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How to keep cut flowers fresh

Ideally, the water for cut flowers should be changed daily
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Michel Tremblay)
Cut flowers

No matter what the occasion, it’s always nice to give or receive a bouquet of cut flowers. Read on for a few tips to help you keep your cut flowers looking good a little longer.

Cutting of the stem

As soon as you get the flowers, cut a few centimetres off the ends of the stems on the diagonal, to keep their water-carrying vessels open and let the flowers absorb as much as possible of the water they need. Repeat this operation a few times a week.

Air that gets into the vessels prevents water from rising up the stems. The flowers will start to fade if they don’t get enough water. To avoid this problem, you can cut the stems under water with a good pair of pruners or scissors. That way, water and not air will be able to penetrate the newly opened vessels.


If you purchase your flowers from a florist, you will probably be given a tiny packet containing an additive. This powdered, dissolved in water, will prevent diseases from developing and feed your flowers. It is also important to strip the leaves from the submerged part of the stem to prevent spoilage. Ideally, you should change the water daily to keep it fresh.

Without their leaves, the flowers won’t be able to produce sugars through photosynthesis. They will continue to breathe, however, using up their stored sugar, without any way of replenishing it.

To remedy this problem, instead of an additive you can put a bit of sugar in their water. Unfortunately, sugar helps bacteria multiply. You can control them with a bit of citric acid. Did you know that Seven-Up contains both sugar and citric acid? A simple recipe is to combine equal parts water and Seven-Up with a few drops of chlorine bleach.


It is best to use tepid water, about 38-40°C, which will be easier for the plant to absorb than colder, denser water. And since oxygen is more soluble in cold water, it is more apt to cause air bubbles to form in the stems. Because the stems are like straws, you should cut them under water. Trim them on the diagonal every day and change the water in the container.


Even the height of your vase is an important consideration: stems with more of their surface in the water will be able to absorb more.

And don’t forget to take the time to stop and enjoy their fragrance!


Based on an article by Édith Bienvenue in Quatre-Temps magazine, Vol.16, No.4.

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