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How to Keep Flowers Fresh

Three Parts:Cutting and Preparing Newly Cut FlowersKeeping Cut Flowers FreshMaking Flower Preservative at Home

Many species of cut flowers can last a week or more with the right care, and even short-lived flowers can have their lifespan extended by a couple days. Keeping flowers in a cool location away from drafts will already help significantly. For best results, provide the flowers with acid and sugar, and keep the container clean and free of bacteria and fungi using bleach or another microbicide.

Part 1
Cutting and Preparing Newly Cut Flowers

  1. Image titled Keep Flowers Fresh Step 1
    Cut flowers at the correct stage of development. Different flowers last for different lengths of time, and should be cut in different stages of development. Flowers with multiple buds on each stem, such as delphinia and lilacs, should have at least one bud starting to open and showing internal color.[1] Plants that have one flower per stem, such as marigolds and sunflowers, will do best when they are allowed to fully open before they are cut.[2]
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    Cut flowers during the cool part of day. Flowers lose less water in cool weather, and especially during the cool portions of the day/night cycle. Cut fresh flowers in the early morning whenever possible, so they will retain more water and stay fresh longer.[3] The late evening is also an option, although the flowers will not have the benefit of night dew at the time.
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    Put the flowers in a large, clean container. Always use a clean container, to reduce the risk of bacteria and other microorganisms infecting your flowers. Choose a container with a neck wide enough to easily fit the flower stems.
    • Keep flowers with different lengths of stems in separate containers, so that all flowers are clearly visible.
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    Treat freshly cut flowers with hot water (optional). Immediately after cutting the flowers, put the stems in 110ºF (43.5ºC) water, and keep the container in a cool location for an hour or two. The hot water molecules move more quickly up the stem, while the flowers lose less water to cool air. The combination of these effects can provide the flowers with a huge increase in the amount of water it consumes, increasing the flower's lifespan.[4]
    • This process is called "hardening."
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    Keep the flower stems in lukewarm water. The ends of cut flower stems should always have access to water. Lukewarm water may be easier for flowers to absorb, so add room temperature water to the container if you are not using the hot water method described above.[5]
    • Flowers still attached to bulbs do better in cold water.[6]

Part 2
Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh

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    Remove leaves submerged in the water. Leaves kept under the water level can rot and provide food for bacteria, which in turn can infect and damage the rest of the plant.[7] Cut off any leaves touching the water, whenever you notice them.
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    Change the water. Replace the water every day to keep your flowers fresh. Make sure all debris is removed from the container before adding fresh water, to reduce the risk of infection.[8]
    • Water is necessary even if the flowers come with floral foam to hold them in place. Let the foam sink into the water at its own pace, since forcing it down may trap harmful air bubbles in the stems.
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    Trim the stems regularly. You may trim the stems every time you change the water, or at least every few days. Use sharp scissors, shears, or a knife to cut the stems at a slant of 45º angle. An angled cut increases the surface area the flower can use to absorb water.[9]
    • Trim the stems of store-bought flowers immediately before placing them in water.
    • Roses are especially susceptible to getting air bubbles trapped in the stem, which can prevent water uptake. Prevent this by cutting roses underwater.[10]
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    Use a flower preservative. Flower preservatives or "flower food" for cut flowers are available from florists, gardening supply stores, and supermarkets. These should have all the ingredients flowers need to thrive, including sugar for energy, acid to stabilize the color and the water pH, and a biocide to kill bacteria and fungi.[11][12] Use this according to the packaging instructions.
    • If you don't want to purchase a commercial preservative, or if the commercial product is not effective, see the section on home flower preservatives for easy homemade alternatives.
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    Keep the plants away from environmental risks. Keep cut flowers away from direct sun, heaters, the top of television sets, and other sources of heat. Avoid placing them in the same room as fruit, which releases ethylene gas that can cause wilting.[13] Drafts and breezes, even cool ones, increase water loss and therefore reduce the flowers' lifespan. [14] Avoid keeping flowers directly under a running ceiling fan.
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    Remove wilted flowers. Cut off all wilting flowers whenever you notice them, or the ethylene gas they release may cause a chain reaction in your other flowers. Compost them, dry them for decoration, or throw them away in a separate room.

Part 3
Making Flower Preservative at Home

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    Add citrus soda and bleach to the water. Sprite, 7 Up, or another clear soda can provide the sugar and acid necessary to keep flowers fresh. Use one part soda to three parts water, then add a few drops of bleach to kill harmful microorganisms.[15] This mixture may even be more effective than some commercial preservatives.
    • Do not use diet sodas, as these do not contain sugar the plant can use for energy.
    • Do not use colas and other dark sodas, as these may be too acidic for the plant to handle.[16]
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    Alternatively, add sugar, lemon juice, and bleach. Try using a small amount of lemon juice instead, about two tablespoons (30 milliliter) in one quart (or liter) of water. Add a tablespoon (15 mL) of sugar to the mix to provide flower food.[17] As with the recipe above, a few drops of bleach can help control bacteria and fungi.
    • For smaller containers, just add a few drops of lemon juice and a couple pinches of sugar.[18]
    • If you have harder water with a significant mineral content, you may wish to add a tiny bit more lemon juice to balance this out. Be cautious, however, as too much acid can be harmful to the plant.
    • Daisies, sunflowers, and their relatives in the Asteraceae family may release gluey material from their stems. Acid is especially important if you are keeping other flowers in the same container as these plants, as it can help prevent stems of other flowers from closing.[19]
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    Understand the effect of vodka. A few drops of vodka may inhibit the flower's production of ethylene, a gas that causes wilting and ripening.[20] This can be useful, but it is not a replacement for bleach or other substances for killing microorganisms.
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    Don't overuse bleach. Bleach is sometimes used as a preservative in higher concentrations than a few drops per container. This is risky, as the effects on preservation are highly inconsistent, and may even cause the stems and flowers to lose their color.[21][22]
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    Be cautious with aspirin or vinegar. Ground up aspirin or white vinegar are alternative sources of acid, but tend to be less effective than lemon juice or citrus soda.[23][24] If aspirin is overused, it may even wither flowers faster or turn the stems grey.[25][26]
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    Understand why copper coins don't work. Copper can kill fungus, but the copper present in pennies and other copper-coated coins is not soluble in water.[27] Dropping a penny in your water will not increase your flowers' lifespan.


  • If rose flowers are droopy and hanging down, stick the entire rose under warm water to attempt to rehydrate it. This is a last ditch effort that will not work every time.[28]


  • Hairspray is used to preserve the shape of bouquets while they dry. They will not keep your flowers fresh.
  • Removing rose thorns will reduce the lifespan of the cut rose, although you can remove thorns that will be below the water level.
  • Cut daffodils and hyacinths can release chemicals that kill flowers sharing the same water. Keep these flowers in their own container for at least 12 hours before arranging them with other flowers.[29]

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Flower Arranging and Floral Art