Looking for ways to prolong the life of your fresh-cut flowers? Follow these simple hacks to extend their vase life dramatically. Learn how to keep fresh flowers longer with these simple tips.

Whether you grow your own flowers to cut or pick them up at the local market, there’s nothing quite like a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers. But keeping fresh-cut flowers alive longer in a vase isn’t always easy – even for a master gardener!

While I’ve been growing beautiful flower gardens throughout my landscape for over 25 years, I was not cutting much of the blooms to enjoy indoors. Isn’t that crazy?

I chose not to cut a lot because I grow several different plant varieties on half an acre of property. This might sound like a lot, but because there are so many different plants, I always enjoyed them more IN my garden rather than inside my home.

But through the years, I changed my tune and decided to focus more on growing flowers that are better for cutting. As I’ve been cutting and making arrangements, I’ve researched and learned how to make fresh flowers last longer in a vase. So today, I’m sharing all my best tips for making your own cut flower arrangements last indoors.

So stop throwing away your blooms and follow these simple tips to extend their vase life.

(Posts on stacyling.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.)

Growing Cut Flowers for Vase Arrangements

A few years ago, I started growing dahlias. And they truly stole my heart! There are so many different unique varieties to grow. They make a great late summer/early fall addition to the cottage garden but also look incredible in a vase.

Because I loved growing dahlias so much, I decided to start seeds indoors to expand my flower beds for cutting. I grew well over 1000 flowers indoors that are not readily available at local nurseries. It was the best!!!! Some of the flowers I grew from seed included:

You can often find me outside cutting flowers to make new arrangements, bouquets, and centerpieces for myself, family, and friends. But it’s been pure joy to play with flowers all season long.

As I’ve been making several bouquets, I’ve learned a few good tips to prolong the life of fresh-cut flowers. Keep reading for my best tips on how to make fresh flowers last longer.

Fresh flower arrangement for fall harvest table in outoor dining space with hydrangeas, zinnias and dahlias -This flower arrangement was made from my cut flower garden with hydrangeas, zinnias and dahlias. .how to set a cozy fall harvest table
Fall Harvest Dining Table Centerpiece and Autumn Table Decorations

How Long Can You Keep Flowers Fresh in a Vase?

The lifespan of flowers in a vase can vary depending on the type of flower, its freshness when cut, and the care it receives in the vase. However, in general, most cut flowers can last for around 5-7 days in a vase if properly cared for.

Some varieties, such as roses, lilies, and chrysanthemums, may last longer than others, while more delicate flowers, like tulips and daffodils, may not last as long. That said, there are things we can do to help prolong the life of flowers in an arrangement.

last bouquet of flowers from the cutting garden in 2022

How to Keep Fresh Flowers Longer

There’s nothing like a beautiful arrangement of fresh-cut flowers, am I right? I wish they’d last longer than they do. Flowers make people happy and if you get a bouquet on a special occasion or you cut them from your garden, you want them to last as long as possible.

Follow these tips to keep flowers fresher for longer.

Always Start With a Clean Vase or Floral Foam

To eliminate harmful bacteria, always clean your vase or container vessel with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. And if you are using floral foam? Don’t re-use it.

I know it might seem more economical to get a few uses out of it, but the flowers DO NOT APPRECIATE the economics as much as we do. So always start with fresh blocks. If you want to cut down on costs, cut the blocks down to a minimum size for use. THESE are the floral foam blocks I’ve been using.

vintage thrift store find shutters with milk glass vase and fresh cut flowers from the garden
Fresh Cut Flower Arrangement From My Garden

Prepare Each Flower for the Arrangement

Preparing flowers for an arrangement involves a few key steps to ensure that they are fresh, hydrated, and ready to be arranged. Before making a fresh flower arrangement, it’s important to prepare the flowers before dropping them in a vase.

If you are cutting your own flowers, start with the freshest flowers you can find. Look for flowers that are just starting to open, with sturdy stems and bright, vibrant colors.

