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Ten Tips for Buying and Caring for Cut Flowers

(and secrets to making them last longer)
by Linda Estill
October 19, 2008

The selections are almost endless, from single variety bunches, to colorful, spring bouquets; it’s almost overwhelming. The type of flowers you choose is a personal preference, but here are a few things to look for to ensure that your choice will last as long possible and give you maximum enjoyment.

  1. Make your selection from those flowers furthest from your reach. Flowers are rotated according to their age and you can be sure, the oldest ones will usually be the easiest to access.
  2. If flowers are displayed in a tiered fashion and you have a choice, make your selection from the upper tiers. When you pull a bouquet from the bucket, notice how drops of water fall onto the lower bouquets. This causes mold and brown spots on those flowers. Try to avoid dripping on surrounding flowers as much as possible.
  3. Look for erect heads and stems. If a stem, head or tip of a flower, such as a gladiola, is drooping or bent, the flower is old or it can no longer draw water.
  4. If you see wilted petals, or even worse, loose, fallen petals, avoid that bunch. Petals should be bright and vibrant.
  5. Watch for signs of browning edges or brown spots on petals.
  6. If it feels firm and tight, then it’s alright. When buying roses, gently squeeze the base of the head. Purchase roses with the fewest cracked petals and the tightest heads.
  7. Yellowing leaves and stems are a sure sign that that bouquet is on its last legs. Watch for slime on the stems. Also look for the freshest cut on the stems. A dark ring around the base means the cut is old and the flower hasn’t been able to drink as much as it wants to.
  8. Don’t buy flowers with loose pollen on the petals.
  9. Once you’ve made your purchase, get it home as soon as possible and follow these guidelines:
  • If you’re not going to arrange them right away, remove the wrapping, cut the string or rubber band and put the flowers into a clean sink or bucket of warm water (except chrysanthemums which prefer cool water).
  • Arrange them in the container as soon as practical. Your vase or container should be clean. Bacteria is a flower’s worst enemy!
  • Treat the water with the package of flower food usually contained in the bouquet.
  • Remove all leaves and foliage below the water’s surface. They are another source of bacteria and they will make your arrangement stink!
  • Cut ALL stems at an angle just before putting them into the vase. They will be able to drink more water.

To extend the life of your arrangement give the stems a fresh cut each day and add fresh water.

All this information and more is available at

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row