How To Preserve Cut Flowers

My friend, Sara, is the QUEEN of making flower arrangements last. She can keep sunflowers for two weeks, and roses for much longer. I’m not too bad myself, being the most recent descendent in a long chain of avid female gardeners. However, I would admit have more luck with flowers in the ground rather than above.  As such, I’ve consulted Sara’s expertise and several “home remedies” from Grandma to give you a chance at making those anniversary bouquets last long after the romantic dinner. The secret to keeping these flowers preserved as long as possible is to inhibit the growth of bacteria in the water and to provide nourishment to replace what the flower would have gotten from the rest of the plant.

Be inspired: The first serious rule is to browse for the most beautiful flowers. If you don’t like looking at them, I guarantee you won’t be motivated to care for them. Indulge in scents and colors!

Be mindful of the Weather: Flowers (along with vegetables, fruits, or herbs) are best harvested in the cool mornings or evening. Excessively warm or chilling weather will affect the life of your flowers in transport.

Buy Fresh: Grocery store bouquets offer more aged flowers than those sold at farmers markets and roadside stands. Take a look at your bunch for any wilting, crisp or charred edges on the petals (evidence of sunburn), and any brown bruising on leaves or petals. The fresher the cut the better, and as mentioned above, best results come from morning or evening harvests so consider shopping at these times too.


Buy local: While supporting local farmers and encouraging this beautiful but often overlooked remedy for stress, you are also making a well-reasoned choice. Your flowers will have been grown in fields and greenhouses with similar environments and will have acclimated to your climate better than imports. As such, they will have a genetic propensity to last longer, without your added care.

Give a Fresh Cut: When you bring your flowers home, give them a fresh cut (an inch or more) on a diagonal. This increases their surface area to suck up water. Also, pull off any leaves that will be submerged under water in the vase as they will only start to break down and get slimy, causing growth of that unwanted bacteria.  The clean stems will also look much prettier in clear vases.


Know your water: While it’s not a huge deal, your water can contain an excess of minerals and elements that may affect your flowers. It’s always a good idea to have filtered water for your own drinking purposes, but your flowers can benefit from the pure water too.

Supplements:  You can always add some supplements to the water to enhance life. For example, a teaspoon of table sugar with a copper penny, the packet of plant food sold with commercial bouquets, two crushed baby aspirin, ¼ tsp of bleach per quart of water, a splash of apple cider vinegar, or vodka are all acceptable “food.”



Change the water: Every 3-4 days, wash out the vase, give the flowers a new cut, and refill the water with your supplement of choice. Also be wary of where your vase sits. The warm sun can heat the vase water, contributing to prematurely piqued blooms.