Bringing fresh cut flowers home or receiving them as a gift never fails to brighten up your day, but there's no way to know how long they'll last. Sometimes you only get a few days with your perky bouquet before it starts to wilt, while other bunches may last up to a week. There are a ton of tips and tricks out there on the internet, but what really works? The Spruce team tested five different methods to find out how to keep flowers fresh the longest—watch the video below to check out our findings.
We placed five bunches of roses in five separate vases and added the same amount of water to each. Next, we added a method to four of the five vases, leaving one bunch of roses in plain tap water to serve as the control. We placed the vases in a location with lots of light, and filmed a timelapse over the course of one week to measure how each method held up against time, and against each other.
How to Keep Your Flowers Fresh (We Tested ALL the Methods!)
We trawled the internet looking for popular methods of keeping bouquets fresh and found a number of options. We whittled down our list to the four methods that are searched for the most often.
Water: Our Control
Reaching back to memories of our sixth grade science class, we knew our test should have a control to compare each of our variables (our different methods) to. Besides, cut flowers have been thriving for ages in plain water and sometimes the simplest ways are the best.
Flower Food Packet
The packet you receive in your bouquet is not just there for show. It is specifically designed to preserve the vitality of your flowers. Flower food is made up of just three ingredients: citric acid, sugar, and bleach. The citric acid lowers the pH of the water, which makes it more habitable for flowers. Flowers produce sugar, their food source, during photosynthesis, so when they're cut, and their leaves removed, they produce far less sugar. Adding sugar to the mix helps the flowers feel like they're eating food (hence the name "flower food"). Finally, the bleach helps disinfect the water and rid it of any harmful bacteria that may compromise the health of the bouquet.
Aspirin lowers the pH of the water, which can help flowers live longer. Through our research, we found the most common recommendation was to crush a single 500-mg aspirin so it absorbs more quickly. You do this by using a mortar and pestle, or placing the aspirin into a sealed baggie and crushing it with a flat-bottomed, heavy object (bottle of wine, coffee table book, etc).
While we assumed adding alcohol to our flowers would kill them instantly, we were surprised to find that vodka inhibits the flowers' production of ethylene, which helps them mature and, eventually, wilt and die. A few online resources also noted that vodka can function as the bleach in flower food does by eliminating the bacteria in the water, which could inhibit the flowers' longevity.
Sexual Performance Enhancer
Possibly the most shocking method on the list, our last variable was a common sexual performance enhancer. We're not exactly sure how or why this method became popular (prescriptions are expensive people!) but we discovered that your average SPE contains nitric oxide, which can slow down the aging process of plants and flowers and thus, help them to live longer. Crush the little blue pill (or white pill, if you're going the generic route) with a mortar and pestle, for the ultimate effect.
After running the timelapse for one week, the results were clear. The flowers with the flower food packet were still standing straight up, and their petals felt silky and hydrated, as if they were bought just a day or so ago. All the rest of the flower bunches were significantly slumped over compared to the vase with the flower packet, though the vase with aspirin was doing slightly better than the others. That said, the stems on the flowers that soaked in that aspirin had turned dark and dry, almost as if they were rotting away.
The vases with water and vodka tied for fourth place, though the flowers that were exposed to the vodka were significantly silkier than any of the four runners-up. Finally, perhaps too ironically, the sexual performance enhancer was the big loser of the week—despite the presence of the SPE the flowers drooped over and dried out faster than any other bunch.
The Bottom Line
Next time you buy or are gifted a bouquet, don't throw that flower food packet away! Add it to your water to keep your flowers looking fresh all week long. If you didn't happen to get a flower food packet with your blooms, don't worry—you can make your own flower food at home using just a few simple ingredients.