Watertown Urban Mission Community Garden


Oakfield Corners Dairy
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Dear Aggie

I received some beautiful flowers for Valentine’s Day. How can I make them last?

Extending the life of flowers can be very simple. Typically, the vase life is between seven and ten days though this can depend on the type of flowers that you receive, the care of them (both during shipment and at home), and how long it has been since they were cut. Most distributors and flower shops do a great job caring for your flowers before you receive them, helping to ensure long life. You may wonder what you should feed the flowers, how to keep the water clean, how to cut the stems, and where to place your vase. Here are some basic steps that you can take to keep your flowers fresh.

When you take your flowers home, there are usually packets of powdered floral food with them.If not, the florist may have already added the food to water in the vase. If you need to add the packet to the water, follow the instructions on the label.In general, you should dissolve the food in fresh water before you place the flowers in the vase. If you didn’t receive a food packet, you can make your own. The main ingredients in floral food are sugar, citric acid, and a biocide.

Water uptake by the flowers is essential to long vase life. The flowers need to be in water as soon as possible and it has to be changed every 2-3 days. Bacteria in dirty water diminishes the stem’s ability to absorb and transport water in the vase up to the flower. Changing the water consistently gives your flowers a better chance to receive water by reducing bacterial concentrations.

The stems of the flowers will need to be cut before you place them in water. Always trim about 1” off the bottom of the stem at a 45-degree angle. A fresh cut better allows the stem to uptake water. Additionally, it is best to remove any foliage that will be submerged in water when you place your stems in the vase. This can reduce rotting and bacterial concentrations, keeping the water clean for a longer period.

Placing your flowers in the appropriate location can prolong the vase life. Try not to place the flowers in direct sunlight or near any heating vents or air conditioning. Flowers prefer a cool, dark place without a draft nearby.This ideal location in your home can prevent premature wilting.

Along with knowing the basic steps, there are extra tips that can prolong the vase life too. Choosing the right vase for your flowers can give appropriate space for the stems without crowding while still keeping the flowers stable. It is best not to combine daffodils with other flowers because their sticky sap can clog the stems of other flowers, causing premature wilting. You can also remove the pollen from flowers like lilies to prevent them from staining.

When you bring your flowers home, it’s always good to take care of them. Not only do flowers brighten your day, but it can add décor to your home. If you have questions about your flowers, feel free to contact our horticulture staff at 315-788-8450 or Cierra Williams at clw247@cornell.edu. 

Last updated February 12, 2024