You’ll get the most mileage from your fresh-cut flowers if you give them a good conditioning soak. Fill a clean sink—an excellent workstation—with enough lukewarm water to submerge the stems halfway (keep flower heads above the water). Using a sharp paring knife or shears, cut an inch from stems at an angle; be careful not to crush the stems since that could destroy the flowers’ ability to absorb water. (You don’t have to cut the blooms underwater—that’s only a myth.) After soaking your flowers for a couple of hours, remove any leaves that will fall below the vase’s water line—foliage breeds bacteria, which can kill flowers and turn vase water into a foul-smelling cesspool. Fill a clean vase with lukewarm water, then make another small angled cut of each stem before inserting it into the vase.
Every day or so, take the flowers out of the vase, rest them in a clean sink, then dump out the old water. Rinse the container and refill it with fresh water. (Delta faucets with MagnaTite® spray-head docking make the job a breeze.) Then make a new angled cut on the stems before popping your blooms back in the vase. “Clean water is the best thing to help keep flowers fresh for up to 10 days,” McBride says. So is working quickly: Stems that are out of water for even a short time could seal up, inhibiting water absorption, so stay focused and get the job done ASAP!
Your roses or hydrangeas are already drooping? After a fresh cut, lay the flowers in the sink horizontally, submerging heads and stems under tepid water. A good dunk will help get rid of any air bubbles that are likely blocking the flow of water to the flowers, McBride says.
Some need special care: Woody stems like peonies and lilacs should be split at the ends to foster more water absorption. Hollow-stemmed flowers like amaryllis and dahlias need lots of water so it’s best to turn the flower upside down and let the faucet pour directly into the stalk. Bulbs, such as hyacinths and tulips, thrive in cold water.
Throwing a copper Abe Lincoln or an aspirin in the bottom of a vase won’t do much to extend the life of your flowers. But a floral preservative can keep flowers spry. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden recommends a homemade tonic for your flowers: Mix into one quart of lukewarm water, one teaspoon each of sugar and household bleach, plus two teaspoons of lemon juice. Add this to every fresh-water change.