From tulips to chrysanthemums, our series “The Language of Flowers” explores everything from fresh flower care tips to flower symbolism and meaning.
A bouquet of fresh flowers fits any occasion, but nothing will dampen your enthusiasm faster than watching them wilt before their time. Taking proper care of a flower arrangement requires more than merely plopping blooms into a vase. Knowing what to do can add a week or more to their lifespan.
Here are six easy steps for receiving and arranging a flower bouquet to ensure it stays beautiful for as long as possible.
Clean and sterilize your vase
You’re risking ruin by placing fresh flowers in an unclean vase, as it likely contains bacteria from previous bouquets that can weaken the blooms. Wash the vase with soapy water beforehand and give it a rinse with diluted bleach at the end so it’s ready for next time.
Trim the stems
Most cut flowers will start to “seal up” the base of their stem within hours of harvest. This prevents them from taking in water, so you’ll need to recut each stem before placing it in a vase. A 2-centimeter diagonal cut works best, as it maximizes the stem’s surface area for taking in moisture. Use a sharp knife instead of scissors so you don’t crush the stem.
Consider also whether you want to cut the blooms down in height. A shorter stem means less far for water to travel, which might make the flowers last longer.
Center the arrangement around the largest flowers
While we all have our preferences, the most aesthetically pleasing way to arrange flowers is often to put the biggest blooms in the middle, surrounded by the smaller flowers and those that haven’t bloomed yet. Once you like the arrangement, group the stems with a loose rubber band to keep them aligned once in the vase.
Add water and flower food
Fresh, filtered water is crucial for long-lasting blooms. The amount depends on your flower type. Fill vases two-thirds full if they contain woody varieties like hydrangeas or roses, while soft, green-stemmed flowers like tulips or lilies need it just half filled.
Cool water is preferred, as warm water will travel up the stems faster and accelerate the blooming process. You can also add a flower food packet, which typically comes with the bouquet. Most food packets consist of a sugar solution that nourishes the flowers and limits bacteria in the water to keep it fresh.
Place in a protected space
Fresh flowers last best in a cool, ventilated space that’s away from direct sunlight. Watch out for drafty windows and doorways, and keep the arrangement away from fruit, as the ethylene gas that fruit releases while ripening will speed up the flowers’ decay.
Monitor water and remove wilting flowers
Monitor the vase’s water daily and top it off as evaporation occurs. Change the water out completely whenever it goes cloudy, cleaning out the vase each time (see step No. 1). This also provides the perfect opportunity to remove any wilting flowers, rearrange the remaining blooms, and recut the stems for improved water absorption.
Follow these six steps, and you can significantly extend the lifespan of any flower bouquet. You’ll be amazed at how much more enjoyment you get from every bloom when you aren’t stressed about how long they will survive.