How to Make Fresh Flowers Last Longer

Four Methods:Using warm waterAdding aspirinUsing homemade plant foodOther ways to extend flower life

How wonderful it is when someone presents you with a flowers, wrapped in paper or in a box, straight from the florist. It seems to say that "I am thinking of you" in such a warm and romantic way. Flowers show feelings, thanks, or welcoming to their recipient. Making flowers last longer will add to your enjoyment of them, so they will not wither and wilt so fast.

Method 1
Using warm water

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    Place flowers in warm water as soon as possible. Once the stems of flowers have been cut, you have removed their life support system.
    • Remove the wrapping paper, as paper can bruise the flowers and cellophane can cause them to sweat.
    • When cut flowers have been left out of water for any length of time, cells start to form over the cut ends of the stems, which will prevent the stems taking up water readily. To remove this sealed portion, snip off about 2.5cm (1") from the stem ends and then place in water preferably with preservative added, and allow the flowers to have a long drink before arranging.
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    Fill a plastic bucket, one-third to one-half full, with warm water. Warm water should be used as flowers take up warm water more readily than cold.
    • Flowers only drink through the ends of the stems and not through the sides of the stems, and for this reason buckets should not be filled right up to the top with water, as foliage left on stems below the water line will rot and pollute the water. This will feed bacteria and the flowers will die more quickly.
    • The foliage of Marigolds, Chrysanthemums, Stock and Daisies send off a particularly strong odor when left standing under water over a period of time.
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    Take the bucket of water into the garden with you. Use a sharp pair of secateurs and cut the flower stems on an angle - a slanted cut allows a better intake of water. Remove all foliage from the lower portion of the stems which would stand under the water line. Place the flowers immediately in the water.
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    Avoid overcrowding flowers. Allow enough air to circulate between each flower. Too many flowers crowded together in a bucket may cause the petals to become squashed and bruised. Place the bucket in a cool dark place and allow the flowers to have a long drink before being arranged. When picking short-stemmed flowers, use a smaller container.
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    Allow flowers to have a good drink for four to five hours, preferably overnight before arranging. This step is called conditioning. It allows the stems to fill up with water and the flowers will become crisp. These flowers will last twice as long as those that have not been conditioned properly.
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    Use a flower preservative to destroy bacteria in the water. Flower preservatives are available in garden centers or supermarkets. Another alternative is to use a cap-full of household bleach in the water. If a preservative is not used, the water needs to be changed and the stems cut on an angle daily. If a preservative is used, the stems do not require re-cutting and water needs changing only about twice a week. Flowers, like Freesias, Spray Carnations and Liliums, have lots of buds. By using a preservative in the water, it helps develop the buds to open.

Method 2
Adding aspirin

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    Put a cut flower in a pot or vase. Fill half the pot or vase with water.
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    Add one tablet of aspirin.
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    Wait for 1 day. Repeat; add another tablet.
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    Leave the flowers be after this. The aspirin will help the flowers to stay fresh for around five to nine days without putting in new aspirin pieces.

Method 3
Using homemade plant food

  1. 1
    Make homemade plant food. Flowers need food, water, and a clean environment. As such, their water should have a little food, like sugar, and some bleach to slow fungi and bacteria growth. Here's a basic home recipe:
    • Mix together 1 quart water + 2 tablespoons lemon juice + 1 tablespoon sugar + 1/2 teaspoon bleach. Pour into the vase.
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    Trim the flower stems. This is to open the stems up to the water. Cut off the dried bottoms at an angle, the angle allowing them to take up as much water as possible.
    • Trim the ends, which tend to get gummy and closed, every three or four days to keep them fresh longer.
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    Remove leaves. Leaves left on the stems below the water level will quickly deteriorate and promote mold. Remove all leaves from the stems below the waterline.
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    Place the trimmed flowers into the homemade plant food. Top up with water as needed.

Method 4
Other ways to extend flower life

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    Try one of the following reader suggestions:
    • Add a teaspoon of sugar or a pinch of salt mixed with baking soda.
    • Crush a multivitamin tablet and add it to the water.
    • Use aspirin. Keep the cut flowers cool and put aspirin in their water. Crush the aspirin in the water before adding the flowers.


  • Wilted flowers can often be revived by standing the stems in fairly hot water right up to the flower heads. After the water has cooled, allow the flowers to stand in the water for a few hours before arranging. Roses can often be perked up by floating the whole stem, head and all, in warm water for half an hour.
  • Most flowers should be picked when they are in bud or half open. You will then have the pleasure of seeing them slowly open up. The color of the petals should be starting to show. If picked too tightly in bud, they may never open. This is especially true of tulips and roses. The green pointed sepals around the base of the rose should be starting to turn downwards. Irises and Daffodils should be half opened. Gladioli should be picked when the bottom three or four florets are open and the top florets are still in bud. Carnations, Dahlias, Marigolds, Hydrangeas, Camellias, Gerberas and Chrysanthemums should be picked when they are fully opened.
  • Cut off the white portion at the bottom of bulb flowers, like Tulips, Daffodils, Jonquils, Narcissus, Irises and Hyacinths. Only the green part of the stem can take up water. Daffodils, Jonquils and Narcissus have a thick sap which oozes from the end of the stems when they are cut. Wipe it off before placing the stems in water. Keep these flowers separate from other flowers when they are being conditioned as the sap can affect other flowers. The thick sap can clog the ends of stems and prevent the uptake of water. Stand the stems in about 7.5 centimeter (3.0 in). (3") of water and allow to stand at least six hours before arranging. Bulb flowers prefer shallow water. If daffodils, jonquils and narcissus are placed in deep water, the thick stems can become water logged and the stems shrivel up and the petals go papery.
  • Give special treatment to certain flowers to give them the longest life possible. Flowers with woody stems do not take up water readily. Woody-stemmed flowers include Lilac, Hydrangea, and Rhododendrons. To help break down the thick fibers, you can split the ends of the stems upwards for about 5 centimeter (2.0 in). (2") After this treatment, place the stems in a container filled with warm water and give the flowers a long drink before arranging.
  • If you are picking your own flowers, it is best to do this in the morning or the late evening. Sugar reserves in the stems are at their highest in the mornings or evenings. Ideally the best time is early morning when flower stems are filled with water after the cool night air. You should never pick flowers in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest. The heat of the sun lowers the water content in the stems and the flowers will not last nearly as long. If it has been raining and the flowers are wet, shake them gently to remove the excess water. Too much water will often damage flowers - especially delicately petaled flowers.
  • If you are unable to place flowers in water, place them in a strong plastic bag with some water in the bottom. Secure the bag with a rubber band. Another method is to wrap flowers in damp newspaper. If traveling by car, place the flowers in the coolest spot. As soon as you get home, re-cut the ends of the stems, place them in water and allow them to condition overnight before arranging.


  • If you place flowers near a fruit bowl, the natural ripening gas that fruit emits will cause flowers to decay very quickly.
  • Do not place flowers near a heater, on top of a television set or direct sunlight as the heat will affect the life of the flowers. Do not place flowers near a fan or in a drought. Do not place flowers near microwave because of radiation.

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Categories: Flower Arranging and Floral Art