For flower lovers, nothing brightens up a home more than receiving a beautiful flower arrangement or getting to keep a fancy bridesmaid bouquet.
On the flip side, nothing is sadder than finally having to throw out your dead, withered flowers once their time comes to pass. The reality, of course, is that cut flowers don’t always live for very long. This is especially true for things like wedding blooms, which are primed to be at their peak on the day of the nuptials.
Still there are things you can do to extend the life of cut flowers, whether it’s a bridesmaid bouquet, a special birthday arrangement or blooms you cut yourself. Below, experts share their advice for making flowers last longer.
Keep them in water.
This may seem like the most obvious step, but the sooner you put your flowers in water, the better. This may be simple for flowers you receive as gifts, but your bridesmaid bouquet can pose a challenge.
“If you are a bridesmaid, it is likely that your flowers have been out of water for most of the wedding day,” said floral designer Kiara Hancock. “From the moment you started taking pictures, through the ceremony and into the reception; your flowers have really been going through it! Flowers love water, we all know that, so my first piece of advice is to keep the vase they arrived in from the florist handy and try to keep the stems submerged in water as much as you can.”
Of course, she added, wedding days are busy, and lugging a vase around with you is hardly practical. So just make sure you put them in fresh, lukewarm water as soon as you get home.
“You should also consistently change out the water every two to three days,” said Will Dukas, president and co-founder of the flower delivery company Send Smiles. “This keeps the water from building up any bacteria and passing it along to the flowers.”
Treat the water.
Jill Brooke, editorial director of Flower Power Daily, and florist Holly Heider Chapple suggested treating the water with a flower preservative or even Sprite or Clorox. Look out for the floral food packets that come with store-bought flowers or look for DIY recipes as well. (Brooke recommended 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of bleach.)
“As the famous florist Lewis Miller of Flower Flash fame said, you can just use lemon-lime soda ― not diet, because sugar is flower’s food — a tablespoon of bleach and a quart of water,” Brooke said. “The bleach keeps the bacteria out of the flowers, which is essential for prolonging a flower’s lifespan.”
Dukas also advised crushing up an Aspirin tablet and dropping it in the water to further prevent bacteria buildup (though studies into the effectiveness of this method in extending flower life have been inconclusive). What is important is to be thorough when you change the water.
“Do not leave a drop of the dirty water in the vase or bowl, or it will simply contaminate your clean water,” Chapple added. “You should also thoroughly clean out the vase or bowl, removing any scum or bacteria. You can also mist your flowers with water. I use a beauty mister that has a very fine spray. Some flowers like hydrangea and orchids drink water through the bloom.”
Recut the stems.
When you’re putting your flowers in water, you should also recut the stems at a 45-degree angle about one or two inches from the bottom.
“Recutting the stems is an essential part of the care and allows the stem to draw up fresh water,” Chapple explained. “Without recutting the stems, the stem can not drink.”
Recut the stems and refresh the water every few days to ensure the proper flow of water.
“Be sure to remove any leaves that might be on the stem that are below the water line in your vase as those leaves can harbor bacteria that can do your blooms in,” Hancock added.
Place them in a cool, dry place.
Where you place your vase of cut flowers in your home can also impact how long they last.
“You will want to make sure that the flowers are kept in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight,” Dukas noted. “High heat and sunlight are the quickest ways for your flowers to die!”
Be mindful of heat ducts, sunny windows and other heat sources when selecting a location for your blooms.
Separate the flowers.
Remember to untie your flowers, whether they’re a bridal bouquet with delicate ribbon or bodega stems held together by a rubber band.
“As soon as you get home from the wedding, the first thing you should do is take the ribbon off of the base of the flowers,” Dukas advised. “When flowers are out of water, the base of the stems can become clogged and will therefore not allow for water to travel all the way up the flowers.”
After untying the flowers, you may put them all in the same vase ― or consider placing them into groups or singles in multiple vessels.
“Less can be more. Because a wedding is such a special event, bouquets are often composed like a happy symphony, with many flowers that are special, rare and fragrant including often the David Austin Juliet rose or a stargazer lily,” Brooke said.
“Always have bud vases in your repertoire like you would jewelry or accessories,” she added. “Bud vases require just greenery and one fabulous bloom to radiate specialness. For any bouquet I bring back from weddings, I will separate the flowers and then find ways of scattering them into smaller arrangements so I can enjoy them in many rooms.”