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How to make spring flowers last longer

conditioning tulip stemsHave you ever picked spring flowers, got them inside, arranged them in a vase only to have them flop, shrivel and die in a couple of days?

This guide is going to stop that happening ever again.

The main thing is to remember that spring flowers are different from other flowers.

Spring flowers shoot up fast, they go from hunched leaves shivering in cold weather to showy blooms waving in the sun in just a few weeks. This is one of the reasons that they are so precious.

This means that they have sappy, water filled stems with hardly any structure. Your main aim is to keep the flowers hydrated - to keep as much water in the stems as possible and to make it easy for them to drink.

conditioning tulip stems

Picking -

  • Pick your flowers when it is cool, either in the morning or at night is best - this is when the flowers have as much fluid in their stems as possible.
  • Pick directly into a bucket - every minute that the stems are out of water they are getting dehydrated.
  • If you are buying flowers rather than picking them try to keep them cool until you get home - don't leave them on a sunny parcel shelf.

conditioning tulip stems


  • Take off all the leaves that you don't absolutely need for your arrangement. Leaves invisibly 'sweat', so the fewer leaves there are, the less dehydrated the flowers will be.
  • Boil a kettle of water and pour about 5-10 cm of just boiled water into a mug or jug. The shorter the stems the less water you need - so bluebells need less than tulips.
  • Sear the ends of the flower stems for a couple of seconds and then put straight into a vase or pot of luke warm water. There are lots of conflicting arguments about why searing works - it might break down the cell walls helping the stem to take up water, it might shock the plant, it might sterilise the stem and stop bacteria. It doesn't actually matter why it works - it just does. I find that flowers whose stems have been seared last 4 days longer in the vase.
  • Leave the flowers in the vase for a couple of hours in a cool place and then arrange.

conditioning tulip stems

In the vase - how and where you display your flowers has a big effect on the vase life

  • Make sure your vase is very clean.
  • Do not put the vase in full sun - the aim is to keep them nicely hydrated so baking in full sun is going to make them overheat and flop. They won't be able to drink fast enough to make up for the fluid they are losing.
  • Do not put the vase near a fruit bowl. All fruit, but particularly bananas, give off ethylene which encourages ripening. This is why you can ripen an avocado by putting it in a paper bag with a banana. For flowers ripening means the flowers dying and moving onto seed production. You do not want this!
  • Keep an eye on water levels, spring flowers are incredibly thirsty and can drink a vase of water in a couple of days.
  • Remove individual flowers as they die and the rest of the arrangement will last longer.
  • Changing water every couple of days has a slight effect on how long flowers last. I don't do this because it is a hassle, but it is there as an option!
conditioning tulip stems


If you liked reading this you might like to read more about the tulips I grow.


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