Cut Flowers Need Love

Taking care of the awesome cut flowers you just purchased is so important for your floral design career.  The better they are processed (cut, cleaned, placed in water) the longer they will last and stay beautiful for your friends or clients.  It is amazing how well flowers and greens hold up in designs if they are chosen fresh with continued proper processing.   Some people just don’t get it because they’re lazy and let them lay around on the counter for an hour or so.  UH UH, NO NO!  Be good to them, they will be good to you!grocery bunch of flowers

Let’s say you just bought a flower bunch at your local grocery store. You’re so excited because you are having guests over and just love fresh flowers on the table. You get home, pull off the cellophane and just drop them in a vase of water, right? Not! You have to realize that some of these flowers have traveled across the globe, have been shoved and moved around a few times. They need a little bit of loving care. So what do you do? Have your vase of outside water (the salt in soft water doesn’t allow the flowers to last that long), or better yet, bottled water ready on the counter, filled about 1/2 to 3/4 full.  Add the package of preservative that’s usually provided (this will help keep the water fresh and germ free). Gently unwrap or slit the cellophane off. If there’s extra packing (such as cute netting or extra paper) remove it and save it for another project. Then take your garden sheers or florist knife and cut the stems at an angle. Strip off the excess foliage to where the leaves won’t be in the water (the foliage tends to dirty the water and allow the flowers to deteriorate faster) then place them into the vase.   Because of proper flower care, you’ve now got a vase of flowers that will last for days!mixed with gerbera


Using only clean flower buckets is HUGE for the longevity of the flower product you’ve spent your hard earned money on.  Bacteria can easily form in yucky water and that relates directly to your flower’s life.  All you need is household bleach and dish detergent. This method has worked for me for years and I highly recommend you follow this simple procedure:

Throw out the old water in your bucket.  Then fill the bucket approximately 1/3 of the way with water.  Pour in a little “glub” of bleach and a “squirt” of dish washing detergent.  Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, then scrub the interior of the bucket with your scrub brush and toss this down the sink.  Rinse THOUROUGHLY with clear water (do this a few times to make sure the bleach and soap are gone).  Wipe out with a towel or just turn upside down to drain.  Now you’ve got a bucket ready to be home to your next group of flowers!


Each flower variety has a different requirement for cutting and cleaning stems.  Some techniques overlap and you’ll get to know about the various stems and varieties and what they require.  Below is a list of flowers and the prepping for each:

 ROSES:rose with stem

These gems are such a loved flower and really hold up much better than people give them credit for, especially with proper care.  When you get your bunch of 12 roses from the store,  place them in a vase of water until you’re ready to clean them.  It’s extremely important that the stems are drinking water as much as possible.  When you’re ready, cut the group of stems  at an angle about an inch up the stem, even before you remove the cellophane.  Use your knife or garden clippers, whichever you prefer. Then remove the cello and cut the twist tie/rubber band off the stems.  The reason to cut them in one group is because it saves time and is much easier.   Now strip the foliage and thorns off about 1/2 up each stem.  Each variety of rose has different amounts of thorns; sometimes you can use a towel to strip down the stem (keeps your hand in better shape!).  If this won’t work, use your knife and slowly remove each thorn.  Don’t take them off all the way up the stem as this will allow moisture to seep out of the part of the stem that isn’t in water and cause the rose to wilt.   If you’re going be cleaning larger grower bunches of roses (25 stems/bunch), you might want to invest in a rose stripper from one of the on line suppliers I’ve listed.  Quick and easy to use…..just be careful not to strip the outer covering of the stem too much so the roses last longer and don’t lose moisture out of the stem.   Once your stems are clean you can place them back into your container of water so they can drink up and feel better!  Now you’re ready to design with them.


Chrysanthemum-StemsThese flowers are also a great staple used in flower arranging for many, many years. They are EXTREMELY hardy and can be used in lots of creative ways. Cut their stems at an angle with your clippers or knife, remove the excess foliage at least half way up (or just up past the water line).   The great thing about mums is that you can “break” the stems rather than cut them.  In fact, they prefer this method of cutting as this allows them to draw up water much better.  And why not take out a little aggression at the same time?!

