In caring for fresh cut flowers, diligence is key. Flowers need care and attention to ensure that they last long past the day they’re brought home from your florist or cut from an outdoor arrangement. Balanced, clean water and open stems are the most important factors to making your flowers last. And always use clean vases or containers.

To best understand how to care for freshly cut flowers, it’s important to understand how they drink. Water reaches the flower through the stem, which functions almost like an automatic drinking straw that will suck water as long as it remains submerged. If the stem is pulled out of the water, the stem forms an air bubble to keep air from getting sucked in. Once this air bubble is in place, the plant can no longer take in water and must be re-cut.

Stems should be re-cut about 2.5 cm above the old cut line to remove the air bubble. Foliage below the water line should be removed as it contributes to bacteria build-up. When placing your flowers, avoid direct sunlight and breezy areas near heater vents or air conditioners. The water should be changed every two to three days and stems re-cut to avoid the build-up of bacteria.

To further contribute to the life of freshly cut flowers, a balancing agent can be added to the water. The small packets often provided your florist contain three things: a biocide, or chemicals that kill bacteria; an acidifier to create acid and increase water uptake; and sugar to feed the plant.

This chemical makeup can be fairly easily copied at home using lemon juice, sugar, and bleach. Simply add 30ml of lemon juice and 2.5ml of bleach to a litre of fresh water. With a solution like this and regular maintenance, your fresh cut flowers will have long and healthy lives.