How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer Indoors

Updated on January 3, 2018
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Friends say I have "green-fingers" and the garden certainly seems to respond to my efforts. I enjoy observing wildlife and being outdoors.

Spring flowers (gerbera and tulips) look pretty in a simple vase.
Spring flowers (gerbera and tulips) look pretty in a simple vase. | Source

Say I Love You With a Bouquet of Flowers

Flowers make a beautiful gift. They are used by both men and women as an expression of love or as a way of saying thank you. When giving or receiving a bouquet the important thing to remember is that they are (or rather were) part of a living organism. From the moment the blooms are cut, to the moment you put them into a vase with water, they need to be treated with care.

If you are lucky enough to be able to grow flowers in your own garden, bring them indoors as soon as possible after cutting. This will make the transition from soil to water quick and relatively painless for your flowers and wilI cause the least trauma to the cut stems. One of my favorite plants for cut flowers is the fragrant sweet pea variety Heirloom Old Spice. The more flowers you cut, the more buds the plant produces, so you can have home grown flowers perfuming your home for months.

However most people buy their cut flowers from a supermarket or specialist florist's store. This means that some hours may pass between buying and the time when the flowers are once again immersed in water.

Sweet pea Heirloom Old Spice (Lathyrus Odoratus) produces colorful scented flowers. This variety is perfect for cut flowers.
Sweet pea Heirloom Old Spice (Lathyrus Odoratus) produces colorful scented flowers. This variety is perfect for cut flowers. | Source

Flower Food Sachets Help Cut Flowers Last Longer

Many bouquets of cut flowers are sold with a small flower food sachet attached. These will help the cut flowers to last longer. Flower-food is a mixture of bleach and sugar. The bleach kills any bacteria in the vase water, and the sugar feeds the flowers and maintains their freshness. If there is no sachet with the flowers you buy, you can make your own. To do this dissolve a teaspoonful of sugar (or one sugar cube) plus one teaspoonful of bleach into each liter (2 pints) of vase water.

The video below made by Reader’s Digest gives some other suggestions. These include adding either a copper coin or an aspirin to the vase water. There is no scientific evidence to support these alternative methods, but some people swear they work as well as homemade bleach and sugar flower food.

How to Make Flowers Last Longer

Fresh Cut Flowers

Do you like fresh flowers in your home?

See results

Caring For Fresh Flowers

When choosing flowers In the store, make sure that every part of the bouquet or posy looks in good condition. Check that none of the leaves have withered or turned brown or show signs of disease. The flowers should be either in bud or only slightly open.

When you get home, make sure the vase you intend to use is really clean. It is a good idea to rinse it with bleach. Use a scouring pad to remove all traces of mildew or algae from previous flower bouquets. Before arranging the flowers in the vase, you need to condition them first. This means allowing them to rehydrate for a couple of hours and absorb the moisture they have lost since being cut from their roots.

Cut flowers for sale in a traditional street market.
Cut flowers for sale in a traditional street market. | Source

Conditioning and Preparing the Cut Stems

When the stem draws water up into the flower heads it also takes water to any leaves below the flowers. So the first step is to remove any excess leaves that you do not want in the finished arrangement. Make sure you remove any leaves that will be below the water level of the vase as these will rot and taint the water. Then take off any remaining leaves that you do not want for contrast color next to the blooms.

By the time your flowers or plants arrive in your home, they will probably not have been watered for some time. So you must rehydrate them. Fill a bucket with tepid water (room temperature) or you could fill a kitchen sink with water instead. Trim the base of each stem so that there is a fresh raw surface ready to suck up the clean water. Place the cut flowers into the bucket (or sink) so that the entire stem is submerged and the flower heads rest on top of the water. They should be left like this for a minimum of half an hour and up to two hours depending on their condition.

After having a good drink, the flowers and stem will be refreshed and be in a better state to last in your home. Gently lift each stem individually from the water shaking off the excess and then arrange them in your vase. The video below shows how a professional florist carries out this task.

How to Keep Cut Flowers Fresh

After-Care of Vase Water is Important

Change the vase water regularly to make your flowers last longer. Remember to renew the plant food (or your home-made equivalent) when you do this.

Flowers that have woody stems (for example roses and hydrangeas) last longest if you arrange them in a deep water vase. Flowers that have fleshy stems (for example tulips and daffodils) can do better if the water level is kept shallow as this prevents their stems rotting.

When you are arranging the flowers, the shorter you cut the stem, the longer the flowers will last as the heads don’t have as far to draw up the water.

A Valentine's Day posy made with red and pink peonies, roses and tulips.
A Valentine's Day posy made with red and pink peonies, roses and tulips. | Source

Cut Flowers Affected by Temperature

Cut flowers are susceptible to changes in temperature. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight or near a source of heat. This will speed up the flowers ageing process and they will wilt and decay more quickly than in a cooler location. At night, it is often a good idea to move flower arrangements so that they are not left in a cold draught. In general, cut flowers do not like to be too hot or too cold.

Keep your cut flower arrangements away from bowls of fruit. As the fruit ripens a gas, ethylene, is given off. This causes blooms to ripen too and they deteriorate more quickly and die back as a result. With proper care and attention, a bouquet of flowers should last at least two weeks and often much longer. They look beautiful and the scented flower varieties also give a wonderful perfume to your home.

What to Look For When Buying Fresh Flowers

Look For
Closed or only part-open buds
Fully open blooms
Locally grown flowers
Air-freighted blooms
Healthy, green leaves
Withered, yellow or brown leaves
Florist with steady trade
Tired "old-looking" stock
Clean, fresh plants
Signs of mildew or mold

Ideas For Arranging Flowers


Submit a Comment

  • quildon profile image

    Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

    Hi Beth,

    This is a lovely and informative hub. I learned something new about not placing flowers close to fruits. I never knew that might hasten the aging of the flowers. Thanks for sharing! Voted up and useful.

  • sallybea profile image

    Sally Gulbrandsen 4 years ago from Norfolk

    Beth Eaglescliffe

    I was always told that I should cut flowers under water. I am not sure that there was any merit in the idea but as I recall, it was to prevent the stems from getting an air lock in them.

    Beautifully presented Hub with some lovely images. That Amazon Ad with the Sweet Peas had me wanting to go straight to their site to buy some. They are just my favorite flowers. Voted up.