HYDRANGEAblue hydrangea

Hydrangea blooms have been a wonderful flower to work with and still maintain a great style for today’s vintage designs that are so popular.   To maintain their freshness here’s a great trick:  when you get your bunches of hydrangea to your location, have a bucket or your sink filled with cold water.  Then submerge (yes, get it down in the cold water) the head of the hydrangea flower and leave them there for about 5 minutes.  Then pull them out, cut their stems, and set them in their bucket of warm water.  You’ll be amazed how this process will keep them fresh for days!

CARNATIONScarnation stem

While carnations are another flower staple with the floral design world, they haven’t been as popular the last few years.  The newer generations are loving them again, and that’s so exciting! I think they are an incredible value and there are so many more varieties available from today’s flower growers than there used to be.  Leave carnations in their bunch so it’s much easier to clean and process them.  Cut the bunched stems  at an angle with your clippers or knife.  Then gently (don’t want to break stems!) lay the bunch of carnations on your table and cut off the twist tie or rubber band.  Then take each stem and remove the excess foliage (not much with these flowers, just some small leaves up the stem at different points) and place into your bucket of warm water.  When completed with the bunch, spritz with some water to maintain their freshness.

GERBERA DAISIESgerbera daisy

Gerbera Daisies are such a happy flower and loved by many.  These flowers have a fresh look and the color spectrum is incredible.  There are mini gerbera that are really small and cute as well as the regular sized blooms.   Now in this bucket you only need a couple inches of water; the flowers respond and last much better with a smaller amount of water.  Cut  at an angle while in the bunch, undo the rubber band, then remove the  cellophane collar that comes with some.  These are used to help the gerbera maintain their bloom structure when shipped.  Be gentle when removing these. Some stems may also have a plastic collar that comes on the stem close to the bloom. You can leave this on if you’d like, but I normally remove them as I don’t think they are very attractive.  Once you’re done cleaning the flowers, make sure and get them back in the bucket of warm water as soon as possible.

LEATHER LEAFleather_leaf_1

Leather leaf is a long lasting, standard green in the floral design world.  “Old School” as many would say, but I still think it’s a valuable green to work with. Just don’t use them exclusively in flower arranging so you have a more sophisticated look.  When you get your bunch(es) of leather leaf, submerge them just as you do with the hydrangea blooms.  They lose moisture from their foliage which is why giving them this big foliage drink will make the leather leaf last much longer.  About 5 minutes should do.  You should also clean off any of the fine hairs that are on the stems.  That will keep your water much cleaner in your flower arrangements.  If you’re keeping the leather leaf awhile before using it, try to spritz the foliage with water every few hours to maintain freshness.  I also spray mine with a green plant leaf shine which seals the moisture in.  These puppies last a LONG time!


Soft and airy, this is a beautiful green to use in your flower arranging.  It is long lasting if it is purchased fresh, but can shed if it’s too old.  This fern should have it’s stems trimmed, but also needs to be sprayed with water periodically to keep it fresh.  The long tendrils look awesome in vase arrangements, graceful and flowing.

I realise this is only a partial list of flowers and greens that you might use.  But I think I’ve given you some insight on how to care for these varieties that will lend itself to other varieties as well.

Here’s a general list to follow to make things easy:

  1.  Always use clean and sanitized buckets for your flowers and greens.
  2. Fill buckets with warm water ⅓ to ½ full. Keep the bunches in water as much as possible for longer life.
  3. Keep your tools sharp and clean to hinder the growth of bacteria on foliage.
  4. Use the powder that’s usually given with your bunches.  Use the recommendation on the label.  This really helps to keep the various fungus’ at bay.
  5. Always cut your bunches while they are still held together to save time and energy.  Spray flowers with water when you’re done cleaning the bunches. They love this little shower!
  6. Cut at angles for the best water absorption.  Remember that water is the flowers’ (and ours) gift of life.  Always give a fresh cut whenever you purchase fresh flowers and greens.
  7. Generally, it’s only necessary to cut ½ inch to one inch off stems (unless you need them to be shorter).
  8.  BE GENTLE!  These are nature’s precious beauties and we need to respect them.
  9.  Woodier stems indicate using your clippers;  thinner stems can be cut with a knife.  Keep this in mind for the different varieties you might come across and purchase.
Following these flower care guidelines is an important part of your flower journey.  Once you grasp the concept of how to clean and cut different stems (woody/think, soft and thinner) and understand how much this means to your beautiful arrangements, the more creative you will be with your designs.  Now go get some flowers and practice, practice, practice!

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