Here's What to Do With Those Fresh-Cut Flowers as Soon as You Get Home

Simple tips, like cutting at an angle, will help your flowers look fresh and last longer.

Some blooms require a little TLC to remain in tip-top shape. Popular flowers, such as hydrangeas, roses, tulips, and lilies all benefit from some extra attention to help them look their best. Simple steps, such as hydrating the blooms before arranging a bouquet or providing support to flowers that tend to droop, can make all the difference. Below, learn floral experts' general tips for trimming your flowers for a vase and then follow Calvert Crary's advice, per the book Flower School: A Practical Guide to the Art of Flower Arranging, on what to do with specific flower varieties.

How to trim fresh flowers for a vase

If you've just gotten home with a fresh bouquet of flowers from the store or your own garden, you're probably eager to put them on display right away. However, taking a few simple steps now can extend the life of your flowers later. To start, Christina Stembel, founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, a national flower delivery company, says an important first step is to make sure that everything you use is squeaky-clean. "Start off by giving everything, from your clippers to the vase, a good wash with warm, soapy water," she says, explaining that bacteria and debris from prior arrangements can affect the life of your new flowers.

Then, Megan Vejby, floral designer for Scotts Flowers, recommends cutting or plucking off any leaves that will be below the water line in your vase, since they can contaminate the water with more bacteria. To cut the stems, Vejby and Stembel both recommend doing so at a 45-degree angle. "Cutting each stem at an angle not only maximizes the surface area through which your flowers can hydrate, but it also prevents the stem from sitting flush with the bottom of the vase," Stembel says. "This can create a seal which blocks your flowers from getting enough water."

Cut stems should be placed into a vase (filled with cool to room temperature water) as soon as possible. "Exposure to the air causes a reaction to begin to seal off the stem," Stembel explains. "Trim each stem a few seconds before placing to make sure the stems are able to take in water efficiently."

The height of your stems in proportion to your vase is mostly up to your own preferences, but a general rule is to cut flowers to be at about 1.5 times the height of the vase. However, Stembel explains that some flowers, like hyacinth, can benefit from shorter cuts to help support their heavier heads. Rules aside, Stembel says she likes to add some variety in stem length when arranging flowers in a vase to add some more movement and whimsy. "Flowers don't grow all one height in nature—they don't need to be arranged like that in your vase," she says.

After you've done the work to put together a healthy flower arrangement, a few more maintenance steps will make sure your flowers last as long as possible. "Maintaining and keeping flowers fresh is about regular recutting of the stems, refreshing the water daily, and keeping them out of direct light or in the way of heating or AC," Vejby says.

How to prep different flower varieties for a vase

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Anemone Flower Care Tips
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Hydrate for one to two hours in cool water, and keep away from extreme heat.

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Tulips Flower Care Tips
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Hydrate cut flowers for a full five to six hours before arranging so they can stand on their own (otherwise you'll be left with floppy stems).

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Amaryllis Flower Care Tips
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Avoid drooping by inserting a wooden skewer or chopstick into the hollow stem.

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Hydrangea Flower Care Tips
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Make a one-inch slit up the center of the stem, and moisten the heads with a spray bottle to ensure they stay adequately hydrated.

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Lilies Flower Care Tips
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Buds need four to seven days to fully open (enough time for you to prepare for the intense fragrance lilies are famous for).

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Roses Flower Care Tips
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Remove all foliage, and hydrate stems for two to four hours in hot water before arranging in a separate vase.

Excerpted from Flower School: A Practical Guide to the Art of Flower Arranging by Calvert Crary. Reprinted by permission of Black Dog & Leventhal, an imprint of Running Press, part of the Perseus division of Hachette Book Group. Copyright © 2020 by Calvert Crary.

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