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Arranged Marriages (of flowers, of course) Long Live the Flowers!


Most of us love having fresh flowers in our homes. They are beautiful, often fragrant, and help us feel connected to nature. They are something we might splurge on because they really aren’t necessary…but we want them….and wish they would last forever!

Forever?? That would be wonderful but “like that’s going to happen…really”. But there is good news! There are ways to lengthen the lasting time of fresh flowers. Cutting the ends of stems underwater is very effective and has been proven to increase the lasting time of fresh flowers, especially when the freshly cut stems are immediately placed in a container of slightly warm water treated with a commercial floral preservative.


No swimming pool or snorkel is required, but you will need a dishpan or bucket and a pair of sharp clippers. Remove any foliage that will be below the water level. I have seen articles that recommend using a knife, but this is very awkward, thus the recommendation for using sharp clippers. With the stems below the waterline, clip ¾” to 1” off the ends of the stems (you can clip multiple stems at a time) and place the freshly cut stems into a container of slightly warm preservative water. Warm water will travel up the stems quicker than cool water.

Mix exactly the right recommended amount of preservative with the right amount of water recommended by the manufacturer. Don’t guess…measure!! Commercial preservatives are made with a biocide to kill bacteria, sugar to “feed” the flowers, and an acidifier to modify the pH level to one that is the most flower-friendly. You may have heard about using aspirin or pennies. These are not helpful options! Metallic ions from metal containers (or pennies) shorten flower lasting times…avoid using metal containers for cut flowers unless you have a decorative one with a plastic liner.

Clippers and commercial preservatives can be found online (you might even find them at Behnke Nurseries). My favorite clipper is a light weight Needle Nose Fruit Pruner. I have the most experience with Aqua Plus preservative in powder form but there are many good ones on the market.


The single most important step you can take to make your flowers last longer is to check the water level in the container every day! Flowers do “drink” water and the container can run low on water surprisingly fast. Add water if needed even if you don’t take the time to mix new preservative water. If you have flowers that are arranged in Floral Foam (sometimes called Oasis) it is critical that there is free standing water surrounding the foam.

The foam will not wick-up water more than about ¾” above the free standing water line. It has become quite popular in the last few years to use broad leafed foliage inside a clear vase (below the water line) to hide stems or provide interest. It looks attractive but does allow more area for bacteria to form. It is still a great look and especially appropriate for events and parties!

Now for one very simple way to make a vase of flowers last longer! If possible, make room for them in your refrigerator at night (and be sure to remove any apples from the fridge, as they give off ethylene gas which ages flowers).

Long live the flowers!

Posted By: Evelyn Kinville, Behnke’s Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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