If you have recently purchased cut flowers or are planning to purchase some, you are likely wondering how to properly care for them. One common question is how long do flowers last without water?
Without water, most cut flowers will die in only a day or two. You can extend this time frame by wrapping the stems of the flowers in damp paper towels, but the best way to get the most from your flowers is by giving them the care they crave.
Preventing Dry Out
If you have flowers you have picked or purchased to give as a gift and you need to keep them for a few days before placing them in water there are a few things you can do to preserve your flower’s life.
Keep Them in the Fridge
If you need to temporarily hold flowers before a big event or before giving them as a gift, keeping them in the fridge is a viable option. Most florist’s fridges are between 34-40 degrees Fahrenheit, so adjust your fridge to be as close to those temperatures as possible.
Be sure to remove any fruit and vegetables from the fridge before storing the flowers. Fruits and vegetables release a gas called ethylene that can be harmful to cut flowers, so if you don’t remove them before adding the flowers it can actually do more harm than just leaving them on the counter would.
Wrap the Stems
If you can’t make putting them in the fridge work, you can also trim the stems back about an inch and then wrap them in wet paper towels. You will need to change the paper towels 2-3 times per day for the best effect, but this can extend their lives.
If avoiding a vase is important to you, there are other options. Many florists and online plant stores carry small plastic tubes called floral tubes. These are designed to hold a small amount of water and one single stem.
Utilizing these, you could put one on each stem of your bouquet and lengthen its lifespan significantly. You would still need to use plant food and follow the other care guidelines outlined below, but these are definitely less bulky and more spillproof than a vase.
Caring for Cut Flowers
Wash the Vase
Washing the vase well before using it can remove any dust, dirt, or debris from the container. This will help keep the water from becoming dirty and will help prevent lingering bacteria from growing on your stem plants.
Trim the Stems
When you bring home flowers, the first thing you want to do is trim the stems. Since plants absorb water through their stem, it’s important that they are able to optimize their rate of absorption. Stems that have been out of water for any prolonged period of time will start to callous and will no longer absorb the water they need at a good rate.
Trimming the stems at an angle will both allow the calloused part to be removed and doing it at an angle will allow the stems to rest unevenly in the vase, allowing for optimum water flow.
It’s recommended that when you trim you take a minimum of an inch at a time. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears as standard scissors can damage the stems.
Add Plant Food
Commercial flower food is available in most stores that sell flowers, but you can also order it online. This food is specially formulated to protect the stems of the flowers from bacteria and provide the nutrients the flower needs to stay healthy and flourishing for as long as possible.
Most flower bouquets will come with a small package of plant food, but if you like to enjoy cut flowers regularly, it’s a good idea to always have some on hand.
Trim the Leaves
Before placing your flowers in water you will want to remove any leaves that will fall below the water line, or that aren’t necessary for the aesthetics of the arrangement.
Leaves don’t need quite as much energy as flowers, but they will be using some of the energy stored in the stem, so the fewer leaves the longer your flowers will last. Leaves in the water are also prone to rotting and causing fungal and bacterial issues for the stems.
When filling your vase, it’s best to use warm spring water. Tap water can work, but fluoride often found in tap water can be harmful to cut flowers. Warm water allows for better absorption by the stem, so it’s best if you can use that the first time you put your cut flowers into their vase.
You will want to change the water every 1-2 days and add plant food each time. Cut back the stems again roughly every 2-3 water changes. This will keep your flowers fresh longer.
If you’ve gotten all the enjoyment from your flowers that you can, or if you left them out of water too long and they are past the point of perking back up.
Drying them can be a fun way to get even more enjoyment from them. Many people use dried flowers for crafts, decor, and making potpourri.
To dry flowers, you will want to hang them upside down in a dark, well-ventilated, dry environment. It will take roughly 2-3 weeks for them to completely dry out, but once they are dried they make the perfect water-free bouquet and can last as a centrepiece on your mantle or kitchen table indefinitely.