How to Keep Cut Flowers Fresh

Is there anything better than walking into your home to a vase of bright fresh-cut flowers? In the past I have not been a huge live flower person, but these spring temperatures and the country air are changing my tune. Nothing is worse than finding wilting petals only a day after picking and arranging your bouquets though! So next time you stop by a roadside market or take a walk and come back with wildflowers, here is a little trick I’ve learned to keep my flowers fresh for a week or longer.

Step 1: Cut your stems at an angle and under water.

I always try to cut my flowers’ stems at the longest length possible while picking. I also look for long stems at farmers markets or anywhere else. This helps for arrangement of the bouquet because you can stagger heights by trimming stems, but it also allows for proper trimming once you return home.

When you are home and set to begin your bouquet arrangement, begin by running a steady stream of warm water in your kitchen sink. Then cut you flower stems at a 45-degree angle under the stream. Once a flower is picked, the air flowing through the stem can create air pockets which will prevent water absorption. Running the stems underwater as you cut them will reduce these air pockets so the flowers can absorb water as soon as they’re placed in a vase. The reason for the angled cut is to increase surface area to absorb as much water as possible.

Cut the stems of your pre-arranged bouquets to prolong their life too. Cut about 3/4 to 1 inch off the bottom and at an angle, and change the water of the vase if the flowers came in one. This will ensure the flowers are being sufficiently rehydrated after their shipping (either to you or to the store where they were purchased.)

Tip: Be sure to use sharp scissors or shears so to avoid squishing the stem’s end and losing that gained surface area.

Step 2: Mix sugar, white vinegar, and water together.

Life is all about balance, and a little mixture of sugar and vinegar will keep your flowers alive. Sugar is a necessary food that flowers crave (same, same), but sugar also increases bacterial growth. So adding an acid to fight that bacteria is essential for a fresh-cut flower’s survival. Queue some white vinegar! I use a balanced mixture of equal parts sugar and equal parts vinegar dissolved in warm water.

When it comes to water, I tend to keep it simple and use tap water. Yes, I have a water softener. Yes, I know that means my water has sodium which is not good for flowers. If this bothers you and/or you’d like your blooms to thrive as long as possible, then distilled water will also work.

If you buy a pre-arranged bouquet that comes with a packet of flower preservative, use it! Add it to the water following its directions because it will work better than a homemade solution. Want to feel like you contributed though? Add a half teaspoon of bleach to the water to keep it clean of bacteria.

Tip: Don’t have white vinegar? Apple cider vinegar works just the same. I have gallons of white vinegar for cleaning purposes, so I just save the ACV for cooking and eating. Both vinegars will provide the same bacteria-fighting properties for your flowers though!

Step 3: Arrange your flowers and display!

Once your mixture has dissolved, begin to add your flowers. Be sure to have every stem 3-4 inches in the water. Then find the perfect display location and VOILA! Brighten your home with the colors of your new bouquet for days!

Depending on several factors, you may need to add or replace your flowers’ water with this mixture on a daily basis. Factors like placement of your arrangement, type(s) of flowers, or number of stems. Flowers tend to last longer in cooler temperatures, so you may see a need to replenish water daily when your arrangement is near duct vents or in direct sunlight. Some flowers are “thirstier” than others, or may crave the sugar mixture more. Also, the more stems you’re feeding will require more food. If you are unsure, at least add water to the vase daily and change the water every other day. You’ll still get a longer life from your fresh flowers.

Tip: Do not leave your flowers in the vicinity of ripening fruit. Fruit release ethylene gas as they ripen and this will age your flowers faster.

I love taking backroads home and seeing all the daffodils to mark Spring’s arrival. It was a pleasant surprise to find several of them also popping up in our yard. The pups and I spent time cutting and arranging the daffodils for our dining room table, and Grant and I have enjoyed their presence at dinner this week. Today is Day Four, and the blooms are still perked up and attentive as if to announce another great day at The Pillar House.

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @thepillarhouse.

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