top of page

Are You Guilty of These 5 Embarrassing Fresh-Cut, Flower-Killing Mistakes?

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

A fragrant and colorful bouquet of fresh-cut flowers is still a favorite gift among many. This type of offering has withstood the test of time. But will your flowers be able to withstand your flower-picking blunders?

Flowers aren’t a fad or generational trend. Instead, they act as a universal message that needs no words. So, make sure the message you're sharing isn't one of death and depression. For heaven's sake - that would be dreadful!

Before we get too far into the weeds, let’s take a stroll down memory lane…

Most of us can remember being a child and clutching a tiny, fistful of dandelions we proudly presented to our mothers. Moms everywhere will exaggerate glee and adoration for their little tike's thoughtfulness. They would then carefully transfer those buttery-yellow gems to a water-filled jelly jar. The jar is prominently displayed on the window sill for all the world to see.

You beam with pride.

Your work here is complete.

The next morning your little legs trot you down to the kitchen. You look up at the window to admire your cheerful collection of flower buds.

You couldn't be more shocked by what you discover.

Your heartwarming delight suddenly turns into heartbreaking dismay.

Your generous tokens of unyielding love-in-a-jar are dead. Wilted beyond recognition.

* * *

Fast forward...

You’re older and wiser now. But that devastating mind's eye picture of floral death still resides rent-free in your head. You don't want to relive your rookie snafu or disgrace. The last thing you want is to give an arrangement of vibrant blooms only for them to expire a day later.

So, before you choose your next bundle of blossoms, be certain to avoid these five common mistakes for your fresh-cut flowers.

1. Choosing the wrong types of flowers

lavender purple zinnia with yellow stamens
Photo credit: Jeremy Morris

Each blossom of flowers has a different amount of vase life. Vase life refers to the length of time the flower will last once it’s cut and placed in a container of water.

Some blooms last longer than others. If you know the types of flowers you want to use in a bouquet, be sure to research the variety. This will help you avoid blooms that die quickly. A few longer-lasting choices include:

🌷Peony - Lasts 3 to 7 days

🌷Black-eyed Susan - Lasts 7 to 10 days

🌷Pincushion Flower - Lasts 5 to 7 days

🌷African Marigold - Lasts 1 to 2 weeks

🌷Zinnia - Lasts 5 to 7 days

🌷Bells of Ireland - Lasts 7 to 10 days

🌷Cosmos - Lasts 4 to 6 days

Sometimes the person you want to give the assortment to has a favorite flower. If that special bud has a shorter vase life, it may be wise to limit the number included in your bouquet.

2. Using the wrong tool to cut your flowers

Young blond woman wearing apron cutting flower stems
Photo credit Anastasia Shuraeva

It’s common for people - including flower farmers - to use scissors when cutting the stems of each flower.

Using scissors cuts the plant, but it also crushes the stem in the process. When the stem is damaged, it expels its contents into the water. This causes the water in the vase to become murky much more rapidly.

Instead of using scissors, it is better to use a cut-flower knife. This type of knife has a single, short blade that is either straight or curved. Don’t forget to keep the blade sharp and never use the knife for cutting anything other than flower stems.

Use a cut-flower knife for soft stems and not for woody stems (use pruning shears for woody stems). Even if you do not have this type of knife, it's better to use a simple kitchen paring knife rather than scissors.

3. Improper watering and flat cuts of the stems

yellow long stemmed roses in a clear vase on a window ledge
Photo credit: Lisa Fotios

If you’re cutting the plant by yourself, be sure to have a container of water with you to place the stems in immediately. There's no time to dilly-dally with delay for this step.

Cut the stems at an angle.

When you put a cut stem into a vase of water, the stem needs to be able to drink that water. Cutting at an angle ensures the flower can quench its thirst.

If you cut the stems straight across, there's a chance they won’t get the water they need. This is because the stems may rest on the bottom of the vase, making water absorption poor - especially when many stems are crowding a container.

Additionally, stems placed into foam blocks need stability to prevent rotation. The angle cut will help keep the flowers from turning. Some people cut the stems at an angle on both sides in a V-shape for this purpose.

Remember to cut stems again when changing the water in your vase.

Flower stems react to cuts much like when a human gets cut. The stems form a protective seal - like a scab - which inhibits the stems from absorbing water.

Re-cut the stems underwater, if possible. This keeps air bubbles from hindering water absorption in the stems.

4. Storing your bouquet of flowers at the wrong temperature

woman with hair in ponytail, wearing apron, holding bouquet of flowers in doorway of floral cooler
Photo credit: Anna Shvets

Storing your bouquet at too high or too low of temperature results in rapid deterioration.

When the temperature is too hot, the flowers aren’t able to drink enough water. When the temperature is too cold, the insides of the stems and flowers break down and die off. Both extremes are a sure way to reduce vase life.

For best results - keep your arrangement at a temperature of about 72°F when on display.

The trick is to avoid significant temperature extremes when storing and moving the collection of flowers. Most bouquets do well when stored around 35-40°F. Tropical varieties do well when stored around 50°F.

5. Failing to remove leaves from the stems of flowers

peach and yellow colored flowers in mason jar
Photo credit: Heather Bozman

Leaves remaining on the stems underwater will decay. This decayed material reduces the life of the flower. This also makes the water dirty and causes a need for frequent changing.

Remove all leaves from the stem that are underwater.

You can imagine the unappealing sight of rotting leaves in a clear vase. No one wants to see that. No one wants to smell it either. Yuck! So clip those leaves.

If you’re working with roses, you can leave the thorns on the stems to reduce damage.

Now you have the knowledge you need to proudly create and give a beautiful, fresh bouquet of cut-flowers

A colorful array of blooms brightens up any room. They bring messages of joy, hope, love, and compassion. Not only for the recipient - but also for the giver.

Flowers bring out the best in all of us.

You want your message and your blooms to live as long as possible. Your bouquet's longevity is directly tied to proper flower selection, harvesting efforts, preparation, and display. Take care to avoid the five embarrassing mistakes described above. Your attention to these actions is sure to yield gorgeous results.

If you aren't able to grow the flowers yourself, visit a local flower farm. A farm is the next best choice for freshness and yields a longer vase life. Plus, you now know the secrets to look for when considering the quality of your selection. The farmer can give you suggestions for flowers that go well together. They can also answer any extra questions about cut-flower care you may have.

So, go ahead - skip the dandelions! You know the steps to take for a great-looking, long-lasting bouquet.

Get out there and gather up some cut flowers. Surprise your mom with your new-found flower power.

Keep giving this cherished gift as a way to spread the message of joy and goodwill to friends and family - or even a stranger!

Make someone’s day a little brighter.


Cover image: Frantisek Duris

23 views0 comments


bottom of page