Remove Foliage Before Arranging

Remove any leaves or thorns from the lower part of the stems that will be submerged in water. This will help prevent bacteria growth and keep the water clean. I recommend removing most of the lower leaves while you’re picking the flowers outdoors to make the job of arranging them easier.

Gardener stacy ling Cutting zinnias - Cut flower gardening is so fun! Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling
Cut Flower Gardening For Beginners

How to Re-Cut the Stems

A great way to prepare them is to re-cut the stems so they can absorb water and nutrients more easily.

  • When cutting your own flowers, always cut them at a 45-degree angle. Cutting them at a 45-degree angle keeps them from sitting flat and promotes better water consumption.
  • Drop fresh cuts immediately in room temperature water.
  • Remove all leaves and lower stems that will sit in any water. Anything left under the waterline will rot and cause the flowers to prematurely decline in the arrangement.
  • If some time elapsed after cutting your blooms, I make a second fresh cut on a 45-degree angle just before I drop it in the arrangement.
  • Tip: whenever you are cutting flowers, make sure you clean your snips in between varieties so you don’t pass any problems to other plants.

Cutting the stems at an angle with a sharp knife or scissors can help to create a larger surface area for water uptake, allowing the flowers to absorb more water and nutrients. This can help to keep the flowers hydrated and healthy, which can improve their longevity and overall appearance.

How to Make a Hydrangea Wreath for Free
Always cut flowers on a 45-degree angle.

Condition The Flowers

It’s a good idea to make sure your flowers are super hydrated before arranging them. Submerge the stems most of the way in a bucket of warm water containing flower food. Place the bucket in a cool, dark location like a basement or garage for a few hours or as long as overnight before arranging the flowers.

Feeding Fresh-Cut Flowers to Prolong Their Vase Life

To extend the vase life of a flower arrangement, it’s important to feed the bouquet. Cut flower food provides a great source of nutrition for centerpieces, bouquets, and flower arrangements.

First, flower food provides essential nutrients that help to nourish the flowers and prolong their lifespan. These nutrients include sugars to provide energy for the flowers, citric acid to regulate the pH of the water, and bleach to prevent the growth of bacteria that can clog the stem and cause the flowers to wilt.

Second, flower food also contains ingredients that help to keep the water clean and clear, which can help prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi that can damage the flowers. Lastly, flower food can help improve the overall quality and appearance of the flowers, promoting vibrant colors, strong stems, and healthy foliage.

Thus, using flower food can significantly improve the longevity and beauty of fresh-cut flowers in a vase, making it an important step in caring for them.

Dahlia 'Jowey Winnie'
Dahlia ‘Jowey Winnie’

How to Make Fresh-Cut Flower Food

If your arrangement didn’t come with flower food or you don’t want to buy your own, you can easily DIY a cut flower food recipe using 2 aspirins, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and a few drops of bleach (to kill harmful bacteria).

It is harder to feed fresh-cut flowers if they are sitting in floral foam, so I use that formula per quart of water when watering the blooms. This method seems to help.

Keep the Water Clean

Changing the water in a vase is important to keep flowers fresh longer because stale or contaminated water can cause bacteria to grow in the vase. This bacteria can clog the stems of the flowers, preventing them from absorbing water properly and causing them to wilt more quickly.

By changing the water in the vase every 2-3 days, you can help prevent the growth of bacteria and keep the water fresh and clean. This ensures that the flowers have a consistent supply of clean water and nutrients, which can improve their lifespan and overall appearance.

In addition to changing the water, it’s also important to clean the vase thoroughly before refilling it with fresh water to prevent any bacteria or debris from contaminating the new water.

