How to Keep Your Cut Flowers Fresh

Cut flowers never seem to last long, but here are a few tips to help maximize their lifespan.

Who doesn’t love cut flowers? They’re the ideal offset to the sterility of most indoor environments, offering earthy organic reminders of the wider world with their jewel-like beauty, and scenting the air with their natural perfumes. It’s the rare heart that’s not gladdened by the sight and scent of fresh flowers.

The problem is that they’re so temporary, rarely lasting longer than a few days before their petals droop and they start to die. Given their short lifespans — and how much they tend to cost, frankly — it makes sense to find ways to extend the length of time your flowers can stay bright and perky.

Here are a few tips that can help.

If You Cut Your Own

For those of us who maintain our own flower gardens, cost is less of an object than otherwise; however, it’s still sensible to maximize your enjoyment of the flowers you cut. Here are a few tips to consider when harvesting your own:

• Cut early in the morning, while it’s still cool, but after the dew has dried.
• Leave at least three sets of leaves on the parent plant.
• Wait until the first petal has moved away from a bud before you harvest it.

General Flower Tips

All flowers, whether self-cut or purchased, can benefit from the following practices. Most of these items help slow down the bacterial and fungal growth that ultimately ruins most flower arrangements.

• The fresher the flowers, the better.
• Choose buds rather than fully-opened flowers.
• Keep the stems (especially the cut ends) cool and damp until you can get them into a vase.
• Before placing the flowers inside, clean the vase with hot, soapy water, to kill any lingering bacterial or fungal spores from previous uses.
• Fill it no more than one-third full of tepid water, to limit stem decay.
• Trim away any foliage that will be below the waterline.
• Use a sharp pruner to trim the stems by at least 1-2 inches, preferably at a 45-degree angle. You’ll get the best results if you cut them underwater (either running or standing is fine).
• Keep the arrangement out of direct sunlight.
• Ripening fruit emits ethylene gas, which causes flowers to wilt, so keep your arrangements away from fruit bowls or baskets.
• Change the water in the vase daily.
• To limit bacterial buildup, trim the stems a quarter inch every time you change the water.

Finally, you can crush a plain aspirin and dissolve the powder in the water every time you change it, if you don’t mind adding a chemical to the mix. The salicylic acid will also help preserve your cut flowers.