How to Stop Flowers From Wilting for As Long As Possible

How to Stop Flowers From Wilting for As Long As Possible
Photo: Mariia Boiko, Shutterstock

It always warms my heart to receive a bouquet of flowers. This is a frequent occurrence for me, due to my many, many suitors. At the same time, taking care of flowers also brings me a lot of stress. After all, a bouquet of flowers, much like love, is fleeting. The wilt is inevitable — but it doesn’t have to be immediate. When properly cared for, your bouquet can last around seven to 12 days, depending on the types of flowers.

What causes cut flowers to wilt

Wilting occurs when the flowers can’t take in enough water or nutrients. This is why it’s best to get those stems in a vase of water immediately (even if you were picturing them wrapped in plastic when you gift them to your special someone).

What’s more, even after you’ve placed the flowers in plenty of water in a vase, dried up stems or bacteria growth could be preventing proper water uptake.

Cut flowers don’t have the energy to absorb water indefinitely, and they will eventually wilt no matter what. As you’ve probably noticed, the petals wilt first, then the tips of the leaves, followed by the leaves, and finally the stem before the flowers are officially dead. So how to we help them fight that inevitable death (for as long as possible)?

Avoid extreme temperatures

As a rule of (green) thumb, bouquets thrive in cool-to-lukewarm conditions.

When you travel home from the florist, try not to leave your bouquet sitting in the sun or close to any heater vents for too long. Once you’re home, it’s alright to pop the bouquet in the refrigerator while you find a vase — just make sure you place them away from the fan or vent where the cold air enters your fridge.

Likewise, the water in your vase should be lukewarm. According to Teleflora Blog, most flowers take in warm water more efficiently than cold (exceptions include bulb flowers and lilacs).

Display your vase in a cool, shady spot. Don’t place the vase in direct sunlight or right in front of a heater or air conditioner.

Cut (and re-cut) the stems properly

The way you cut a flower’s stem can set it up for success or doom it to an early death. Here are the elements of an ideal flower cut:

  • Cut about 1 to 1.5 inches off each stem.
  • Try to cut at a 45 degrees angle to maximise the amount of water the stems can drink up (per the Piedmont Master Gardeners).
  • Always use a sharp knife or scissors to get a clean cut.
  • Recut the stems every two to three days, or whenever you change the water.
  • If you’re cutting flowers from your own garden, do so during a cool time of day, like early morning or evening.

And if you’re cutting flowers yourself, remember to have a container of lukewarm water ready to place them in immediately.

Keep clean conditions

Before placing your bouquet in its new home, make sure the vase is clean. Rinse it thoroughly and make sure it’s free of any soap residue.

The longer the water stays in the vase, the more it attracts bacteria that can block your bouquet’s water uptake. Change the water often, at least once every few days or every other day.

Pristine conditions also includes pruning your flowers. Check your bouquet daily for any dead or dry leaves and remove all the foliage below the water line to prevent premature decay.

Feed your flowers

If you bought flowers from a florist, they should come with a commercial preservative that is specifically formulated for cut flowers. The flower food contains nutrients and pH balancers to help your bouquet live as long as possible. If you haven’t purchased flower food packets, here’s a DIY recipe from food52: Mix 1 quart water, 1 teaspoon bleach, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sugar. This concoction is most helpful in the early days of your bouquet’s vase life.

Finally: Your bananas cause your bouquet to age faster

Seriously. Remember to keep your flowers away from your fruit bowl — unless, of course, your fresh flowers are nothing more than a hack to get your bananas to ripen faster. But if you’re trying to keep your bouquet alive as long as you can, display your vase away from your fruit.

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