How to get the most life from your fresh flowers

Fresh fragrant flowers come in a variety of colors and sizes. Given the right care, flowers can stay fresh for a week and a half or more after being cut. To keep your flowers from wilting, be sure to change their water every few days, use a very clean vase and keep them in a cool spot. See Step 1 to learn more about how to keep roses fresh.

Buy cut flowers from a florist you trust. If you're not cutting your own flowers, try to buy them from a well-reputed florist, preferably one with whom you have a relationship. That way you'll be able to get your hands on flowers that were very recently cut, rather than flowers that may have been sitting there for a week.

  • Ask the florist which flowers arrived that very morning, and try to select the very freshest roses possible.
  • Choose flowers from the refrigeration unit, since roses that are kept cool last longer than those that have been sitting out at room temperature.

Squeeze the flowers where the petals meet the stem. This is a sure way to tell whether flowers are still fresh. When you're examining flowers before making your purchase, gently squeeze them at their base, where the petals come together at the stem. If it feels loose and squishy, the flowers are old, and you should avoid them. If it feels firm and taut, the roses are fresh.

Inspect the flowers for bruised or broken petals. Look for flowers with well-formed, colorful petals. Examine the tips of the petals to make sure they aren't bruised or brown. When you bring the flowers home, you can remove a few outer petals that have been damaged, but there's not much you can do to improve the appearance of damaged tips on the inner petals. Intact petals are more attractive and will stay fresh longer than bruised ones.

Keep them in water on the way home. If the flowers are out of water even for a few minutes, they'll suffer for it, and they won't stay fresh as long. When you go to the flower shop, you might want to bring along a bucket filled with a few inches of water so you'll have a place to keep the flowers watered when you take them home. If you don't have a bucket, ask the florist to package them with water.

Trim the stems underwater. Trimming the stems underwater helps to keep them fresh by preventing air from entering the bottom of the stems. When air gets in, it immediately starts to cause flowers to deteriorate, the same way it turns apples and avocados brown and mushy. You can trim the stems under running water or submerge them in water to do the trimming.

Use a knife or hand pruners. A sharp knife or a pair of sharp hand pruners are the best tools to use to cut rose stems. Using a standard pair of scissors squeezes the stems, which can prevent them from taking in water as effectively and cause them to die more quickly. Cut off 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) to 1 inch (2.5 cm) of length from the bottom of the stems, or more if you're arranging them in a short vase.

  • Cut the stems at a 45 degree angle, which enables them to take in water more easily.
  • Make sure the cutting tool you use is extremely clean. Hand pruners should be cleaned with hot, soapy water or a mild bleach solution after every use, since bacteria can remain on the pruners and affect the next flowers you cut.

Remove leaves from the stems. The portion of the stems that will be submerged in water should be completely free of leaves. This is because leaves left underwater will start to rot, causing bacteria to accumulate in the vase and making the flowers die a lot more quickly. You can leave a few leaves attached toward the top of the stems, but remove anything that would be underwater in the vase.

Keep trimming them every few days. Trimming the stems every couple of days will help the roses take in water more effectively, since after awhile the tips of the stems will become a little mushy and damaged. Use the same technique you used to trim them in the first place, making sure your tools are clean and cutting underwater at a 45 degree angle.

Use a sparkling clean vase. If you simply rinse your vases between uses, bacteria can live inside the vases and damage your fresh flowers. Clean the vase you plan to use with hot, soapy water, making sure to scrub the inside with a bottle brush. Rinse it thoroughly before proceeding.

Fill it with fresh water. Fresh flowers take in a lot of water after they're cut. Fill the vase 3/4 full with fresh, cool water from the tap, then arrange the flowers in the vase so that the stems are within an inch of the bottom of the vase. This way they'll be able the reach the water they need to stay fresh.

  • Consider adding some flower food to the water. Commercial flower food will provide nutrients the roses need to stay fresh for a longer period of time. Ask for a few packets of flower food when you buy roses at the flower shop.
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon of bleach per quart of water. This keeps the bacteria level low. Just be sure not to add too much bleach to the water, or the roses will be damaged.
  • Adding a penny or an aspirin tablet to the water is also said to help control the bacteria levels.

Change the water every few days. Every two days or so, change the water to ensure that bacterial growth doesn't damage your flowers. Fill the vase with fresh water, more flower food and the right amount of bleach. Trim the stems of your flowers and arrange them in the vase once more.

Keep the flowers cool. Fresh flowers will stay fresh for many days if you keep them in a cool spot in the house. Avoid placing them near sunny windows or in rooms that tend to be on the warmer side. You can even store your flowers in the refrigerator overnight to keep them cool while you sleep, then set them back out on the table during the day.