June 15, 2022

Prolong the Vase Life of Your Cut Flowers

By Sarah E.J. Williams
french zinc florist bucket

There’s just something about a vase of fresh cut flowers - they have the amazing ability to not only change our mood but can instantly change the mood of a space. Whether it’s a single stem in a bud vase positioned ever so carefully on a stack of old books or a lavish display of blooms incorporated into a tablescape, flowers have a way of breathing life into a space and are a simple way to incorporate an organic element into your design.

There are many tips & tricks on how to prolong the freshness of your cut flowers but after much experimenting, I am sharing the methods that have worked well for me.

  • Make sure your vase is thoroughly cleaned & rinsed. Any residual bacteria from previous arrangements can cause premature decay & prevent the flowers from absorbing water.
  • It is ideal to cut flowers in the morning before the heat of the day causes wilting or in the late evening when they are not heat stressed.
  • When cutting flowers from the garden, immediately place them in water. If they have been out of water for any length of time or if purchasing from a market, give them a fresh cut before arranging.
  • Remove any foliage that will be below the water line. Foliage in the water encourages bacteria growth.
  • Under running water, cut stems at a 45 degree angle using a sharp knife. You could also use a sharp pair of scissors but be mindful not to crush the ends. Doing so will improve the flowers ability to stay hydrated.
  • For woody stemmed flowers such as hydrangea, you can use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer on the part of the stem that will be submerged in water enabling the flower to hydrate easier. 
  • Dip the cut ends into Alum powder before placing your stems into the water. Alum is a fine white powder often used when pickling produce but is also great at extending the life of cut flowers.
  • Arrange flowers in a vase containing room temperature/tepid water which is easier for the flowers to absorb.
  • It is best to add into the water a premixed floral preservative such as FloraLife or Chrysal which comes in both liquid & powder form. These can be purchased at your local hardware store or online. However, if you don’t have those on hand, you can make your own.
    • Per Quart of Water: Mix the following ingredients directly into your water before arranging - 1 teaspoon of sugar or ¼ can clear lemon/lime soda such as Sprite and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar or ¼ teaspoon of bleach. The sugar provides a nutrient source for the blooms, however, it also encourages bacteria growth. By adding in either bleach or white vinegar, the bacteria growth is inhibited.
  • Place arrangement away from direct sunlight & heat sources.
  • About every two to three days, dispose of any stems that appear aged, give the remaining stems a fresh trim, change out the water & add more preservative.

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