7 Tricks Professional Florists Use To Keep Cut Flowers Alive For Weeks

Treat yourself to some (lasting) flower power.

June 5, 2017
talk to the flowers
Photograph courtesy of Larell Scardelli

Flower season is finally here, which means it’s easier than ever to jazz up your desk or nightstand with sunflowers, peonies, or lavender shoots from your backyard.

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today.)

Just grab an old mason jar and some sharp scissors and clip away. No flower garden? We won’t tell if you indulge in that patch of colorful wild flowers on the side of the road, or simply visit a local florist for a loose bouquet of your favorites. Once you have cut flowers, you want their vibrant colors and comforting aroma to last. We spoke to four florists about how to keep them looking fresh for weeks. 

Related: The 60 Most Fragrant Flowers Across The World

flowers on table
1/7 Photograph courtesy of Larell Scardelli
Cut the stems

If you get a loose bouquet from your local florist, there is no need to cut the stems when you get home, because they often do it for you. The same goes if you received an arrangement already in a vase. However, it’s still important to clip the stems after a few days.

Every three days, using sharp scissors, cut about one inch off the bottom of each stem on a 45-degree angle. Jess Angelone, a third generation florist from Angelone’s Florist, says, “Cutting at an angle prevents the stem from squishing and allows it to take up a larger volume of water.

Angelone adds, "For the really crafty person, take each flower out and give it a trim. It takes some time and requires creativity to re-arrange. If you don’t feel like sitting there stem by stem, grab the whole bunch gently by the neck and do a big cut."

Related: 10 Tips For Growing A Stunning Organic Flower Garden On A Budget

trim foliage
2/7 Photograph courtesy of Larell Scardelli
Trim the foliage

When prepping your fresh cut flowers for a vase, snap off any foliage that may rest under the waterline, say Laurenne Resnik and Whitney Port, founders of Bloom2Bloom. This will decrease the number of bacteria in the water, keeping your vase clear and free from that murky smell. 

Even in professional arrangements, there is always some foliage in the water, so don’t drive yourself crazy. Removing these leaves and small buds also redistribute the flower’s resources to the  main bloom and keep it alive longer, says Angelone. 

prep the vase
3/7 Photograph courtesy of Larell Scardelli
Prep the right vase

Now you have clean, clipped stems and it’s time to pick the perfect vase for your flowers. “Make sure the opening of the vase is the right size for the number of stems you have: not too narrow so as to squish the flowers, and not too wide so as to cause the arrangement to lose its shape,” Resnik and Port advise. 

Don’t be afraid to chose a low vase, like a cube or small fish bowl, and drastically clip the stems. Additionally, it’s important to make sure the vase is completely clean before use. If it’s been sitting out as décor it may have collected some dust. Fill the vase about two-thirds of the way up with fresh, cool water, say Resnik and Port. This is important, as warm water encourages flowers to open faster, which is the opposite of what you want.

Related: Why You Should Always Plant Flowers In Your Vegetable Patch

treat and change water
4/7 Photograph courtesy of Larell Scardelli
Change the water

Just like you, fresh flowers need to drink fresh, clean water, says Resnik and Port. Refresh the water every one to three days by removing your arrangement and dumping it out. Angelone suggests swishing the vase with hot water to help kill bacteria between water changes. This is the perfect time to add fresh solution, check the stems, and remove loose foliage.

Another trick to try is popping your bouquet in the fridge at night. It can help them stay fresh and cool, especially if it's summertime or your house is warm in the evenings. 

Related: 7 Flowers That Can Survive Without Your Help

remove bruising flowers
5/7 Photograph courtesy of Larell Scardelli
Remove bruising flowers

Sadly, some flowers don’t last as long as others, and shelf life truly starts from the floral supplier (not a big worry if they’re from your own backyard). You can do everything right, but still get some blooms that wilt within a week. 

It’s best to remove wilting blossoms from the bunch, because they can get moldy and contaminate surrounding flowers, explains Sydney florist Jodie McGregor, flower addict and founder of Jodie McGregor Flowers. It’s also a good idea to pinch off bruised petals. This won’t do too much in the way to elongating the life of a flower, but will keep your arrangement looking fresh.

Related: How To Grow Bright, Beautiful Zinnias

placement of flowers
6/7 Photograph courtesy of Larell Scardelli
Place the arrangement in the right spot

Believe it or not, fruit and flowers do not mix. It's surprising because we see them together often in traditional still-life paintings and on kitchen tables. But fruit and vegetables gives off ethylene gas, which causes flowers to wilt. Lynn Angelone, florist at Angelone’s Florist, reminisces, “My father kept bushels of apples in the cooler for the fruit baskets we sold. One day he also had a bunch of carnations in there and in the morning when he went to check, all the carnations were closed and mushy.”

 Some flowers, like carnations, are particularly susceptible to the gas, but one apple won’t kill a whole bunch of flowers. The lesson here is to keep your arrangement away from a large bowl of produce. It’s also a good idea to keep your flowers in a cool area away from direct sunlight and vents, add Resnik and Port.

Related: 30 Flowers You Should Always Grow Side-by-Side

talk to your flowers
7/7 Sam Edwards/getty
Talk to your flowers

Ah, yes, the age old question: does talking to your plants make them grow? Well, we’re still not sure. There is science that suggests plants interact with sound like wind and vibration, so the theory is that maybe they react to our voice’s vibration. Either way, some sweet talk can’t hurt.

McGregor says she sings, talks, and coos to her flowers. “It could as well be a placebo, but doing this seems to make them last longer. And at the very least, it makes me happy.”

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