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NC State Extension

Selecting & Caring for Cut Flowers

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Bouquets of fresh cut flowers for sale on a table under a blue tent.

Laura Giltrist CC BY 2.0

Healthy flowers can last 10–14 days. Use the tips below to maximize how long a bouquet lasts.

Tips for selecting cut flowers in the store

  • Staff:  Knowledgeable, engaging
  • Flower Age:  Select flowers that are newly arrived.
  • Coolers:  Clean and tidy
  • Water: Clean, fresh-smelling water. If there are bacteria growing in the water, it may clog the flower stem preventing water uptake.
  • Stems:  Clean, not slimy, firm, not scared or broken, no evidence of rough handling

  • Flowers: Fresh with no fuzzy gray mold. Upright, not drooping or damaged petals. Extend the vase life by selecting flowers that are just beginning to open. For roses and other single flowers, select blooms that have only one petal unfurled. For gladiolus and other spike flowers, choose stems with only the first two or three flowers open. For daisy-type flowers, like sunflowers, select flowers with centers that are still greenish.

  • Leaves are not yellow, spotted, or drooping.

A bouquet of flowers in a glass vase.

F. D. Richards CC BY-SA 2.0

Tips for making cut flowers last longer

Bringing Home

  • To prevent damaging the stem and reducing the stem’s ability to take up water, select a sharp knife or shears, and wipe with alcohol

  • Make fresh cuts on all stems at a 45-degree angle at least ½” from the end of the stem. The 45-degree angle results in most of the base of the stem being off the bottom of the vase.

  • Remove leaves that will be below the waterline to prevent them from rotting and spoiling the water.

  • Place in fresh, luke-warm water and condition flowers by placing in a cool, dark space for 1 – 2 hours before arranging.

  • Floral preservative (plant food and bacteria inhibitor to extend bloom)

    • The following items can be added to the vase water to extend the bloom, but none are as effective as a commercial floral preservative.

      • Half water and half carbonated lemon-lime drink which contains sugar for plant food and some acid to lower the pH and kill bacteria and fungicide

      • A teaspoon and a half of sugar per quart of water for plant food

      • A few drops of bleach (1 tsp/gallon of water) kills bacteria and fungi, however, too much can kill plant cells.

    • Originally pennies contained copper which is a fungicide that prevents disease, however, pennies are now made of mostly zinc so are no longer effective.


  • Out of the sun and wind

  • Cool

  • Away from drafts including doors and heating/cooling vents

  • High relative humidity


  • Top off the water level as needed.

  • Wash the container (or move to a different one) and change the water every 2-3 days. Recut the stems to remove damaged tissue that may no longer be transporting water to the flower.

  • When nearing the end of their vase life, consider cutting ½” from the flower and floating it in a decorative bowl of water.

  • Reviving failing flowers

Rows of red, white and purple flowers growing in a field.

Harold Litwiler, CC BY 2.0

Frequently Asked Questions about Cut Flowers

Where are cut flowers grown?

Eighty percent of the cut flowers purchased in the U.S. are imported from the Netherlands, Colombia, Ecuador, Kenya and other countries.

Where can I find locally grown flowers?

Buying locally supports the local economy, widens the pallet of options to include those flowers that do not transport well (for example dahlias, ranunculuses, zinnias), and reduces the carbon footprint of the flowers since they do not have to be packaged, stored and shipped. Find growers near you at and at your local farmers market.

Why does trimming the ends keep flowers alive longer?

It removes clogged tissue that no longer transports water to the flower

Does putting a penny in the vase prolong the life of cut flowers?

No, pennies are made mostly of zinc now, it use to work back when pennies were made of copper because copper is a fungicide.

Various cut flowers in shades of yellow, pink, red and green sit in white buckets.

Alabama Extension CC0