How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer

Fresh-cut flowers will last longer if you know a few tricks ... and know which tricks really work. Bronwyn Photo/Shutterstock

Isn't getting flowers wonderful? That is, until you have to clean out the moldy, smelly vase a week later.

Fear not, flower lovers. Here are some handy tricks for you to keep cut flowers lasting longer than ever:

What works

Sugar. Did you know that just by adding a couple teaspoons of sugar to the water in your flowers' vase, you can extend their life? It may be because sugar gives the flowers nutrients that they're not getting now that they're no longer in the ground.

Vinegar. Some people say vinegar inhibits bacteria growth and the ideal thing to keep the bacteria away is to actually mix some sugar and vinegar together with the water in the vase before adding the flowers. The one-two punch of the sugar and the vinegar is an effective life-extending combo.

Clear soda. Something like 7-Up or Sprite will help keep your flowers lasting longer without turning the color of your water a murky brown. The science behind it? The sugar in the soda helps feed the flowers and the acidity helps lower the pH of the water, allowing the flowers to suck up more nutrients.

Vodka. Because of a chemical known as ethylene (the chemical also responsible for bananas browning and avocados softening), flowers bloom and eventually wilt. Vodka works because it slows the flowers' natural production of ethylene.

Flower food. If you've ever thrown away a packet that comes with your stems, you're doing your bouquet a disservice. A packet of flower food contains sugar to feed the flowers, bleach or something like it to keep bacteria from growing, and acid to lower the pH of the water so that the flowers can eat more effectively. When Real Simple magazine compared lots of different ways to keep flowers fresher for longer, flower food was the clear winner.

What's not such a sure bet

wilted flowers in a vase
Remember, your flowers can last longer if you know what (and what not) to put in the vase with them. BonnieBC/Shutterstock

On the flip side are tricks that some people swear by, but don't work all that well:

Pennies. Some people say adding a couple pennies to the bottom of your vase will help your flowers last longer because the copper in the pennies inhibits bacteria growth. The problem is that these days, pennies are made of mostly zinc. Besides that, the copper inside a penny isn't soluble, meaning it won't transfer from the penny to the flowers.

Aspirin. Another trick that some people swear by is adding aspirin to the water. However, Real Simple's tests showed that it not only didn't help the flowers, it actually caused them to die more quickly.

Bleach. Some people also say that adding bleach to the water helps flowers last longer. The trick though is not adding too much — a couple of drops can help bacteria from growing in the vase, but more than that will bleach your stems a sickly white.

Other cut-flower basics

flowers in a vase
Big, heavy blooms should be cut short and put in a low vase where they can support each other. Fusionstudio/Shutterstock

It's also important to start with the right vase for the flowers you have, points out Business Insider. Big, heavy blooms should be put in a low vase where they can support each other's weight when they open up and have room to spread out. Just cut the long stems. Lighter, delicate flowers blossom in tall vases. Don't overcrowd your flowers. If you find that your jamming too many stems together, spread them into several vases.

Trim your bouquet at a 45-degree angle right before you place it in water since that will help the bottom of the plants suck up the most water. Use garden shears, kitchen scissors or a sharp knife and trim the stems every couple of days.

Be sure to keep your bouquet in a cool place away from direct sunlight and ripening fruit, which will cause them to bloom faster. Also, make sure there are no leaves floating in the water, which will grow bacteria and remove any flowers or leaves as they wilt.

And finally, change the water every other day and clean the vase to keep the flowers fresh.

Follow these tips (and don't forget to add the flower food!) to get your stems from "wilting within days" to "wonderful for a week."