Lovely, Lasting Cut Flowers

Fresh cut garden flowers – delightful! Here are some tips for keeping them looking their best for as long as possible. These four post-harvest activities are key to long vase life.

  1. Provide food and water. See preservative recipe below.
  2. Protect the flowers from decay. Do this by keeping their water fresh and by adding a disinfectant.
  3. Lower the water pH. Most municipal water supplies are somewhat alkaline while cell sap is slightly acidic. This adjustment makes the water more like sap, helping it travel faster up flower stems .
  4. Place your flowers the out of direct sunlight and in a cool room. Cooler temperatures slow biological processes.

Choose a clean vase and add your floral preservative. Pour in water; use slight warm water unless you are arranging spring bulb flowers. These do best with cooler water and only 1-2” of it. Stir or swirl to mix in preservative.

Recut the flower stems with a sharp knife, removing the bottom ½”. The goal is a clean cut, not smashed cells. Damaged stem cells have trouble absorbing water. Fresh cuts remove the area where air may have clogged the cells.

Next, strip off any leaves that sit below the waterline in your vase. These decompose and foul the water. Above water foliage on a flower stem encourages moisture loss through evaporation. Trim or snap off any excess leaves that aren’t needed for your arrangement.

Arrange to your liking. Then place the arrangement where the flowers won’t be in the sun and are in as cool a site as possible. The warmer the room, the faster the flowers fade.

Change water frequently - daily is ideal - to extend flower life as long as possible.

Here’s an easy to make floral preservative that uses on-hand household ingredients.

Favorite Flower Preservative Recipe

  • 2 tablespoon white sugar (food)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (pH adjustment)
  • 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach (disinfectant)
  • 1 quart of warm water

One final tip: if possible, cut your flowers early in the morning when they are re-hydrated with dew and cool from the night air. That gets the blooms off to the best possible start.