Proper care can help your cut flowers last


It’s lovely to give and receive cut flowers. They are one of the most popular gifts for Valentine’s Day.

This day was celebrated extensively during the Victorian era when people conveyed their feelings through the different meanings of flowers, cutting them from gardens and presenting them to friends and loved ones.

Prolong the life of your cut flowers and foliage by considering these tips:

Use warm water, bath water temperature. Although the warm water is better than cold, some flowers are not fussy and will take up cold water readily.

The water should be half the depth of the entire stem length.

Use a floral preservative in the water to prevent bacteria; pre-purchased flowers will usually contain a small envelope containing a preservative. Bacteria can attach to the cut ends of the stems, plugging up conducting tissues which can prevent water from entering. This condition is the most frequent cause for short flower life.

Recut stems at an angle. Remove 1 or 2 inches with a sharp knife or shears; do this under running warm water if possible. Then immediately place the stem into the container before the stem end dries.

When re-cutting the stems, remove any leaves that will be submerge in the water.

Keep blooms dry and out of the water.

Store vases/containers of cut flowers in a cool spot, free from drafts.

Water quality can affect flower life. Both hard water and/or water that has been treated with a water-softener are not good for keeping flowers fresh.

Water comes in through the cut end of the stem. Therefore, this surface has to keep functioning in order to maximize water intake. You may have to re-cut stems from time to time to be sure water is coming into the stem. Don’t forget to remove any leaves that will be in the water as you re-cut.

Special tips for cut roses

The rose is one of the favorite cut flowers. However, sometimes they can be difficult to keep usually because they are cut too “tight”, allowed to open too much, or because they fail to take up water.

If you are buying cut roses, the outer one or two petals should be loose, with the sepals turned down around the stem. The flowers should have a rich, fresh color and a crisp feel. Avoid buying old or immature roses. Old roses will have many loose petals, little bud left in the center, a dull/faded look, a soft flabby feel and water-soaked foliage. These roses will open too quickly and be short-lived. Immature roses will have no petals loosened, the bud will feel hard, and the sepals are too tight against the bud. Immature roses may never open.

If you receive boxed roses as a gift, follow the general tips for cut flowers. You will definitely want to recut the stems, submerge in warm water, and remove any foliage that will remain in water.

If you decide to arrange them in floral foam, soak the foam in water first. If your roses arrived in a water-filled container, be sure to check the water level regularly. Fill to the brim with water.

Your arrangements should be displayed in a cooler location; avoid drafts, heat sources, or direct sun.

Cut flowers are not just for Valentine’s Day. Nothing can be more cheerful than a container of fresh flowers!

For more information on plants and gardening, visit the Cornell Cooperative Extension website at

You can also call the Horticultural Hotline with your garden questions at 315-736-3394, 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays and Fridays.


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