bouquet of homegrown flowers is one of the great joys of gardening—whether you proudly display it in your house or give it as a gift.

But if you want to make your homegrown cut flowers last as long as florist flowers often do, forget that romantic image of laying flower stems gently in a pretty basket slung over your arm as you gather them.

Here’s why: When a plant stem is severed from a plant, not only is its source of moisture cut off but air bubbles can form in the stem’s base, slowing or preventing water uptake later. By the time you get the plant inside and plunk your flowers inside a vase, it may be too late. The result? Limp flowers mighty soon.

Here’s a better way…


Fill a bucket with a few inches of lukewarm water.

Use a sharp, clean cutting tool such as a knife or garden shears—sharp so that the stems don’t get mashed…and clean so that harmful bacteria don’t invade the plant tissue.

For flower stems, cut on a slant, allowing maximum surface area for water uptake.

For slender flowering shrub or tree branches, make a square (perpendicular to the branch) cut.

Immediately after cutting, place stems in the bucket with water.


Relax if you can’t or don’t want to ­arrange your flowers in a vase immediately after cutting them. They’ll be soaking up water from the bucket and getting plump. Just put the bucket in a cool, dark place. Overnight is fine.

When it’s time to put the flowers in a vase, work on a table or counter close to a sink. Fill a clean vase about halfway—you can always add more water later.

Next, recut each flower stem under water (while still in the bucket) with a sharp, clean knife—a half inch or more above the garden cut. This may feel awkward at first, but you’ll master it after a few stems. For the woody stems that you cut square, recut them and then slit them up the middle about one inch up.

That’s it! Now you’ve done what good florists do to make their flowers look great and last long. If you want flowers to last even longer, recut them and refill the vase with fresh water every day.

I don’t know if DIY cut-flower preservatives such as an aspirin or a few drops of lemon juice help, but here’s one final tip that really will make a difference. At night, or when you’re not home, move the flowers, vase and all, to the fridge or just some cool, dark spot—and then return it to the display spot the next day.

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