13 Top Varieties for Cut Flowers

Carnation Flowers
Itaru Sugita / EyeEm / Getty Images

Cut flowers are often thought of only for special occasions. The Flower Promotion Organization estimates that "more than 180 million stems of roses will be bestowed on sweethearts around the world" on Valentine's Day. Mother's Day and Easter see a huge assortment of cut flowers wired to grateful recipients.

Beautiful bouquets of cut flowers can turn any room into a garden. Whether you receive them as a gift, buy them yourself or grow your own, sometimes even the best gardeners...MORE have trouble keeping their cut flowers fresh and blooming indoors. A lot of cut flower longevity depends on how fresh the flowers were when you bought them, but there are some tips that can get your flowers off to a running start and keep them blooming.

Select Clean and Healthy Cut Flowers

  • Flower stems should be green and smooth, not slimy.
  • Water should smell fresh.
  • No broken stems or drooping buds.

Before You Put Them Into the Vase

  • Keep cut flowers cool, until you can get them into water.
  • Make a fresh cut an inch or two up the stem, while stems are under water.
  • Make sure the vase and cutting tools are clean.
  • Remove any leaves that will be below the water surface.
  • Use the packet of flower food that comes with your flowers.

Keep Them Blooming

  • Keep cut flowers out of direct sunlight and drafts.
  • Change the water frequently (Every other day).
  • Make a fresh cut each time you change the water.

Here are some good choices for long-lasting cut flowers:

  • 01 of 13


    Alstroemeria Flowers
    Sujata Jana / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Alstroemeria is a very popular choice of cut flower, even though most people don't know them by their botanical name. Common names include Lily of the Incas, Parrot Lily and Peruvian Lily. Alstroemeria flowers in late spring or early summer and comes in shades of white, pink, yellow, orange and red. The flowers are sensitive to fluoride in water. Let the water sit for a few hours, before using. Alstroemeria is also affected by ethylene gas. Keep away from produce.

  • 02 of 13
    Bird of Paradise Flower
    Ron Dahlquist / Getty Images

    There's no mistaking the bird of Paradise. The flowers look like colorful birds about to take flight. This is a tropical plant that needs lots of sunshine and warmth. It can be grown outdoors, in frost-free areas or grown indoors as a houseplant. Even indoors, Bird of Paradise needs temperatures around 66.5 F to 70 F and at least 50 F at night. It makes an eye-catching cut flower, although it may need wiring to help support the heavy flowers.

    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Hardiness Zones: 9 - 11
    • Vase...MORE Life: 7 - 14 days
  • 03 of 13

    Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus)

    Carnation Flowers
    Itaru Sugita / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Carnations are one of the longest lasting cut flowers. They are also easy to grow from seed and have a wonderful clove-like fragrance. Although they are most commonly thought of as flowering in white, pink and red, they just keep coming out with new varieties and what colors they can't breed, they simply dye to the shade they want. If you grow your own, you can have cut flowers well into fall.

    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Hardiness Zones: 3 - 10
    • Vase Life: 7 - 21 days
  • 04 of 13

    Chinese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi)

    Chinese Lanterns
    Joshua McCullough / Getty Images

    This relative of tomatillos and ground cherries isn't grown for its poisonous berries, but for the papery, bright orange husk that develops around them. The bright orange seed pods can be used fresh, in arrangements. If allowed to dry, they'll keep for months, maybe years. Chinese lantern can easily be grown from seed. It will self-seed, sometimes quite aggressively.

    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Hardiness Zones:  3 - 9
    • Vase Life: Since you can display Chinese Lantern fresh and...MORE dried, they will last indefinitely. 
    Continue to 5 of 13 below.
  • 05 of 13


    stocknshares / Getty Images

    You can't beat Delphiniums for shades of blue and purple, although they also come in white and pink. They can be difficult to grow because they like cool, moist summers. Too much heat and/or humidity and they will simply fade away. If you can grow your own, cutting the flower stalks as soon as they bloom will encourage the plant to repeat flower. Like Alstroemeria, delphiniums are sensitive to ethylene gas. Don't keep them cool in the refrigerator.

