5 Steps to Triple the Life of Your Vase Flowers

May 18, 2020

Do you know that moment when you look at your vase of flowers and they’re so disgusting that you don’t even want to touch the stems to throw them away? They’re slimy, moldy, and smelly, and you’ve tried to ignore them as long as possible but now you want your vase back, so they have to go.  

Raise your hand if this has ever been you.  

I’m reaching my hand up high.  

Guys, I’m a florist and this sometimes still happens to me; though instead of the clear-glass vase on the dining room table, it’s floral buckets with the few stems of leftovers I didn’t use in last weekend’s wedding.   

But I have a fix for you! One that will not only keep them from even getting that gross, but it’ll also help you to keep them alive much, much longer.  


Step 1: Only Put Your New Flowers in a Clean Vase 

This one is super simple, and maybe you’re already doing this, but I know I have a pre-florist history of not.  

Your vase should be clean enough that you would want to drink water out of it. That means washing it with hot soap and water really well after your last bouquet of flowers.   

Here’s the reason: If you only rinsed the vase out after the last bouquet, the bacteria in that old water (and there was probably A LOT of bacteria) didn’t get cleaned out. It’s just been waiting, dormant for the next load of water to come in and wake it back up again. And bacteria is enemy #1 to all things floral. The more bacteria in your water, the faster they wilt and die. So, you’re basically not even giving your flowers that first day with clean water to drink up and enjoy. You’re shortening their vase life before it even really begins.  


Step 2: Change Out the Vase Water Regularly 

I’m also known for not doing this. Because once you put the flowers in the vase, you just want to sit back and enjoy them, not invest more time and work into them.  

But this is probably the BIGGEST tip I can offer to increase the life of your flowers, because your water is where the bacteria grows and lives and preys on your flowers. So, if you’re even just dumping that water out and then refilling your vase every day or two, you’re throwing out 90% of the bacteria. Your flowers will be very, very happy with you if you do this.  

Even better is if you can manage to take the flowers all the way out and wash the vase with hot/soapy water. But hey, I’m a realist and know that no one wants to do that every day. I don’t wash my buckets out every day, but I do check their water every day to make sure they are only drinking clean water. That sometimes means dumping out the gallon of water in that bucket and refilling. Needless to say, florists go through a lot of water.  

And if your water is looking murky, do your flowers a favor and get them a clean fresh drink. They’re drinking that water up 24/7, and if all you’re offering them is rotted, swamp water full of their own decay, you’re going to see it affect your flower petals and stems. And it’s not a pretty look, trust me.  

 Speaking of your flowers drinking up water 24/7, let’s talk about the next step… 


Step 3: Keep Your Vase Water Full 

The level of water in your vase is going to be dropping a lot each day, because your flowers are literally drinking it up and because evaporation is a thing. The more flowers you have in the water, the faster it will go. And some flowers are thirstier than others, so don’t bank on them drinking as slow as the last bouquet you had.   

A common misconception is that flowers only drink from the tip of their stems, where they were cut. ERRRRRR. Wrong! Flowers take water in along their stem. They do drink the most from the tip, but they can hydrate much better if they have water filled all the way up to their lowest leaves (which we will get into in step 4). Also, air bubbles can sometimes get stuck inside their stems, blocking the upward pull of water from the tip. So, they need to drink water in from above the air bubble.  

So even if you don’t feel like changing your vase water one day, just top off the vase. Dilute the bacteria with some more clean water, and give the flowers a chance to put their entire stem to use.  


Step 4: Clean the Leaves Off Your Stems 

This is actually one of the first things you’ll learn to do in a flower shop. Or at least I did. I spent the first three weeks just pulling leaves off flower stems.  

The reason is actually pretty simple: the more plant matter you let sit in your water, the more it’s decaying into the water and generating bacteria. (There’s that bacteria again!) 

Leaves and flower petals are thin, so they decay fast. A lot faster than stems. So, anything attached or floating unattached in your water is just increasing the growth speed of your flower-rotting bacteria. Just clean of those stems! Pull the leaves off and toss them. They only over-crowd your vase anyway, making it harder to fit as many flowers into the vase. 


Step 5: Only Put Flower Food into Your Water 

What is flower food you ask? Well you know those little ketchup-sized packets of powdery stuff that sometimes come wrapped in your bouquet? Yeah, that’s flower food. You can add one of those to every 20oz - 1 liter of vase water.  

What does it do? Mostly it just slows the growth of bacteria in the water, but it sometimes has a few things in it that can boost the strength and quality of life of your flowers.  

Do you need it? Nope. But you can use it if you don’t think you’ll get around to changing the water every day. Even if you do use it, you’ll still want to keep topping your water off to keep your vase full, and you’ll still want to change that water around day four.  

So, if you’re only putting flower food in your water, what should you NOT be putting in your water?  

  • Dish soap: Your flowers don’t want to drink soap. Would you? 
  • A penny: I don’t care who said it and how right they are on other crafty matters. A penny is covered in bacteria and the anti-bacterial copper won’t start to break down and discharge metallic molecules into the water until your flowers are about dead anyway. 
  • Decorative rocks: Okay. Fine. You can put rocks or marbles or beads in your water, but ONLY if you’ve scrubbed them all off in hot soapy water first. I think you now understand why. 

Feeling flower-smart yet? I hope so! And don’t feel bad if you didn’t know. Why would you? It’s not like this is printed onto the paper or plastic your flowers came wrapped in. But I kid you not, these five things are THE MOST helpful things I can share with you to increase the life of your flowers.  

I know we can’t get it ALL right every time, but I’m going to challenge you to go forth and try and implement at least one or two of these steps with every new bouquet going forward. And when those start to become habit, come back and remind yourself of a couple more steps to add into your routine. You’ll regularly start to have longer lasting flowers in no time. 

So there you go. Be kind to your flowers. They just want to sparkle and shine for you as long as you let them!

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