How To Bring Flowers In Without Bugs: 9 Tips For Clean Flowers

closeup of zinnia flower with arrow pointing to insect

There’s nothing quite like the fresh scent of cut flowers floating through the air or the sight of your homegrown bouquets sitting on the kitchen counter. 

However, when bringing cut flowers in from the garden, you may be inviting various bugs and creepy crawlies to come and visit, which aren’t always welcome – but what can you do to make sure that the majority stay outside?

To bring flowers into your house without bugs, cut the flowerheads before they are fully open to prevent access. You can also use a physical barrier like organza bags tied around the flower head. If the flowers are already cut, deter bugs by gently tapping the stems to shake off any remaining insects. 

Although having an ant running around your counter won’t detract from the beauty of your bouquet, there are times when you just want to enjoy your flowers in peace. Fortunately, that’s easily achievable, so let’s get into it. 

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How to have a fresh garden bouquet, minus the bugs

When you bring cut flowers in from the garden, there is always the chance that you may have some bugs coming along for the ride. This will be especially true for flowers picked when fully open, such as zinnias.

Garden flowers are grown in a very different environment than the bouquets you might be used to buying at the grocery store or florist. 

Commercial flowers and bouquets are typically grown in massive quantities in other countries, so they are heavily processed with chemicals to keep away damaging insects and to survive the trip to the US. 

So when you cut your armful of homegrown stems, don’t be surprised to see a stray ant or caterpillar poop on your kitchen counter later, especially if you garden with natural methods and avoid pesticides. 

However, like many people, bugs may not be your favorite thing in your house. Don’t worry; there are many things you can do to keep the uninvited house guests to a minimum!

Top tips to follow when bringing cut flowers indoors

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. Here’s a list of the measures you can take for clean flower arrangements:

1. Use organza bags as a physical barrier to protect flowers

The most practical way to prevent bugs from getting into your flower heads is to use a physical barrier such as an organza bag. Flower farmers often use them over their valuable flowers, such as dahlias, whose petals are delicious to many a garden insect, such as grasshoppers and cucumber beetles.

The bags will also help deter moths from laying eggs on leaves near the flower head, which can hatch into the tiny caterpillars that sometimes make their way into your house along with your flowers. 

It may look strange to see tulle-like bags sprinkled throughout your garden, but it’s an effective way to keep your flower heads clean. 

2. Do a visual check of your flowers for bugs

Once you’re in the garden and ready to cut, inspect your flower carefully. If you see any signs of bugs, simply blow them away, pick them off, or use a little paintbrush to brush them away. These methods work well with bugs such as ants, caterpillars, or earwigs but may not be as effective on insects that are more sticky or are more sneaky and like to hide, such as greenflies or spider mites.

4. Cut flowers at crack stage

Pick flowers with buds that are just about to open, such as sunflowers. These buds should have a slight color poking out(called the crack stage), which means the flowers are mature enough to bloom and won’t disappoint. 

sunflower just starting to open, light yellow petals showing
This sunflower is at the perfect stage to cut. It’ll last a long time in the vase, and there shouldn’t be too many bugs inside.

It may seem a little premature to pick buds rather than open flowers, but it is the best thing to do to increase the longevity of your flowers – the bouquet will last much longer, and the scent will be all that much sweeter. 

Along with a longer vase life, another benefit of choosing flowers in the bud stage is that ants, spiders, or caterpillars won’t have the chance to make a nest in the flower petals, decreasing the possibility of bringing any indoors with you. 

Need some clippers to cut your flowers? Here are my two favorite pairs:

My favorite garden shears

I constantly misplace my garden shears and clippers, so I’ve tested a lot of pairs. Good thing these ones have red handles to help me keep track of them!

3. Shake the flowers gently to dislodge garden bugs

Once you’ve cut your flowers, turn them upside down and give them a gentle shake before bringing them into the house. Any critters hiding should fall out, especially larger bugs like earwigs.

Some flowers won’t open any further once cut for the vase, so you have to wait until those are fully open to harvest them. Zinnias are the most popular flower that falls into this category. The gentle, upside-down shake is best for these types of flowers. To save time, wait until you have a handful, then shake them all simultaneously. 

*Shake the flowers gently, so the petals don’t come  away with the bugs – the aim is to keep the bouquet intact, not make confetti!* 

5. Give sturdy flowers a wipe

Once you have brought in the flowers for your bouquet, you can plunge them in tepid water to get rid of bugs, but that does have the risk of damaging the petals. It’s best to only try this with sturdy flowers such as marigolds or zinnias, not delicate ones like cosmos or scabiosa.

A softer and safer way is to delicately wipe any suspect leaves or bugs with some tepid water. 

6. Let the flowers sit outside before bringing them in

Leave the cut flowers in a bucket of water outside in the shade for a couple of hours. Any hidden bugs may fly away during this time, but of course, it could also be the case that more come to make a happy home for themselves.

bouquet of sunflower, black eyed susan, chard seeds, mint
This bouquet is resting on my picnic table to give any remaining garden critters a chance to fly away before I bring it inside.

7. Chill your flowers to remove stubborn bugs

Some swear by putting their flowers in a freezer for 5 minutes before shaking them. The cold puts the bugs to sleep, so it is much easier to shake them out and doesn’t damage the flowers. Just don’t forget the flowers, or you’ll lose your whole bouquet. 

8. Strip the stems of leaves and potential insect eggs

Remove the lower leaves from the stem when you are happy that your flowers are as bug-free as you could hope. Removing foliage does double duty: Leaves that sit in water will contribute to bacterial growth, shortening the vase life of your flowers. Stripping the stems also means that any eggs or insects lurking on the leaves will go in the compost bin along with the foliage.

9. Monitor your flowers for any remaining stowaways

Keep checking your bouquet for signs of insects. Bugs are incredible at hiding, so even after following all the tips below, some may slip through the net! If you see small green grains under your bouquet the next day, you know you have a caterpillar snacking on your flowers. Either accept it or go hunting for it! 

That’s the joy of picking your own – flowers that you have lovingly grown without any chemicals or pesticides – just natural goodness, and what’s an ant or two between friends?

For more in-depth goodies about growing your own bouquets, check out these articles next:

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