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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Extend the vase life of your fresh flowers with a little care

Yellow, orange, white and pink flowers

The delicate act of arranging fresh flowers is a joyful art.

Each bloom and sprig of foliage receives special consideration when creating an arrangement as beautiful and unique as the recipient. Local florists are already hastily preparing arrangements for the upcoming Valentine’s Day rush. Aside from Mother’s Day, this is the most popular day for gifting fresh flowers. Completed arrangements sold in a vase are attractive and convenient, but sometimes over budget. Invest a little less money but more thought this season by purchasing a pre-bundled bouquet. Artfully arrange it at home and your loved one will truly receive a one-of-a-kind gift.  

Pre-bundled flower bouquets are available to purchase from a local florist or store. To arrange flowers, reuse a vase from home or pick out a beautiful, inexpensive option at a local thrift store.  

Prepare the Vase

Start with a clean vase that is tall enough for the height of the flowers and the vase opening is large enough for the bundle of flowers. Fill the vase with 3 parts cool water to 1 part lemon-lime soft drink. Lemon-lime soft drink provides food (sugar) for the flowers and lowers the pH of the water (citric acid in soda). The addition of bleach (1 tablespoon per gallon of water) is also helpful to kill any bacteria.  

Prepare the Flowers

The stems of your flower bouquet should receive fresh cuts before arranging your flowers. Always cut stems underwater to prevent any air bubbles from entering the stem. Bubbles in the stem reduce water uptake in the flower. To cut stems, fill a tub or bowl with water and cut off at least 1 inch of the stem, or more to fit in the vase, with sharp pruners. The flowers should be about 1.5 times the height of the vase. Remove foliage on the stems which would sit below the vase waterline. This foliage quickly decays and can cause bacteria to grow.  

Flower Arrangement Care

Not all fresh flowers are created equal in terms of vase life. Some flowers, like carnations or mums, last two weeks in a vase. Delicate flowers, like gerbera daisies or roses, last less than a week in a vase. Maximize their vase life with proper care:  

  • Place fresh floral arrangements in a cool, bright spot, away from direct sun or heat sources.  
  • Change the water in the vase every two to three days, or when it becomes cloudy. Continue adding the soda or bleach mixture. 
  • Remove any yellowing leaves and wilting flowers daily as these could potentially spread bacteria to other blooms.  
  • For maximum longevity, remove flowers from the arrangement when the blooms fade, then move healthy blooms to a smaller arrangement. 

Even though it would be nice to passively enjoy the beauty of an arrangement, the simple daily tasks will allow you to enjoy your fresh blooms longer. 

Short-lived arrangements are one of many ways to bring the joy of plants to loved ones, but for a passionate green thumb, consider gifting a flowering houseplant as a long-lasting token of your love. With a little care and maintenance, these plants can thrive in a home or office and rebloom many times. A bonus to gifting these indoor plants, they can be moved outdoors to a garden or patio container once warmer temperatures arrive. Popular blooming houseplants include calla lilies, cyclamen, miniature roses, and orchids. 

ABOUT THE AUTHORBrittnay Haag is a Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Her work focuses on youth horticulture education, specifically through school gardens and Jr. Master Gardener programs. Brittnay provides leadership for three county Master Gardener programs and is responsible for developing community programs and providing expertise in horticulture and environmental sciences.