Why Do Flowers Die When They Are Cut?

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Cut flowers die when they are cut.
Image Credit: Jena Ardell/Moment/GettyImages

Freshly cut flowers add happiness to any room, but that feeling is fleeting as you watch the flowers die so quickly and realize that you can't bring totally dead flowers back to life. However, you can extend the length of time they remain perky.


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Most freshly cut flowers can remain part of your decor for anywhere between seven and 12 days depending on the type of flower. Roses, lilies and freesia remain fresh longer than hyacinths, lilacs and tulips. There are ways to make your cut flowers last longer if care is taken before they are even put into water.

Keeping Flowers Fresh

Once flowers have been separated from their stems, they are cut off from the nutrients they receive during growth. Those nutrients must be replaced if you want to keep the flowers fresh. Start by cleanly cutting the stems on an angle at least 1 to 2 inches. This creates more surface area for water and supplements to penetrate the stalk and prevents the stem from resting flatly on the bottom of the vase. Refresh the trim every few days. Before putting the flowers in the vase, trim any leaves that may reach below the water surface.


Choosing the right vase is also important. Large, heavy blooms should be in a shorter vase where they can support each other, while smaller blooms survive well in a taller vase. Space the flowers so they are not crowding each other and place them individually into the container to create a well-balanced display.

Adding Supplements to the Water

The little packets you receive with a bouquet of flowers is essential for keeping flowers fresh. They contain sugar, acidifiers and cleansing agents that aid in cell metabolism, fight bacteria and work to increase the uptake of water by adjusting the pH of the water. Swish a packet into the water every time you change it. Your florist can supply them, or you can make your own by mixing 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of bleach and 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice into 1 quart of water.


A drop or two of vodka in the water slows the flowers' wilting since it decreases the gas that ripens the flowers. Alternatively, add 1/4 cup of soda to the water but be sure the soda is clear. An aspirin tablet adjusts the pH level in the water, and putting a penny at the bottom of the vase adds acids that fight bacteria.

Revive Dying Flowers

When your flowers start to droop, you can revive them by refreshing their environment. Flowers die because the water is contaminated, they don't get light and the stalks are clogged and not taking up any of the nutrients they need. Remove the flowers from the vase and wash them with water, removing any slimy coating. Wash the vase thoroughly with kitchen soap and refresh the water.


Recut the stalks at a 45-degree angle to provide a clean surface. Add a teaspoon of well-diluted bleach to the water and mix well. This kills any lingering bacteria. Dissolve a teaspoon of sugar into a cup of warm water and then add it to the vase. The flowers should perk up within hours. Keep the flowers out of direct sun and away from air conditioning vents. They like a cool environment, but blowing cold air dries them out.