Longer-Lasting Cut Flowers

How to create arrangements that stay fresh indoors

May 15, 2014

Most of us cut a few blooms from our flower gardens and bring them inside to arrange in a vase, and growing rows of flowers especially for cutting is becoming much more popular. But how can we make sure that the flowers we cut last as long as possible?

Choosing the right plants is crucial. Some flowers simply don’t last well. Zinnias, alstroemerias, and echinaceas have been proven to be especially long lasting—zinnias can look good for as long as 24 days with no treatment at all if their water is changed every 2 days.

Zinnias Alstroemerias Echinacea 'Green Envy'

How you cut the stems is also important. The best time to cut is usually in the morning, before the day’s sun has sucked the moisture from the leaves. As soon as a stem is cut, stand it in a bucket of tepid water; don’t wait until you’re back indoors to put the cut stems in water. Never crush, split, or hammer stems, even woody stems, as this encourages air bubbles that can block the stems and prevent water from being taken up.

It’s also important always to use clean vases and clean water. Remove any foliage that will be under water after the stems are arranged, and recut the stems under water with a slanting cut.

Cornflowers Coppertina ('Mindia') ninebark in fall

Adding a floral preservative to the water helps prevent the multiplication of bacteria that block the stems and make it hard for them to take up water. The preservative also usually includes a sugar that encourages buds to open. There are many homegrown suggestions for making cut flowers last, including adding aspirin or pennies to the water, but commercial products work best. Alternatively, simply change the water every 2 days. This can be very effective, especially for plants with downy stems, such as cornflowers.

Finally, remember that your yard can yield valuable cut foliage as well as flowers. Coppertina (‘Mindia’) ninebark, the 2011 Cut Flower of the Year, is indispensible; it lasts best when cut in summer and fall.

Photos: © Gardenphotos.com

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