Florist 101: How to Keep Your Plants Alive

Decor, Home


Creating beautiful, lush flower-shop fancy floral arrangements at home can be a simple way to add elegance to your indoor or outdoor decor. The problem arises when, like me, you are biologically unable to keep your plants alive for more than oh, three business days. Whether you’re on a budget living in a small space or looking for ways to add pop to your outdoor space, you can do it without sacrificing your entire paycheck.

Whether you receive a beautiful arrangement or create a DIY bouquet to brighten your dinner table, Dora Calle, florist on BloomNation and manager at Marguerite Gardens in Chicago, IL suggests sticking to the basics.


Water, Water Everywhere

One of the most important things you can do to keep your flowers in bloom is to change the water regularly. One of the things that causes cut flowers to wilt quickly is bacteria in the water. The most basic thing you can do to preserve cut flowers is to change the water often. Use lukewarm water, never too hot or too cold.

If you’ve heard that bleach can help you keep your plants alive, think twice. — it can actually have the opposite effect. “Bleach is a myth,” said Calle.  “It is meant to kill bacteria but it also kills the flower. Instead, add sugar to the water, about 1 teaspoon per quart of water.” Some say this “sugar rush” mimics the process that occurs in photosynthesis and helps keep flowers healthy. “Change the water in your vase at least once every other day,” Calle adds. This helps keep bacteria from growing and destroying the flowers.

All Flowers Are Not Created Equal

“Roses last longer in a cool area,” said Calle. “If you want their blooms to open quickly, temporarily place them in a warmer spot, but not hotter than 80 degrees Fahrenheit).” When you arrange roses, be sure to remove any discolored petals on the flower’s outer edge (called guard petals) and foliage that fall below the waterline when refreshing your arrangement. If your roses begin to wilt, you may be able to revive them by trimming an inch off the bottom of the stem and then submerging the entire rose under water or in the sink or bathtub. “Recutting the stems often will give your roses the longest vase life,” added Calle.

When caring for hydrangeas, it is best to do one of two steps. “Place hydrangeas’ heads in cold water for about two hours before putting them in a vase, this will help the flower last longer,” said Calle. “Hydrangeas get their water from the flower petals. The other step you can do to keep the hydrangea flower head is to spray with water every other day. Using a water spritzer, spray the flower head once a day every other day.  This will help keep the flower looking fresh longer.”

When you have tulips, keep them in ice cold water for extended life, while it’s important to to pay extra attention to roses if you want them to live longer.

Stem and Branch Care

Trim at least a half inch of stem off your flowers before you put them in a vase and each time you change the water. Anytime flower stems sit out of water, the ends of the stem die out and its cells start to die. By cutting off the stems, you allow them to absorb more water. Calle suggests trimming stems on an angle because it gives the flower a larger surface from which to absorb water. “Make sure that the part of the stem that is underwater has no leaves,” said Calle. “Bacteria grows if the foliage underwater and then bacteria is absorbed into the flower which causes the stem to die quicker.”

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  • Reply
    Bryon Aiello
    July 8, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    We usually tell people that buy orchids from us to put a few ice cubes at the base of the orchid to provide a “drip system” every few days. Is that what you do? Oh and thank you for sharing about not putting the leaves in the water to avoid bacteria growth. Great share. Thanks… Bryon

  • Reply
    Vincent Burns
    February 9, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    The problem I always run into when getting flowers is keeping them alive for a long time. I am getting my girlfriend flowers every month and I have noticed that they will go bad within a few days if she doesn’t take care of them right. I heard that if you take out the dying flowers you can keep the rest of them alive for a long time. I got to tell her this so that I am not constantly buying flowers.

  • Reply
    January 26, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Do you have any information on potted hydrangeas? I love the bouquets my husband usually brings me for Valentine’s Day, but I really wish they lasted more than a week or so. We’re buying more of the actual plants to spruce up our garden. I would love to be able to point to a plant on the patio and say that he got that for me on Valentine’s day.

    Oh. Are they annuals or perennials?

  • Reply
    Vicky Durrant
    January 25, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    My fiance recently sent me some flowers, and they are so beautiful! I want to make sure that they stay looking nice for as long as I can, so I’m happy that I found your tips! I learned a lot, like that I should trim at least a half an inch off of the flower’s stem before I put them into a vase. I never would have thought to do this! I thought that you could just put the flowers into a vase full of water and be done with it! From now on, I’ll be sure to trim a little bit of stem off of the flower before I put it in the water. Thank you for the advice!

  • Reply
    Kairi Gainsborough
    January 19, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    I always make sure that my fresh flowers get enough water, but I didn’t realize that I should be changing the water regularly. I should also try adding sugar to the water! Hopefully this will make the blooms last a lot longer. I’ll have to stop by the florist soon so I can buy a bouquet to test it out on!

  • Reply
    Sam Fisher
    October 9, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    You are very right that not all flowers are created equal. You wouldn’t want to water a cactus as much as you would a lily. It’s important to know where to put the plants as well as how much to water them depending on where you live and if they are inside or out. There are alternative to growing your own flowers which is buying them. If you can’t grow them yourself, then buy some flowers since they will most likely be hand-picked. That way you get a good batch.

  • Reply
    Deanna R. Jones
    September 28, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    I remember that my mother used to tell me to constantly change the water in her flower vases whenever she would be away for business. Now I’m starting to understand why. I didn’t know that the bacteria in water can make flowers wilt more quickly. That would explain why my flowers always wilt, even though my vase is filled with water. Now that I know to keep my vase filled with fresh water, my flowers will live longer without wilting. Thanks for the tips!

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