Long-lasting cut flowers

Carnations and baby's breath wrapped in paper, photo

I have a love-hate relationship with cut flowers. I love how beautiful they look and smell the first couple days. Shortly thereafter, love turns to hate. That’s when the wilting and stinking phase kicks in.

Worse, my former roommates never changed the water, and they kept the poor, dying blooms around long past their prime. Inevitably, I faced droopy flowers in mucky, reeking water on the dining table while I ate my morning oatmeal. Not appetizing.

Lavender mums in a vase, photo

Then I discovered that some flowers last much longer than others.

I received a mixed bouquet for my birthday. Over the next few days, I removed each dead flower and changed the water. Soon, all that was left were a bunch of lavender mums. I checked them day after day, and they continued to look beautiful. After I had them for a month, I took the picture above.

That got me thinking. What other flowers are long lasting?

I asked Lauren Swezey, Sunset garden writer, which cut flowers last the longest in a vase. She gave me this short list:

Alstroemeria photo

Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria)

Carnations photo


Daisies photo


Chrysanthemum photo


Then I found this Sunset article about how to grow your own cutting garden. In it, Catherine Mix lists several more long-lasting blooms in every hue. And I found another article listing the 12 best flowers to grow for cutting. Here are four of my favorites from those:

Calla Lillies photo

Calla Lilly

Dahlia photo


Zinnias photo


Peonies photo


Testing alstroemeria

Honestly, when Lauren mentioned alstroemeria, I had no idea what it looked like in person. The online photos I found didn’t help much. But in June 2007, Sunset had some flowers leftover from a photo shoot. Among them were alstroemeria. I grabbed a bunch of reddish and coral-color blooms and put them to the test.

Bouquest of alstroemeria, day 1 photo

The photo above was taken the day after I brought them home. I had trimmed the stems, stripped the leaves from the bottom part, and placed them in water mixed with a plant food packet that they came with.

Bouquest of alstroemeria, day 14 photo

Two weeks later, I took this photo. They opened up more; the leaves were a little droopy, but overall they looked great. (The pinker color in this image is because of different lighting.)

That’s the last photo I took because someone (ahem, me) accidentally let them go dry one day. Despite the drought, they continued to look beautiful for a few more days. I’m convinced they could have lasted a month with proper care.

So, I’m a fan of alstroemeria. They’re not roses, but they’re pretty — and they stay pretty for much longer.

How to extend vase life

Below are two bouquets my sweet husband has given me. He had 100 red roses delivered to my work two weeks before the first Valentine’s Day we were together. (He has trouble waiting for actual holidays to give gifts. I sometimes get Christmas gifts in October. I think it’s adorable.). I didn’t have a vase big enough for them, so I split them into five bouquets. Below is one of the five.

Vase of red roses, photo
Vase of orchids, photo

Because you usually can’t control what kinds of flowers others give you, it’s good to know techniques that will help any cut flower last longer. So I went searching for tips that work.

I found this Sunset article on how to help cut flowers last. And, years ago, I designed a story for Real Simple. The editors tested several strategies for keeping cut flowers fresh, including aspirin, bleach, Listerine, and a penny. Flower food came out the clear winner. Check out the slideshow here: How to keep cut flowers fresh.

Tips that work for me:

  • Give stems a fresh diagonal cut under water before putting them in the vase. Repeat every 5-7 days.
  • Strip all the leaves that fall below the water line before placing them in the vase.
  • Replace the water with fresh, cold water every 3-4 days.
  • Keep extra flower food on hand so you can continue feeding the blooms with every change of water.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that cut greens can have a longer vase life than flowers and look just as beautiful! Check out my post about long lasting cut greens.

My first DIY projects appeared in Sunset magazine’s now defunct blog, Home By Sunset. This post is part one of an updated version of “Long-lasting cut flowers, part 1-2,” originally published July 9, 2007 & November 15, 2007.

Crafty Nest long lasting cut flowers Pinterest image

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Do you have favorite cut flowers? Share a comment below and/or email your photo(s) to monica (at) craftynest (dot) com, and I’ll share them here!