An important note about watering thought. Do not use hot water because it’s not good for the flowers. Room-temperature water is best.

close up of garden party idea with fresh cut zinnias and celosia with melamine charger on cedar branch placemat with vintage amber goblets, gold stemware, linen napkins and green boho tablecloth
Bricks ‘n Blooms

Keep the Flowers Cool

There’s a reason florists typically store cut flowers in a refrigerated space – a cooler space can help flowers stay fresh for longer. While you probably don’t want to keep your flowers in an actual fridge (you want to be able to admire them!), arrangements will last longer if you keep them away from direct sunlight and heat and move to a cooler place overnight.

Re-cut Stems When You Change the Water

When you change the water of your fresh flower arrangement, it’s a good idea to recut the stems because, over time, the ends of the stems can become clogged with bacteria and air bubbles, which can prevent the flowers from absorbing water and nutrients properly.

By recutting the stems, you remove any blockages and create a fresh surface area for water absorption, which can help to extend the life of the flowers.

When recutting the stems, it’s important to cut them at a 45-degree angle, which can help to prevent the ends of the stems from resting flat against the bottom of the vase and obstructing water uptake.

flowers and pumpkin centerpiece idea for the dining table set on a bistro table on the porch
Fresh cut flowers from my fall garden

Remove Wilted Blooms and Petals

As your fresh flower arrangement ages, it’s a good idea to remove any wilted flowers or foliage that looks brown, saggy, or otherwise unhealthy. Wilted flowers and petals can cause bacterial growth and decay, which can spread to the other flowers and shorten the lifespan of the arrangement.

As flowers age and wilt, they begin to produce bacteria that can clog the stems and prevent the flowers from absorbing water and nutrients. This can cause the flowers to wilt and die more quickly. Not to mention, it can also lead to an unpleasant odor and slimy water in the vase.

By removing the flowers and foliage that are no longer healthy, you can help prevent bacterial growth and ensure that the remaining flowers stay healthy and hydrated.

Additionally, removing wilted flowers and petals can help improve the overall appearance of the arrangement. Removing them can help the remaining flowers stand out and create a more vibrant and visually appealing arrangement.

But that depends on the types of flowers you have because some look more beautiful as they take on a more vintage look. So depending on the aesthetic you want, you may or may not want to remove flowers that become faded or discolored. Just understand that leaving them can impact the vase life of the more vibrant blooms.

close up of a snapdragon and zinnia arrangement I made with fresh flowers from the cut flower garden on a farmhouse table

Keep Fresh Flowers Out of Direct Sunlight

It is important to keep fresh-cut flowers out of direct sunlight because the heat and UV rays from the sun can cause the flowers to wilt and dry out more quickly. The heat can cause the flowers to lose moisture through transpiration, while the UV rays can damage the pigments in the flowers, causing them to fade or discolor.

Additionally, direct sunlight can cause the water in the vase to become too warm, which can stimulate bacterial growth and further shorten the lifespan of the flowers.

To keep your flowers fresh and healthy for as long as possible, it’s best to place them in a cool, shaded area away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and drafts. This will help to slow down the aging process of the flowers and maintain their vibrant colors and delicate beauty.

I also suggest putting them in a location where if it leaks any water, you won’t damage anything. Or you can use something like THIS or THIS under your arrangement, depending on how fancy you want to get.

Fresh cut flowers from the cut flower garden on a thift store find end table with vintage shutters
Fresh Cut Flowers From My Garden

Avoid Heat, Drafts, and Fresh Fruit

Sunlight isn’t the only thing to avoid if you want to keep fresh flowers longer. Extreme temperature changes and even fresh fruit can impact their longevity.

Don’t display your arrangements near appliances that generate heat (such as a heating vent) and avoid areas that could be cold and drafty too, such as next to open windows or under ceiling fans.

Believe it or not, storing fresh flower arrangements next to fresh fruit can also impact their lifespan. Ripening fruits release tiny amounts of ethylene gas, which can make your fresh flowers wilt faster.

