Cut flowers should be placed into a vase of water as soon as they have been removed from the soil, however, if you aren’t able to get your flowers into water right away, it’s handy to know how long they will last before they start to wilt or ultimately die.
Different types of flowers have different lifespans when it comes to their time without water. Some delicate flowers such as Lilies will begin to wilt after a day out of water, while Tulips and Daffodils can remain looking healthy for 2 to 4 days without water, because they have stored nutrients which they can live off for a little while.
Here we explore what affects a flower’s ability to last without water, and what you can do to prolong the life of your flower bouquets.
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When Will Flowers Wilt Without Water?
If you have been given a lovely bouquet of flowers but aren’t at home to put them straight into a vase or jug of water, you might be concerned that the flowers are going to start to wilt. Fortunately, many bouquets of flowers bought from reputable florists, or even grocery stores, will come with a small bag of water attached to the base of the stems so that they don’t have to go without water at all.
If your flowers have been freshly cut and aren’t in a bag of water, for example, if they have been selected from a field of wildflowers, then they could start to wilt quite quickly without access to water. Flowers with thin stems and small flower heads are more prone to wilting compared with larger, fuller flowers because they don’t have as much moisture and nutrient reserves stored within them.
Dainty and delicate flowers like this could start to wilt within a few hours after being removed from their source of water. Larger flowers with thicker stems, like Roses, will last around 8 to 12 hours without water before they begin to wilt. The longest-lasting flowers which will remain looking fresh and healthy without water are Daffodils and Tulips. These can sustain themselves for between 2 and 4 days without water before they will show signs of wilting.
When Will Flowers Die Without Water?
Although flowers will start to wilt without water, they can survive for some time after this before they are completely dead. The length of time the flowers can survive without water will be largely determined by the type of flowers they are, and the environment they are in. Lilies will start to wilt after around a day without water, but they will live for up to 3 days without water.
Roses will perform similarly without water, starting to wilt within the first day, but surviving for around 3 days in total. Daffodils are quite resilient and can live for over a week without any water at all, though they will begin wilting several days before this. The environment you are keeping the flowers in can have a big impact on the lifespan of the bouquet.
Warm temperatures and lots of sunlight will speed up the dehydration process and mean that flowers wilt and die more quickly. By contrast, cut flowers kept in cool and dark conditions will use less energy, and therefore last a little longer without water.
Factors Affecting How Long Flowers Last
The temperature that flowers are kept in plays a big role in determining how long cut bouquets last. Florists who wish to preserve floral arrangements for weddings and other celebrations will often refrigerate their flowers to ensure they are in peak condition at the time they are delivered to the clients. If you want to make flowers last longer, then keeping them in a cool environment can help to sustain them by several more days.
Exposure to light can dehydrate flowers and cause petals to wilt or crisp up. For an extended lifespan, keep cut flowers out of direct sunlight. They should not be displayed on a bright windowsill but instead will fare best on a table in the corner of a room. If you are trying to preserve cut flowers for a specific event, they can be stored in a cool and dark place, such as a pantry.
The species of the flowers massively affects the flower’s ability to last once they have been cut. Some types of flowers are known to have a long shelf life, such as Chrysanthemums which can last in a vase of water for up to 4 weeks, and Carnations which will last 2 to 3 weeks in water.
Other types of flowers are not well suited to being used as cut flowers if you want them to last a while, such as Persian Buttercups (Ranunculus sp.) which only last up to 7 days once cut. Flowers that can last the longest without water are those which are good at storing moisture and nutrients which they can live off, such as Daffodils and Tulips.
The moisture provided to cut flowers will make the difference between a bouquet that lasts for one day, and a bouquet that lasts for 2 weeks. Flowers are living organisms, and so they require water to survive. If you aren’t able to put your cut flowers right into a vase of water, you can make temporary arrangements, such as wrapping them in moist paper towels or keeping them in a chilled environment.
How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer
If your bouquet cannot be put into a source of water right away, you can make temporary arrangements just using paper towels or tissues. Simply wrap the end of your flower stems in paper towels and then moisten the towels under running water. Now put the wrapped end of your bouquet in a plastic bag to prevent it from dripping. Flowers can last for 24 hours or more when kept in this way, after which time they should be moved to a jug of water.
Snipping off the ends of your flower stems at a diagonal angle will help to refresh them and create a bigger surface area for them to absorb water. Before arranging your flowers in a vase, always cut the last inch of the stems off to increase their shelf life by more than a day.
Cut flowers need to be kept in a vase of fresh water to help them last for longer, but you can put additives in the water to extend their shelf life even further. For every liter of water, add two tablespoons of white vinegar and ¼ cup of sugar. This will create an environment that prevents the flowers from wilting, helping them to look fresh for longer. After 4 or 5 days, throw away the water in the vase and replace it with a new mixture of water, vinegar, and salt to give the flowers an extra boost.
You can help flowers last longer by keeping them in a cool environment. If your local climate is quite hot, a good tip is to add ice cubes to the water in the vase to keep the flowers cool.