Your garden is blooming with beautiful flowers! You can’t wait to fill your home with their colorful petals. But how long will they last? Here’s a guide to the typical vase life of cut flowers so you can enjoy them at their best.
The vast majority of cut flowers will last 5-10 days in the vase if harvested in the cool morning and kept in fresh water that’s changed often. Picking each flower at the right stage is critical for the longest vase life, and flower food can help extend it for many flowers.
Although the table below will give you a huge head start to know when your beautiful flowers are at the right stage to cut and how long they’ll last, don’t forget that every garden is different. Time of harvest, plant stress, hydration, and plenty of other factors will influence your flower and how long they last once cut.
Vase Life Of Popular Cut Flowers
|Flower||Cutting stage||Vase life||Flower food?|
|Ammi (False Queen Anne’s Lace)||Cut when fully open or setting seed||6-8 days||Yes|
|Bachelor Buttons (Cornflower)||Cut when beginning to open||6-8 days||Yes|
|Basil||Cut when flower stalks have formed||7-10 days||Optional|
|Bells of Ireland||Once the green bells form along the stalk||10-14 days||Optional|
|Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)||Cut when beginning to open or fully open||7-10 days||Yes|
|Calendula||Cut when beginning to open||5-7 days||Yes|
|Celosia||Cut when fully open, but before seed sets||10-14 days||Yes|
|Cerinthe (Honeywort)||Cut when beginning to open or fully open. Sear stems||7-10 days||Optional|
|Chinese Aster||Cut when beginning to open or fully open||5-7 days||Yes|
|Cosmos||Cut when beginning to open||5-7 days||Yes|
|Dahlia||Cut when fully open but young||5-7 days||Yes|
|Daucus (Queen Anne’s Lace)||Cut when fully open, before setting seed||6-8 days||Yes|
|Dill||Cut when fully open or setting seed||6-8 days||Optional|
|Feverfew||Cut when just starting to open or fully open||6-8 days||Yes|
|Gomphrena||Cut when fully open||10-14 days||Yes|
|Marigold||Cut when just beginning to open or fully open||7-10 days||Yes|
|Mint||Cut as foliage with firm stems or with developed flowers||10-14 days||Optional|
|Nasturtium||Cut when beginning to open or fully open||7-10 days||Yes|
|Nigella (Love In A Mist)||Cut when fully open or setting seed pods||7 days||Yes|
|Poppy||Cut when beginning open or set seed pods. Sear stem||7 days||Yes|
|Salvia||Cut when lower buds begin to open||5 days||Yes|
|Scabiosa (Pincusion flower)||Cut when fully open with a stiff neck||6-8 days||Yes|
|Snapdragon||Cut when lower buds begin to open||7-10 days||Yes|
|Strawflower||Cut when beginning to open to fully open||10-14+ days||Optional|
|Statice||Cut when fully open||10-14+ days||Optional|
|Sunflower||Cut when beginning to open||7-10 days||Optional|
|Sweet Pea||Cut when lower buds begin to open||4-6 days||Yes|
|Sweet William (Dianthus)||Cut when a few flowers begin to open||1-2 weeks||Yes|
|Yarrow||Cut when fully open||6-8 days||Yes|
|Zinnia||Cut when fully open, passes wiggle test||6-8 days||Yes|
The information in the table above is based on my own experience and learning from professional flower farmers, such as Erin Benzakein’s books, and as a graduate of Lisa Mason Ziegler’s flower farming school.
Extra tips to get the longest vase life from your flowers
Each cut flower has an optimal time to cut and handle it. Some prefer to be at the “crack stage” when the petals are just peeking through; others need to be fully open to prevent them from drooping over in the vase. And although it sounds bizarre, some stems benefit from a little heat post-harvest.
1. Cut certain flowers when they’re fully open
Some flowers need to be fully open to last long in the vase. If picked too young, these flowers will have weak necks that won’t support the flower head for long. Just a few hours after arranging your flowers, you’ll see the flowers start to droop over. Once this happens, there’s no saving the flower.
The wiggle test is a surefire test to know if a flower is ready to cut. Hold the stem a few inches below the flower and wiggle it back and forth. If the flower flops from side to side, it’s too immature. If the stem stays stiff as you wiggle it, it’s ready to cut.
Flowers that need to pass the wiggle test:
2. Some stems should be seared with flame or boiling water
As strange as it sounds, some flowers, such as poppies, need to have their stem seared to last more than a couple of hours in the vase. Searing the stem seals the end to prevent the flower from losing vital nutrients that will keep it alive longer in the vase
To sear a stem: Hold the bottom 1-2 inches of the stem in boiling water for 10 seconds, then place it in cool water. Alternatively, you can briefly hold a flame to the end of the stem, much like you would burn off a loose string.
Flowers that benefit from seared stems:
- Poppies (flame is better than boiling water for poppies)
3. Some flowers are known as “dirty”
“Dirty flowers” refer to a small group of flowers that are known to turn their vase water yellow and murky very quickly after arranging them in a vase of fresh water. These flowers have rough, hairy stems that are more prone to holding onto dirt and bacteria from the garden.
- Black-eyed Susan
A simple trick to combat this problem is adding a drop of bleach to the vase water and flower food and changing the water daily to prevent bacteria from building up.
4. Cut flowers before pollination
If you want your flowers to last as long as possible, it’s best to cut them before they’ve been pollinated. Pollination signals the flower that it’s time to start producing seeds. Once a flower shifts its energy to seed production, it won’t last nearly as long on the plant or in the vase.
The timing can be tricky for flowers such as zinnias that need to be fully open before cutting. Cut them too early, and they won’t last, but wait too long, and they’ll start to produce seeds.
Experience will be your biggest helper here. Until you get more comfortable, look for flowers that pass the wiggle test and have vibrant colors that aren’t starting to fade at the edge of the petals. Faded color is a sign of an older flower that won’t last but a couple of days in the vase.
How to cut your flowers for maximum vase life
Morning is the best time to cut your flowers after a hydrating and refreshing overnight. If you can’t harvest in the morning, late afternoon or evening is the next best time. Avoid harvesting at midday as that can lead to some flowers drooping immediately after harvest without a way to revive them.
To harvest your cut flowers:
1. Start with clean, sharp scissors or a set of snips.
2. Fill a clean bucket halfway fresh, cool water
3. Harvest by cutting the stems at an angle, removing any leaves that will fall below the water line in the vase.
4. Immediately after cutting, place the stems in the bucket of water.
5. Leave the flowers in the bucket to hydrate for several hours (if not overnight) in a cool place.
6. Arrange your flowers in their vase and add a packet of flower food according to the package directions.
7. Display your flowers in a cool, well-lit location out of direct sunlight.
8. Every 1-2 days, empty the vase, rinse it out with clean water and add fresh water and flower food according to the package directions.
9. Enjoy your beautiful flowers!
With that, your flower harvest should be a breeze and result in a vase of flowers that lasts as long as possible on your kitchen counter. While you’re arranging your flowers and dreaming of new varieties to grow, check out some of these other flower growers: 7 Best YouTube Channels To Inspire Cut Flower Gardeners.