Avoid Grouping Certain Flowers Together in a Vase

Pairing flowers in a vase is a bit like creating a little community where everyone needs to get along, but not all flowers play nice together! Here are a few pairings you might want to avoid and why:

  1. Daffodils with Anything Else: Daffodils are lovely on their own, but they’re a bit of a diva in the flower world. They secrete a sap that can clog the stems of other flowers, preventing them from taking up water. If you’re dead set on mixing them, let the daffodils sit in water by themselves for a day, then change the water before adding other flowers.
  2. Tulips and Daffodils: Tulips also don’t mix well with daffodils for the same reason. The sap from daffodils can harm tulips, so it’s best to keep them in separate vases.
  3. Carnations and Gardenias: Carnations, while hardy and long-lasting, can release a substance that shortens the vase life of more delicate flowers like gardenias.
  4. Lilies: Lilies have a strong scent that can overpower the fragrance of other flowers. If you’re looking to create a bouquet with a balanced aroma, you might want to keep strongly scented flowers separate.
  5. Hyacinths: Their strong scent and heavy pollen can overpower other flowers in a mixed arrangement.
  6. Poppies: Similar to daffodils, poppies release a sap that can shorten the vase life of other flowers.

The key reason behind these incompatibilities usually boils down to different flowers having different water needs, releasing substances harmful to each other, or simply overpowering each other in scent. Always consider the water requirements and chemical compatibilities when grouping flowers together. Mixing and matching flowers can be a fun experiment, but knowing these basic compatibilities can help you create combinations that are both beautiful and long-lasting!

stacy ling cutting strawflowers for a peach tablescape idea in the cut flower garden
Stacy Ling cutting strawflowers in the cut flower garden

Do Tricks for Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh Longer Actually Work?

If you Google “how to make flowers last longer in a vase,” you’ll find a myriad of tips and tricks much like the ones I shared above. You’re also bound to find people recommending all different kinds of water additives meant to make your flowers stay fresh for longer.

So, do any of these tricks actually work? I’ve shared some details below, but keep in mind that different flowers have varying preferences and care requirements. It’s always a good idea to research the specific needs of the flowers you are working with.

Does adding vinegar to water make flowers last longer?

There are lots of posts online about adding vinegar to water to help the flowers potentially last longer. It is believed the acidity of vinegar helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi in the water, which can be beneficial for the overall health of the flowers. 

However, I found several florists online advising against using this method because the acidity from the vinegar can ruin the blooms. 

That said, gardening is an experiment. So, if you want to test this method for yourself to see how it works, add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart of vase water. You may also want to add sugar to the water to provide nutrients for the flowers. Keep in mind that different flowers may react differently with this method. Note: I would not try this method on a flower bouquet that’s important to you.

adult halloween party centerpiece for the dining table with fresh cut flowers from the garden that include zinnias, dahlias, amaranth and celosia with vintage table decor and ivy

Does sugar make flowers last longer?

Yes, sugar can help flowers last longer in a vase. Some sugar in the vase solution increases the number and size of open flowers as well as prolongs the vase life. This is why I like to include sugar in my homemade flower food recipe.

To use sugar for preserving flowers, you can add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar per quart of vase water. Make sure to stir the mixture thoroughly to ensure that the sugar dissolves completely. 

Does baking soda make flowers last longer?

You’ll sometimes see baking soda as a recommendation for adding to vase water because it creates neutrality in the water, so it’s not too acidic or too alkaline. While this can provide some benefit, you’re better off feeding your flowers with sugar and changing the water frequently to maintain its pH balance. Baking soda is better off being used in the kitchen as a staple than it is with keeping your flowers fresh.

Why do you put a penny in cut flowers?

The practice of putting a penny in cut flowers is based on the idea that the copper in the penny acts as a fungicide, helping to prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms in the water. The penny should have a date that is before 1981 as pennies before then were made with copper, whereas pennies made after have significantly less. 

However, it’s important to understand that the effectiveness of using a penny in vase water for flower preservation is debated. While this is a trick many cut flower enthusiasts love, your best options are to feed your flowers well and regularly change the water.

