How to Make Flower Food

Three Parts:Making Plant Food with Lemon JuicePreparing Your Flowers for a VaseEnsuring Flower Shelf Life

Although fresh flowers are beautiful, without proper care your beautiful blooms might soon be wilting. You can help your cut flowers to stay fresher longer by using a vase preservative, which is simple to make on your own. Add to that a few tricks for cut-flower care and people will wonder how you manage to keep your flowers alive for so long.

Part 1
Making Plant Food with Lemon Juice

  1. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 1
    Gather your ingredients. You can always buy some plant/vase preservative at your local florist or the home and gardening section of some hardware stores, but making your own is relatively simple. You only need:
    • Lemon juice
    • Sugar
    • Household bleach[1][2]
  2. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 2
    Select your vase or container. There are many varieties of vases to choose from depending on how many and what kind of cut-flowers you have. If you have a single flower you want to display, a bud vase will work perfectly. Bouquets can be accommodated by larger, cylindrical shaped containers.
    • For glass containers, think about using marbles, cranberries, or some other object inside it. Some experts believe that by hiding the stems in your vase, you restore the focus of attention to your beautiful blooms.[3]
    • If you lack a vase, you might re-purpose a decanter, ornamental glass, or pitcher.
  3. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 3
    Clean your flower container. A dirty vase can severely shorten the lifespan of your cut flowers.[4] Using a mild soap and hot water, be sure you rinse and scrub free any grime or dust from your flower container. Once you are satisfied, use a clean towel to wipe it dry.
  4. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 4
    Mix your flower food. Put a quart of warm water into your flower container, or in a separate container if yours does not have enough space for a full quart of liquid. In the warm water, add two tablespoons of lemon juice, one tablespoon of sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of bleach to your water.[5]
    • Stir the solution until it appears the ingredients have blended together.
  5. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 5
    Pour your solution into the container and insert your flowers. If your container was too small for you to mix your vase preservative in, after it is blended, add it to your clean, empty container until it is ½ to ¾ full. If you were able to prepare your preservative in-vase, simply add your flowers.
  6. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 6
    Keep your water clear and free of bacteria. Plants are easily harmed by the bacteria that can build up in your vase.[6] By adding a ¼ teaspoon of bleach to your solution every four days, you will help protect your flowers while keeping the water from becoming cloudy.[7]
    • You can also protect against bacteria buildup by changing the water in your container every three to four days.[8]
  7. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 7
    Consider making plant food with soda pop. If you don't have lemon juice on hand, you may find it a little more convenient to create a vase preservative with lemon-lime soda. Be sure you do not use any brands that are diet or have cola as an ingredient; these can harm your flowers.[9] Simply:
    • Mix one part lemon-lime soda with three parts water and add ¼ teaspoon of household bleach. For example, you might use one cup lemon-lime soda mixed with three cups of water and ¼ teaspoon of bleach.

Part 2
Preparing Your Flowers for a Vase

  1. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 8
    Cut your flowers under water. You should cut the stems at an angle while submerged in either a basin of water or running water.[10] Exposing the cut end of your flower to open air can be damaging, especially since this is one of the points when flower tissue is most hungry for water.[11]
    • Additionally, you should try to cut your flowers in the early morning or late evening, as these are the best times to cut flowers.[12]
  2. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 9
    Boil the stems of flowers with sap. If you notice that your flowers, when cut, exude a milky liquid, you can prolong the life of these with a quick boil in water. Soak the bottom two inches of your cut stems in boiling water for ten seconds before putting into a vase.[13]
    • Two common flowers that can benefit from boiling are poinsettias and poppies.
  3. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 10
    Prune leaves below the water line. If your flowers have leaves all the way down the stem, these can rot in your water and cause mold to grow.[14] Remove all leaves on your stems that will be below the waterline.
  4. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 11
    Use demineralized water if you have hard water. You can determine whether your water is hard or not by noting mineral deposits on facets and kettles. These will often look like a white, scaly film when dry. If this is the case at your home, your plants will fare better with demineralized water, to which you can add vase preservative.[15]
    • Demineralized water is sold at most supermarkets and should be used in your vase solutions as well if you have hard water.
  5. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 12
    Add a commercial vase preservative to your water. Your homemade plant preservative will likely work even more effectively than commercial recipes, but these are an easy to use and inexpensive substitute if you lack the ingredients for the DIY recipe. Many times, a commercial preservative requires only a clean vase and warm water, though you should always follow the directions on the packet.[16]

Part 3
Ensuring Flower Shelf Life

  1. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 13
    Take care when using arranging aids. If you plan on using florist foam to give your arrangement a little more stability, allow it to soak in water until it sinks on its own accord. Forcing your foam to the bottom of your container can trap air bubbles in it, which can lead to wilting and flower death.[17]
    • Never reuse foam; holes from a previous arrangement may harmfully expose the cut end of your stems to air.
    • Do not pull up on a flower inserted into your foam. This could cause an air pocket to form beneath the foam, which can cause wilting or flower death.
  2. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 14
    Display flowers in a cool location. You'll want your flowers to be kept cool and out of the sun. Avoid placing your flowers on top of or near televisions, heaters, or fireplaces. Heat will leach moisture from your flowers, causing wilting to occur more quickly.[18][19]
  3. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 15
    Store your flowers overnight. A cool place out of the sunlight will prevent your flowers from drying out due to heat.[20] Light from the sun will trigger a maturation response in your flowers that will cause early decay.[21]
  4. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 16
    Avoid vinegar and aspirin. Some claim that these work to help prolong the life of cut flowers, however, many experts insist that aspirin and vinegar rarely increase the longevity of flower life.[22] You are much better off making your own flower preservative or using a commercial one.
  5. Image titled Make Flower Food Step 17
    Replenish your water daily and completely change it regularly. Cut flowers can drink a surprising amount of water in a short period of time; make sure you are adding a little fresh water to your container every day. If you have hard water, you'll want to top off your vase with demineralized water. On every second or third day, you should change your water entirely and replenish your preservative at that time as well.[23]


  • Keep fresh cut flowers away from ripening fruit or vegetables, or from dying flowers. The ethylene gas emitted by these items can speed the aging of fresh cut flowers and reduce the vase life.
  • Citric acid can be substituted for lemon juice.


  • Keep cut flowers away from heat, drafts, or direct sunlight, all of which can lessen their lifespan.
  • Keep the water in your vase fresh to prolong the life of your flowers.

Things You'll Need

  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar
  • Household bleach
  • Lemon-lime soda (optional; soda recipe)

Article Info

Categories: Flower Arranging and Floral Art