Making cut flowers last

Horticulture Hints

Many lucky folks will receive a bouquet of fresh flowers for Valentine’s Day – but how to make them last longer? First – make sure to use a clean vase. To reuse a vase, wash it in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water and be sure to rinse thoroughly.

Removal of any leaves below the water line in the vase will help to prevent them from deterioration and rot. Decaying leaves cause bacteria and fungi to grow which blocks the water conduction system in the flower stem that would cause an early death for the flowers.

Water in a vase of cut flowers should be changed every couple of days or before water becomes cloudy. When changing water, use warm (100 to 110 degrees) water for more efficient uptake than cold water.

Before replacing blooms, recut at least a half-inch off the bottom of flower and any leaf stems using a sharp knife to avoid crushing the stems. Cut stems at a 45 degree angle to provide additional fresh surface area for water uptake and keeps the vascular system from becoming plugged.

Preservatives help prevent bacterial and fungal growth and contain sugar to feed the flowers. Home remedies, such as adding aspirin or copper pennies to the water, do not prolong flower life. Most floral shops include a packet of floral preservative, use according to directions.

You can also make your own floral preservative using one cup lemon-lime pop (regular, not sugar free), one cup water, and a half teaspoon of household bleach.  Sugar in the pop provides energy for the flowers and the bleach controls bacteria. Increase these proportionately for a larger amount, if needed.

Did you know? Cut flowers will last longer when kept in a cool location away from direct sunlight, excessive heat, and drafts. Refrigerate your flowers when not on display to extend their life; but do not store flowers and fruit together. Fruit, especially apples, release ethylene gas that shortens flower life.


Horticulture Questions? Contact McCormick at for information or advice.