How Long Do Cut Flowers Last? (30 Flower’s Vase Life)

bouquet of queen zinnias on kitchen counter

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

FlowerCutting stageVase lifeFlower food?
Ammi (False Queen Anne’s Lace)Cut when fully open or setting seed6-8 daysYes
Bachelor Buttons (Cornflower) Cut when beginning to open6-8 daysYes
BasilCut when flower stalks have formed7-10 daysOptional
Bells of IrelandOnce the green bells form along the stalk10-14 daysOptional
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)Cut when beginning to open or fully open7-10 daysYes
CalendulaCut when beginning to open5-7 daysYes
CelosiaCut when fully open, but before seed sets10-14 daysYes
Cerinthe (Honeywort)Cut when beginning to open or fully open. Sear stems7-10 daysOptional
Chinese AsterCut when beginning to open or fully open5-7 daysYes
CosmosCut when beginning to open5-7 daysYes
DahliaCut when fully open but young5-7 daysYes
Daucus (Queen Anne’s Lace)Cut when fully open, before setting seed6-8 daysYes
DillCut when fully open or setting seed6-8 daysOptional
FeverfewCut when just starting to open or fully open6-8 daysYes
GomphrenaCut when fully open10-14 daysYes
MarigoldCut when just beginning to open or fully open7-10 daysYes
MintCut as foliage with firm stems or with developed flowers10-14 daysOptional
NasturtiumCut when beginning to open or fully open7-10 daysYes
Nigella (Love In A Mist)Cut when fully open or setting seed pods7 daysYes
PoppyCut when beginning open or set seed pods. Sear stem7 daysYes
SalviaCut when lower buds begin to open5 daysYes
Scabiosa (Pincusion flower)Cut when fully open with a stiff neck6-8 daysYes
SnapdragonCut when lower buds begin to open7-10 daysYes
StrawflowerCut when beginning to open to fully open10-14+ days Optional
StaticeCut when fully open10-14+ days Optional
SunflowerCut when beginning to open7-10 daysOptional 
Sweet PeaCut when lower buds begin to open4-6 daysYes
Sweet William (Dianthus)Cut when a few flowers begin to open1-2 weeksYes
YarrowCut when fully open6-8 daysYes
ZinniaCut when fully open, passes wiggle test6-8 daysYes
This table gives the general guidelines for when to harvest cut flowers, how long they’ll last, and if they’ll benefit from a floral preservative.

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.

mixed bouquet of zinnia, cosmos, yarrow, scabiosa, statice
Zinnias and statice are prime examples of flowers that need to be fully open before cutting.

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:

  • Zinnia
  • Scabiosa
  • Ammi

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:

  • Basil
  • Cerinthe
  • Poppies (flame is better than boiling water for poppies)
  • Mint

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.

Dirty flowers:

  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Sunflower
  • Yarrow
  • Zinnia

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.

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