How to Keep Cut Flowers Fresh

— Written By and last updated by Elisabeth Purser
en Español / em Português

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Ever wonder how you can get your flowers to last longer in a vase?

Roses in Vase, Valentine's Day, How to Keep Flowers FreshRoses and other flowers are sold for Valentine’s Day gifts in two ways — in pre-assembled arrangements, or loose in a box or bouquet. Floral arrangements purchased in containers are pre-conditioned to give the longest vase-life. Generally, arrangements are good purchases for Valentine’s Day gift givers with little time or those inexperienced with cut flowers. 

If roses are given in a box or as a loose bouquet, gift recipients need to do what the florist does to achieve the longest and best floral display. First – re-cut each stem, removing about 2 inches of dry stem at the base, so the flower can draw water. Use a sharp knife, and make the cuts at a 45-degree angle, so the stem base does not stand flat against the bottom of the vase. Some floral designers cut the stems while holding them under water on the assumption that any air entering the stem hinders the uptake of liquids. It has not been proven whether this practice helps, but it doesn’t hurt. 

Usually a packet of floral preservative is included with flowers in loose bouquets or boxes. Floral preservative promotes long-lasting cut flowers. It contains sugar, acid, and a bacterial control agent. The dry powder is mixed per package directions, usually in warm water. The resulting solution is used to fill the vase or saturate the foam used for an arrangement. Hold onto any remaining preservative solution to add to the arrangement as it needs watering.

 Flowers retain their freshest look when displayed in a cool, draft-free environment, out of direct sunlight. If possible, move flowers to a place, such as a cool basement or breezeway, overnight. Do not place them in a refrigerator that contains fruit because ethylene gas produced from ripening fruit accelerates decomposition of flowers.

Remember to keep arrangements watered, using the preservative solution, if possible. After three to four days, pull flowers from the container, and re-cut the stems. Arrange again with fresh preservative. If any roses develop bent necks, submerge the stems — flower and all — in warm water in a flat pan. This may revive a droopy blossom.