How to Keep Cut Tulips Fresh for Over a Week, According to Pros

how to make cut tulips last a long time

Tessa Cooper

Tulips are hardy flowers. These blooms can tolerate finicky early spring weather, so it's no wonder that they can thrive for days in a vase of water with fairly little maintenance, and even longer with a little TLC. Charity Bennitt, founder and lead floral designer of He Loves Me Flowers, notes that about one week is a pretty realistic length of time to expect your cut tulips to stay alive. But if you're able to give them a few minutes of attention each day, you can spend even more time adoring them. 

Rachel Parker, owner of Found Farm, grows and sells tulips. While she only vends freshly harvested tulips, she's able to keep bouquets alive for about 10 days when she follows her own advice. "Flowers, just like most plants, need just a little care to thrive and last," she says. 

Here are Bennitt and Parker's trade secrets to extend the life span of a tulip bouquet.

Pick Out a Bouquet That Hasn't Fully Bloomed Yet

One key to ending up with long-lasting tulips is to pick out ones that haven't entirely opened. "It's counterintuitive since flowers that are more open are so eye-catching, but the best stage to get your tulips is when they are mostly closed," Parker says. "Part of the beauty of tulips is watching them open and change — you witness the whole life of the flower on your kitchen table." 

She notes that buying locally grown tulips is also helpful. Local flower farmers typically harvest their tulips within a few hours to a few days of selling time. So, a farmer's market bouquet is less likely to have spent days aging on a delivery truck. 

Remove Any Leaves Below the Water Line

Once you arrive home with your stems, you'll want to get them in water as soon as possible. But don't rush in — first, you need to remove any leaves that will make contact with the water line. "Leaves that are left in the water can rot and promote the growth of bacteria, thus shortening the tulip’s life," Bennitt says.

Cut the Stems at an Angle

While you've probably already heard this tip for flowers in general, Bennitt explains why it's a good one. "You should cut them at an angle because that will allow for more surface area at the bottom of the stems to soak up water, resulting in a more hydrated flower," she says. She suggests cutting the stems on the tulips about half an inch every day if you are really trying to extend their life. 

Keep Your Vase and Water Clean

When it comes to preserving your tulips, the key lies in clean water. "Bacteria causes spoilage of flowers the same way it does with food," Parker says. 

Bennitt suggests changing the water every day. "Some people will say you can change the water every other day or every three days, but even after two days things will start to get murky," she says. She also adds to make sure you are using a clean vessel from the start. If you notice any residue from bouquets past or any new build-up, give the vase a quick wash with soap and water. 

Fresh cut tulips on a kitchen table

Tessa Cooper

Add Some Flower Food

Depending on who you purchase your tulips from, they may come with one or two flower food packets. This water add-in serves a dual purpose—To provide the flowers with nutrients and to keep the water clean. However, there's a good chance you've been using flower food wrong. Rather than dumping the whole packet in the vase at once, just add a small amount each time you change the water. Charity recommends using ¼ to ½ of the packet for a large vase. 

If your tulips didn't come with any food, Parker has a tip you can use. "In a pinch, a drop of bleach in your vase will keep your water clean," she says. "This is a trick flower farmers use to keep flowers fresh." You can also make your own flower food using a combination of sugar, bleach, citrus juice and water. 

Be Strategic About Where You Place Them

Where you choose to display your colorful tulips during the day and at night also impacts their lifespan. To avoid their early demise, keep them away from direct sunlight. "Flowers age in the heat, so that warm sunny window isn't the best place to leave your flowers," Parker says. 

Before you go to sleep, Bennitt recommends putting your bouquet in a cool and dark place, which will encourage them to enter a dormant state rather than blossom overnight. Her go-to spot for storing them is her garage on cool nights when the temperature in there ranges from 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you don't have a garage or the weather is too warm, you can store them in your fridge. "Just make sure they’re away from fresh fruit such as apples, bananas, avocados, cantaloupe, tomatoes or pears," she says. "These produce the gas ethylene, which causes fresh things like produce and flowers to ripen faster." This also means on your kitchen counter next to your fruit bowl isn't the ideal placement for long-lasting tulips either.