How to Keep Flowers Fresh (Because That Bouquet Cost Too Much to Wilt After 48 Hours)
It doesn’t matter if you spent $5.99 at Trader Joe’s or plunked down half a car payment on a Kardashian-worthy bouquet—you want to enjoy those blooms for as long as possible. We hear you, which is why we turned to the pros at Teleflora to find out what, exactly, we’re doing wrong, and how to keep flowers fresh well beyond the 48-, 72- or even 168-hour mark.
Flower Care Guidelines:
First things first: Fresh-cut flowers are high maintenance. “You should tend to them daily, just as you would with demanding house plants,” says Danielle Mason, Teleflora’s vice president of consumer marketing. Basically, as soon as you drop the stems in water, you’re waging war against bacteria that wants to grow there, rotting out your flowers and shortening their lifespan. To combat that, you need to tackle the following steps at a bare minimum. Then, if you really want to get the most out of your bouquet, you can take things further with Mason’s tried-and-true (and totally unexpected) tips.
1. Cut the stems at a 45-degree angle
You’ve heard this one before, and it bears repeating because it really works. Cutting the stems at an angle increases the stems’ surface area for water intake, so the blooms can absorb H2O easier. (It also keeps the stems from sitting flat against the bottom of the base, blocking the stem from being able to drink up water.)
This isn’t a one-and-done thing, either—you’ll want to trim them about a half inch to a full inch every few days. “This will prevent rotting and bacterial growth,” Mason explains.
2. Fill the vase three-quarters high with lukewarm water
“Tap water is perfectly fine to use—you do not need to use filtered water, as it will not affect the freshness or the lifespan of the arrangement,” Mason says. And when you fill it up, opt for water around 98 degrees F, which flower stems absorb more easily than cold water.
3. Remove any leaves below the water line
Not only will it keep your vase looking cleaner, it helps prevent the growth of bacteria in your arrangement.
4. Add a preservative packet (aka flower food)
This step is crucial for keeping flowers hydrated and—you guessed it—preventing bacterial growth, Mason says. Each little packet is basically a combo of three ingredients (citric acid, sugar and bleach) specially formulated to do just that. It’s important to follow the package instructions exactly: “If you add too little water, the sugar can block stems and bleach can burn some flowers,” Mason says. “With too much water, the ingredients get diluted and become ineffective.”
Once you’ve run out of that packet, you can easily make your own (more on that to come).
5. Change the water every two to three days
And when you do, clean the vase and re-cut those stems. These are all small hassles, sure, but they’re very effective at keeping bacteria at bay.
5 Ways to Keep Flowers Fresh
1. Make sure your scissors are sharp before trimmingWe’ve all mashed the ends of a stem using scissors that weren’t quite strong enough to slice through thicker ends. Turns out, that unclean cut isn’t just ugly; it damages flower cells, and as a result, the flower can’t absorb water as easily.
2. Create your own plant food
Yes, you can go the DIY route. Here are three homemade flower preservatives Mason recommends trying:
- Apple Cider Vinegar + Sugar: Add one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar + one teaspoon of granulated sugar. “The ACV kills bacteria and is an eco-friendlier alternative than bleach,” Mason explains.
- Lemon Juice + Bleach: Combine one teaspoon lemon juice and one teaspoon regular sugar with two drops of bleach. “The bleach may seem extreme, but it is very effective in preventing bacterial growth on flower stems,” she adds.
- Lemon Lime Soda + Water: Add one part Lemon-Lime Soda to three parts water. “The soda has both acid and sugar to prevent bacterial growth and provide nutrients for the flowers,” Mason says.
3. Skip the sugar when feeding these types of flowers
“There are three flowers that don’t benefit from adding sugar: tulips, daffodils and daisies, so it’s best to use solely bleach or apple cider vinegar if your bouquet contains these flowers,” she notes.
4. Keep your arrangement out of the sun
“Location, location, location” also applies to flowers. When you’re displaying your arrangement, avoid windows and sunny spots. “Unlike potted plants, picked flowers are at their peak perfection, and placing them in the sun will encourage them to ‘mature’ and ultimately shorten [their] lifespan,” Mason says.
5. …And away from the fruit bowl
This tip caught us by surprise, but when Mason explained it, it made sense. “Fruit gives off an odorless, invisible gas called ethylene, which is deadly for flowers,” she says. (The gas is harmless to humans, so don’t worry about that.) Apples and pears, in particular, produce more ethylene, so if you have those on your kitchen counter, you might want to choose another spot for your peonies.
The Bottom Line:
With the right care, fresh-cut flowers could last you a week to a week and a half. It’s all a matter of planning out ten minutes of maintenance every two to three days.