9 Tips for Beautiful, Long Lasting Floral Arrangements

Variety of flowers laid on wooden surface for bouquet arrangement

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Have you ever reached for a fresh bouquet at the market, only to draw your hand back as you envision premature wilting? A fresh flower bouquet may not last as long as a live flowering plant, but you can double or even triple the life of your floral arrangement by following these nine longevity tips.


How to Keep Your Flowers Fresh (We Tested ALL the Methods!)

Choose the Longest Lasting Flower Varieties

When it comes to life in the vase, not all flower types were created equal. The issue gets more confusing as some flowers that have a long blooming time in the garden are not necessarily good candidates for a long vase life. Among popular cut flowers, some of the longest lasting include alstroemerias, carnations, chrysanthemums, orchids, and zinnias. Some cut flower favorites with a shorter shelf life include dahlias, gladiolus, and sunflowers. When choosing flowers with a shorter vase life, get the most days possible by growing and cutting your own blooms, or by choosing a florist that sources local blooms whenever possible.

Use Floral Preservative

Whether you pick up a simple mixed bouquet at your grocery store, or a premium rose arrangement from your downtown flower market, you should receive a packet of floral preservative to add to the water. This substance isn’t just provided to make the customer feel like he’s getting his money’s worth; it adds value to the arrangement by prolonging the blooms by up to twice their normal lifespan.

A biocide in the preservative will kill bacteria or fungi that can infect flowers with botrytis. The sucrose in the preservative acts as a source of nourishing carbohydrates for flowers kept away from energy-providing sunlight. An acidic additive will mimic the pH of the plant sap, stabilizing the brilliant color of your blooms. Finally, respiratory inhibitors will slow down the natural aging process of the flowers.

Many recipes for homemade floral preservatives are out there, but they aren’t always as effective as commercial preservatives, and sometimes not even as cost effective. If you have a cutting garden for your bouquets, or you visit a local u-pick flower farm, buy floral preservative in bulk from your local craft store. In a pinch, a teaspoon of bleach is better than nothing in the water to act as a biocide.

Floral preservative dropped in vase with water by spoon
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Remove Foliage

Stripping leaves seems like a laborious step in the bouquet preparation. After all, who will notice a few leaves tucked away in a vase? However, once these leaves are submerged underwater, they will act as a Petri dish for all the nasty microbes you want to keep out of your flower arrangement. If you favor roses harvested from the garden, invest in a thorn and leaf stripper to prevent painful pricks.

Condition Flowers

Proper flower conditioning will ensure that your stems fill up with water, not air, prolonging the life and fresh appearance of the blooms. The most important aspect of conditioning is to cut the stems underwater. This prevents air from entering the new cut. Use warm water to facilitate hydration. Now you can quickly transfer your flowers to the prepared vase.

Change Water

Even with the use of floral preservatives, the water in a flower arrangement can get slimy after a few days. Keep the fungi count down by changing the water in the vase every other day. While you’re at it, remove any faded flowers that are decreasing the water quality. Don’t forget to add your floral preservative to the fresh water.

Beware Flower Combinations

The sap of some flowers can cause a reaction in other flowers that will lead to a shorter vase life, spoiling your arrangement. If you purchase conditioned flowers from the florist you don’t need to worry about this, as the sap flow will have ceased, but fresh flowers from the garden can be a problem for the first several hours after harvest. In particular, the sap of daffodils can damage other flowers in the vase. After conditioning, keep your daffodils separate from other flowers overnight to ensure that the fresh sap won’t affect your arrangement.

Wildflowers and roses arranged together for bouquet
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Avoid Ethylene

A rotten apple will spoil the bunch, as they say, but the ethylene gas emitted by ripening fruits can also harm your fresh cut flowers. This hormone acts on flowers by triggering aging in plant tissues, which you will see as wilting and browning of your blooms, as well as the shedding of petals. Even if your flowers are in an office, far from fresh produce, there are other sources of ethylene in the environment, including cigarette smoke and car exhaust. Another great reason to stop smoking!

Respect Gravity

You picked up your bouquet before the dinner party, and placed it in the refrigerator for safekeeping while you run errands. Now it’s time for the guests to arrive, and you prepare to arrange your flowers, only to discover that the flowers are bent curiously upward on their stems, as if straining toward the heavens. You place the flowers in the vase, where they remain cocked sideways until the party is half over. What happened? Some flowers, like snapdragons and gladioli, are geotropic, meaning they always attempt to grow upward. Prevent this by keeping your flowers in an upright position.

Bouquet of assorted flowers placed in vase of water
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Consider the Light

Your bouquet would look lovely in the kitchen window, if you were a bird admiring the arrangement from the outside. The flowers always seem to be straining toward the window, away from your view. This tendency to bend toward the light is called phototropism, and tulips and sunflowers are the most common cut flowers that exhibit this behavior. Keep arrangements with these flowers away from strong sources of light to maintain the uniform lines of the bouquet.