Selecting and Caring for Cut Flowers

Making a Gift of Flowers Last

Buckets of Flowers
Photo: 5demayo

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 - hopefully you.

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 have trouble keeping their cut flowers fresh and blooming indoors.

A lot 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.

What to Look for When Selecting Cut Flowers - Clean and Healthy

  • 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

Caring for Your Cut 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

Good Choices for Long Lasting Cut Flowers

  • Alstroemerias (6-14 days) Very popular, even though most people wouldn&'t know them by name. However, they are sensitive to fluoride in water and ethylene gas. Keep away from produce.


  • Amaranthus caudatus (Love Lies Bleeding) (7-10 days) As with most Amaranthus species, the long rope-like tassels of Love Lies Bleeding hold their form and color well.


  • Carnations (7-14 days) Carnations are extremely dependable. They just keep coming out with new varieties and what colors they can't breed, they simply dye.


  • Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) (Indefinitely) The bright orange seed pods can be used fresh, in arrangements. If allowed to dry, they'll keep for months, maybe years.


  • Delphiniums (7-14 days) You can't beat Delphiniums for shades of blue and purple. Like Alstroemeria, these are sensitive to ethylene gas.


  • Erica spp. (Heather, Heath) (1-2 weeks) Sprays are often used as filler, in arrangements. Don't squeeze them in too tightly or they will mold.


  • Gladiolus (7-10 days) Very sensitive to floride. These are thirsty flowers, so watch the water level. You can force buds to open by using warm water in the vase and covering the flowers with a clear plastic bag.


  • Lavender (up to 10 days) Remove all leaves below the water level. Lavender can be displayed without water and allowed to dry. It keeps its fragrance when dry.


  • Lilies (7-14 days) Choose sprays with a few slightly opened lower buds. Remove the anthers to prevent pollen from coming in contact with clothing and staining.


  • Nigella damascena (Love in a Mist) (7-10 days) Both the flowers and the seed pods make interesting additions to arrangements.


  • Roses (6-12 days) The classic. And with over 20,000 varieties, they never get boring.


  • Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise) (7-14 days) A distinctive, tropical flower, Bird of Paradise needs temperature about 45 F. The stems may need wiring, to help support the heavy flowers.


  • Sunflowers (6-12 days) Generally available in late summer. Sunflowers can be top heavy, so use a vase that can support them.