stems to create a smaller bunch, or find a larger vase to utilize. In the opposite direction, If the mouth of your vase is too wide the arrangement will not have any form or shape. If you're not sure, ask one of our friendly florists to help you decide from the many options we have available online or in our Hillcrest shop. Some work best for short and stocky arrangements, while others are better for tall and showy designs. Our team can help you make the right choice.

One option that often scares beginners away is using a low vase like a cube or small bowl because this size requires a major trim to the stems. To make it work, you will need to cut the stems down significantly and it can cause some anxiety for those just learning. Don’t be afraid to choose a low vase, like a cube or small fishbowl, and drastically clip the stems. Be sure your choice is also clean and fill it two-thirds of the way to the top with fresh, cold water. (Tip: If you are trying to get your flowers to open, you should substitute cold water for warm water. The warm temperature will help facilitate the opening of the bloom.) But remember, if you are trying to keep you cut flowers alive longer you will want to use cold water when you replace the water.

A woman's hands and arms in a red jacket with a selection of cut tulips in her hand.

4. Change the Water Every Two Days

Fresh, clean water will keep your cut flowers alive longer. About every two days take the flowers out of the vase and replenish the water. Rinse the vase with warm water to clean it out then fill it to two-thirds with fresh water. If you have a packet of “plant food” provided by many florists (see below) to help keep your arrangement alive longer, this is a perfect time to add it. If you have dying foliage, it is a good idea to remove it now as well.

Tip: Placing your arrangement in the fridge overnight as florists do will also help extend your flower's life. While this may be difficult depending on the size of the arrangement, it is a nifty trick that will do wonders for your flower's life especially in the summertime when the flowers are in warm air throughout the day.

5. Remove dying flowers

Everything has a season, and there will be a time when some of your flowers will start to fade and turn dark. Despite all the hard work by those supplying your flowers, and your extra effort to keep them alive, some blooms will begin to wilt within a week.

To continue to enjoy your flowers, remove blooms that are wilting and dying as they can begin to grow mold and contaminate the still pretty blooms. While this won’t do anything to extend the life of your flowers, it will keep your arrangement looking good, longer.

Keeping your cut flowers in the right place can make a significant impact on their life. Place your arrangement in a shaded, cool area that receives indirect sunlight. The colder temperature helps preserve the blooms.

Modern Spring Tulips from Green Fresh Florals + Plants

6. Place your arrangement in the best spot

Keeping your cut flowers in the right place can make a significant impact on their life. Place your arrangement in a shaded, cool area that receives indirect sunlight. The colder temperature helps preserve the blooms.

It is also essential to keep cut flowers away from fruits in the kitchen or on the table. Believe it or not, fruits and veggies give off ethylene gas, which contributes to flowers wilting. A stink bomb if you will. Cut carnations are particularly susceptible to the gas, but one apple won’t kill a whole bunch of flowers. Just don’t set your flowers next to a large bowl of fruit.

And one more trick...

If your flowers arrive with a small packet of “flower food” you should use it. While the ingredients vary depending on the manufacturer, most contain sugar to feed the flowers, acid to maintain the pH levels of the water, and last a bit of bleach to reduce the number of bacteria and fungi in the vase water. All three help extend the life of the flowers.

If you forget to order your gift early we can help. We offer same-day delivery in San Diego for flowers and plants ordered by 2 p.m. Monday-Saturday. (Sorry, we don't deliver on Sunday). Order online or call us at 619-544-0504.

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Carlos Franco
Tags: Flowers Tips