    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Hardiness Zones: 3...MORE - 7
    • Vase Life: 7 - 14 days
  • 06 of 13
    Inamullhak Cm / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Gladiolus are among the most popular summer bulbs to grow. They can reach heights of 4 to 6 ft., with their tall, spiky flower stalks. These are thirsty cuts flowers, so keep an eye on the water level and refill when necessary. You can force unopened buds to open by using warm water in the vase and covering the flowers with a clear plastic bag. Gladiolus are very sensitive to fluoride. If your water is fluoridated, allow it to sit for several hours, before putting your flowers in it.

    • Sun...MORE Exposure: Full sun
    • Hardiness Zones: 6 - 10
    • Vase Life: 7 - 10 days
  • 07 of 13
    Heather Flowers
    gaffera / Getty Images

    Sprays of heather are often used as airy filler, in arrangements, with their long stems of small pink, purple or white flowers. Another option for the vase is the very similar looking heath (Erica sp.) These evergreens are very long-lasting when cut. Don't pack the stems too tightly in the vase, or they will mold.

    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Hardiness Zones: 4 - 6  
    • Vase Life: 1 - 2 weeks
  • 08 of 13
    Lavender Bouquet
    fotografie.opzolder.com / Getty Images

    Lavender is commonly used dry, but it also makes a wonderful fresh cut flower. If you display your fresh lavender without adding water to the vase, it will dry on its own and extend its vase life indefinitely. Lavender's strong fragrance intensifies as it dries. When displaying in water, remove all leaves below the water level, or they will rot.

    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
    • Hardiness Zones: 5 - 9
    • Vase Life: Up to 10 days fresh
    Continue to 9 of 13 below.
  • 09 of 13
    Oriental Lilies
    Maria Mosolova / Getty Images

    You can display any type of lily, but the Oriental lilies have the best fragrance. A bouquet of fresh oriental lilies can perfume an entire room. Choose sprays with a few slightly opened lower buds, to prolong the bloom time in the vase. The stamens can drop pollen on anything that comes near them, causing an orange-yellow stain. Remove the stamens by hand, before displaying your lilies.

    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Hardiness Zones: 4 - 9
    • Vase Life: 7 - 14 days
  • 10 of 13
    Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella)
    Jean-Philippe Vantighem / Getty Images

    Love in a Mist is a cool season annual flower that blooms in shades of blue, pink and white. Each flower is surrounded by a fern-like netting or "mist." The flowers give way to a balloon-like seed pod. Both the flowers and the seed pods make interesting additions to arrangements.

    • Sun Exposure:  Full sun to partial shade
    • Hardiness Zones: Annual
    • Vase Life: 7 - 10 days
  • 11 of 13

    Love Lies Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

    Amaranthus caudatus
    Marie Iannotti

    Most Amaranthus species make long-lasting cut flowers. The long, distinctive, rope-like tassels of Love Lies Bleeding hold their form and red color well. The plants are very easy to grow from seed, reaching 4 ft. or more in height. Love Lies Bleeding can be direct sown or can be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost.

    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Hardiness Zones: Annual
    • Vase Life: 7 - 10 days
  • 12 of 13
    Bouquet of Roses
    jonathansloane / Getty Images

    Roses are the classic cut flower, with well over 100 million being sold each year. There are 20,000 varieties of roses, so they never get boring. Long stem roses are favored by the florist industry, but you can grow and cut any type of rose. Spray roses, with multiple blooms on each stem, make quick, charming bouquets. Crushing the end of the stem, before you put it in the vase, will help it take up more water.

    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Hardiness Zones: Depends on the variety
    • Vase Life: 6 - 12
    Continue to 13 of 13 below.
  • 13 of 13
    LOVE_LIFE / Getty Images

    Homegrown sunflowers spend the early part of the summer growing tall and don't generally bloom until later in the season. You can find them almost any time of year at flower shops because they have been imported. The traditional sunflower has bold, yellow flowers, but there are many new hybrids in shades of red and bronze. sunflowers can be top heavy, so use a vase that can support them.

    • Sun Exposure: Full sun–their flowers will face the direction of the sunlight.
    • Hardiness Zones: Annual
    • Vase...MORE Life: 6 - 12 days