There’s nothing quite like a beautiful bouquet of fresh-cut flowers to brighten your space, celebrate a happy occasion, or make someone you love feel special—even if that freshness is fleeting. The good news is that there are plenty of simple tips you can use to keep that bunch of blossoms looking bright and florist-fresh for longer.
Know what freshness looks like when you shop.
In a perfect world, you’d cut posies from your own lush garden—but you can still pick out a longer-lasting bouquet at your local flower shop or grocery store if you know what to look for. Choose flowers with buds that are just starting to open rather than ones that have already opened. Avoid stems with brown spots where leaves may already have fallen off, and choose specimens with fresh, green, firm leaves. Petals should be firm on their undersides and should not look faded, wilted, or transparent.
Choose varieties with natural longevity.
Some flowers simply last longer than others once they’ve been cut. Zinnias, calla lilies, chrysanthemums, protea, carnations, larkspur, star of Bethlehem, and gladiolus are some varieties known for their ability to stay fresh in water—sometimes as long as two to three weeks.
Avoid flowers that don’t play well with others.
Flowers in the narcissus family excrete a substance into the water that can wilt the others in your vase. Daffodils, jonquils, and narcissus excrete a toxin called lycorine as well as a mucus that can damage other flowers. Keep these varieties together to avoid poisoning a mixed bouquet, or let these cut flowers sit in water on their own for several hours to remove some of these substances before arranging them in a new vessel with other varieties—just don’t trim the stems without giving them another overnight soak on their own.
Give the stems a fresh cut.
When you get home (or when your flower delivery arrives), you'll need to do a little maintenance right away. Hold the end of your bouquet under running water and use a sharp set of pruners or scissors to trim off an inch or two of stem at a 45-degree angle, keeping in mind the size of your vase and the fact that you’ll be giving your flowers a few more trims over the next several days. The water keeps air pockets from forming in the stems. The angled cut keeps stems off the bottom of the vase, allowing them to absorb water more easily.
Don’t ditch that plant food packet.
That little packet of nutrients is included for a reason. It provides a mix of sugar, which acts as food for your flowers and helps them take up water; citric acid, which lowers the pH of the water in your vase to stave off wilting; and just a bit of bleach, which keeps that pesky bacteria at bay. Don’t use it all at once—adding a little bit every time you change the water will help with the longevity of your bouquet, too.
If your packet runs out, you can DIY a substitute by mixing two drops of bleach and a teaspoon of sugar with a gallon of water.
Always arrange flowers in a sparkling clean vase.
A big part of keeping flowers fresh is preventing the growth of bacteria, which will accelerate the aging process. Sanitize your vase by letting it sit for a few hours filled with hot water and a few drops of bleach. Next, scrub it well with hot, soapy water and a bottle brush, then rinse well before arranging your bouquet.
Pick the right place to display your blooms.
A stunning bouquet in your favorite vase might make an eye-catching vignette in front of a window, but unfortunately, exposure to sunlight or heat will cause blooms to fade before their time. If you’re choosing flowers for your dining table or kitchen counter, be sure to place them away from your fruit bowl, as the ethylene released by ripe fruit can make them fade more quickly.
Give your flowers some love every few days.
A little maintenance goes a long way when it comes to keeping cut flowers fresh. Be sure to keep an eye on the water level daily—as flowers are shipped dry, they can be thirstier than you think when you first get them home. Remove any wilted stems as you find them. Re-trim stems, sanitize your vase, change the water, and add a little of the plant food every couple of days.
Let your flowers chill out at night.
One of the best ways to extend the life of cut flowers is to pop the vase and bouquet into your refrigerator before bed and take it out for the day in the morning while you’re awake to admire it. The professionals store their flowers under refrigeration while they’re not on display—and if it’s good for their bouquets, it’s good for yours, too.
Kornienko A, Evidente A. Chemistry, Biology, and Medicinal Potential of Narciclasine and Its Congeners. Chem Rev. 2008;108(6):1982-2014. doi:10.1021/cr078198u
University of Maine. The Role of Ethylene in Fruit Ripening.