Discover the ideal water temp and four other pro tips to extend the life of your cut flowers.
Smiling young woman arranging flowers in container on window sill at home
Credit: Getty Images / Cavan Images

Research shows that fresh-cut flowers can have an immediate impact on happiness and mood, and the pop of color is sure to brighten even the most stark of spaces. But just like humans need proper fuel and hydration to live strong and long, Liz Lachnit-Fields, an event and specialty floral lead at Wildflower floral shop in Des Moines, Iowa explains that "water prolongs the life of fresh cut flowers. Like other living things, they need it to survive!"

Once a flower is cut from its stem, it will continue to complete basic respiratory functions, adds Andrew Gaumond, horticulturist, botanist and director of content at Petal Republic. But they can no longer complete photosynthesis, so they cannot form the carbohydrates they need to complete essential plant processes and thus will begin to decline.

"If flowers are not placed in water, they will also quickly dehydrate and start to wilt as moisture rapidly evaporates from the plant cells," Gaumond says. "The presence of water will replenish these cells helping to preserve the longevity of fresh cut flowers for longer."

Some recent social media chit-chat suggests that boiling water might be the best to preserve your blooms. But that seems kind of counterintuitive (won't we burn the stems?!), so we asked Gaumond and Lachnit-Fields for their pro tips. While you might just flip on the tap and fill a vase, the type of water can make a big difference into how long that happiness-boosting bouquet will stay fresh, and turns out, there is an ideal temp, but it might not be boiling...

5 Pro Tips to Extend the Life of Your Fresh-Cut Flowers

Choose cold or room-temperature water.

As a rule, you should use cold or room temperature water for flowers, Lachnit-Fields explains. As you prepare to add the stems to the vase, give them a fresh cut—especially if they had to travel by mail to land at your doorstep—then place in room temp or cooler water.

"In these instances, stems may develop little air pockets which prevents water easily being absorbed. Cold water between 35 and 50 degrees may help 'shock' the stems and disperse the air pockets better than water at temperatures above 50 degrees. Flowers grown from bulbs, such as crocus, daffodils, tulips, or hyacinth, generally tend to prefer cold water," no matter how long they've been cut, he adds.

Use hot H2O is a last resort.

So how about that warm water news that's swirling around? "You should use hot water [defined as 100 degrees] as a last resort if flowers are severely dehydrated. Some stems respond better to being hydrated in hot water, like hydrangea, dahlias and viburnum, and you can also use hot water to make some blooms, like peonies, anemone and roses, open faster," Lachnit-Fields says.

Hot water might be also considered as a means to kill bacteria or unclog the stems of a fresh cut flower to allow greater water absorption and preserve the blooms for longer, Gaumond says, which is where this boiling water tip may have begun growing. "As a general rule, most flower types typically absorb warm water better than cold, but I'd always avoid boiling water which is prone to cause a negative shock to the flower and even cause rapid wilting and petal loss," he says. To summarize, cool to warm water should be A-OK, just be sure to skip the still-simmering boiled water.

Consider soaking the top (of certain plants).

It might be wise to take a dip! "Some flowers respond better to having their heads submerged or soaked in water rather than just cutting and soaking the stem. Hydrangea, anthurium and astilbe, for example, all might perk up more and last longer if you soak the whole flower in water," Lachnit-Fields says. Our friends at Better Homes & Gardens explain how to try this trick.

Supplement the water.

Just as a pinch of salt or squeeze of citrus can bring out the flavors in your recipe, placing flowers in water with a little something extra can improve the overall experience. Try ¼ teaspoon bleach per vase of water to prevent bacteria and delay flower decline. Or mix in a spoonful of sugar (or the flower food packet that comes with some bouquets) to boost carbohydrates and act as an "essential acidifier" in the water to promote longevity in fresh cut flowers, Gaumond recommends.

Change it early and often.

In a perfect world, you'd change the water every day to prevent bacteria from growing within the vase, according to Lachnit-Fields. "You should also give the stems a fresh cut before putting them back in the water so they can drink more," she says. If that's more often than you'd prefer, simply use your eyes. "A good indicator of when to switch out the water to fresh is when the vase begins to display a cloudy appearance, which will typically start to occur every 2 to 3 days," Gaumond adds. "I'd generally recommend using completely fresh water every third day to maximize the longevity of the arrangement."