As an aside though, I use this trick with tulips as dropping a copper penny in the vase helps keep the blooms upright.

close up of easter flowers table centerpiece with fresh cut pink tulips

Should you put flowers in warm or cold water?

It depends! I typically recommend putting cut flowers in room-temperature water. Warm water helps to facilitate the uptake of water and nutrients by the flowers by easing the flow of water through the stems. But it’s important to make sure your water is not too hot or you’ll risk damaging the flowers. Room temperature water or just slightly warmer is usually best.

However, some flowers do better in cold water (such as tulips) so be sure to research each individual flower’s needs and adjust accordingly. 

Why is bleach good for flowers?

Bleach can be used in small amounts in vase water because it can help stop the growth of bacteria and fungi, which can clog the flower’s vascular system and lead to a shorter lifespan for the blooms. I like to add a small amount of bleach to my DIY flower food.

Can I use tap water for flowers?

You can use tap water for flowers in most cases. However, the quality of tap water can vary depending on your location. Some tap water can contain minerals, chlorine, fluoride, and other substances that could impact the health and longevity of cut flowers, so I recommend doing some research into your local water or using filtered water for your vase flowers.

southern style table centerpiece idea for the dining table with fresh cut flowers from the garden that include zinnias, dahlias, amaranth and strawflowers on a rustic elegant table in the potager garden

More About Keeping Flowers Fresher for Longer

How do you make your fresh-cut flowers last longer? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I would love to know more in the comments below.

Happy Gardening!

Stacy Ling
fresh cut flowers from the cutting garden with zinnias, dahlias, snapdragons in vases and mason jars with peaches, taper candles, votives and small gold lanterns with peach table decor in the potager garden
Bricks ‘n Blooms

How to Arrange Flowers Like a Pro

Looking for ways to make your own flower arrangement? Arranging flowers can be a fun and rewarding activity, but it can also be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re not sure where to start. However, with a few simple tips and techniques, anyone can learn how to arrange flowers like a pro.

Whether you’re creating a beautiful centerpiece for a special occasion or just brightening up your home with a fresh bouquet, the key to a stunning floral arrangement is understanding the basic principles of design and having a little creativity.

We’ll explore some of the key elements of flower arranging, from selecting the right flowers and foliage to arranging them in a way that is both aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, learn how to create stunning floral arrangements that will wow your friends and family.

centerpiece idea for the dining table with fresh flowers

Want to Learn How to Grow a Cut Flower Garden Too?

Growing a garden that is made for harvesting flowers is a rewarding and fun experience. And if you want to get started, it’s not too late! CLICK HERE to see what you need to do to start a cut flower garden.

Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling

To Learn How to Start a Garden From Seed, Check Out These Posts

fresh cut flowers in a vase close up in front of vintage shutters on wood table
a pic of gorgeous purple and yellow blooms and a pic of wilted dying cut flowers
a pic of gorgeous fresh flowers and a pic of wilted dying cut flowers

Thank you so much for following along.

Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

How to make Fresh flowers last longer
how to keep fresh flowers longer
Keep flowers hydrated with clean water.
how to keep fresh flowers longer
Wash container vessels well with one part bleach to 10 parts water.
how to keep fresh flowers longer
Before – this arrangement is on it’s way out. Time to make a new one!
How to Keep Fresh Flowers Longer
Fresh cut flowers from my backyard garden
The bricks \'n Blooms guide to a beautiful and easy-care flower garden book by stacy ling
The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy Care Flower Garden
  • Have you never met a plant you couldn’t kill?
  • Have you dug around in the dirt with nothing to show for it except a sunburn and a sore back?
  • Do you currently enjoy growing flowers, but are looking for more tips and ideas to level up your gardening game?

Then the Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide is for YOU

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  1. Thanks for the great tips on how to keep fresh flowers longer. And I LOVE your gorgeous floral centerpiece.

    1. Thank you so much Kim! That one might be my favorite so far…except I say that about every single one. hahaha

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