How to Keep Roses Alive

Giving someone flowers is a sweet gesture but if you don't know how to care for them, that sweet gesture won't last more than a few days. I'd come across a few odd tips for how to keep flowers alive longer: adding vinegar to the water, putting a penny in the vase, and bleach were among them. In the interest of not believing everything you read on the Internet, I decided to test them all out on bouquets of roses. You'll be surprised at the simple trick that will keep your flowers alive!

Cheri Tauton-Garner, the owner of Unique Southern Charm, talked to me about how she cares for flowers for her clients and broke down why these tricks for keeping flowers alive longer worked or didn't work. In general, Cheri recommends stripping all of the greenery on your flowers. “The stem acts like a straw so if you have leaves on the stem, the water goes to them first before it goes to the head of the flower, which is what you really care about,” says Cheri. She also recommends both changing the water in the vase and trimming the stems at an angle for maximum water absorption every other day. Keeping the vase out of the sun and away from heat will also help the flowers live longer. “They like a cooler temperature,” says Cheri. “Even though they required sun to grow, they don’t like it after being cut.” With these tips in mind, read through to see what tricks worked and what didn’t. The winner may surprise you!



Test: Aspirin
The idea here is that aspirin for flowers will be an acid neutralizer and will help the flowers absorb the water.


Method: We dropped a 325-milligram tablet of aspirin into the clean water and let it dissolve on the first day and again when we changed the water every other day.


Results: These roses were the first to go. After drooping within the first couple of days, the flowers were all dead by day 5.



Test: Penny
Supposedly, the reaction of the metal and the water will help keep bacteria at bay. Cheri says this tip was widely used many years ago but isn't as common today.


Method: We dropped one shiny penny at the bottom of this vase of roses.


Results: When we came back after the weekend, these roses were done for. The roses had opened up fine but didn't last past day 8.



Test: Bleach
The bleach was thought to slow the bacteria build-up that can kill the flowers.


Method: We put ¼ teaspoon of bleach in the vase on the first day and when we changed the water every other day.


Results: The bleach didn't change the color of the flowers as much as we thought it would. The tips of the stems (about as much as we trimmed from the stems every other day) started to get whiter after a couple of days, but the red roses stayed mostly red until the end of day 8 when this bunch died as well.



Test: Sugar
Sugar water for flowers is meant to act as a fertilizer or Miracle Gro. After a while, though, it can crystallize, cause bacteria growth, or mold.


Method: Sprinkled ¼ teaspoon of sugar into the vase on the first day and when we changed the water every other day. 


Results: The roses with sugar in the water opened up nicely but started to droop quickly. They were dead by day 9, which Cheri says is still an impressive amount of time to keep roses alive in an office!



Test: Clear Water
Clean, fresh water is the simplest way to keep flowers alive longer. Most florists recommend changing the water every other day.


Method: We changed the water in the vase every other day.


Results: These roses stayed open longer but started to get soft and mushy. We pronounced them dead on day 9.



Test: Vinegar
Vinegar in the flower water is also supposed to help kill bacteria that can kill the flowers faster. Cheri says this is a tough one because if you put too much vinegar in or if it's too concentrated, it won't help.


Method: We put ¼ teaspoon of vinegar in the vase on the first day and when we changed the water every other day.


Results: The small amount of vinegar helped keep the flowers alive a lot longer. The flowers didn't get discolored, but started to droop on day 8 and died on day 9.



Test: Flower food
Flower food is to flowers what preservatives are to food—it gives them a longer shelf life. When the flowers open, it should help keep them in that state longer.


Method: We followed the directions on the packets of flower food that came with our roses and mixed the flower food with lukewarm water in a clean vase on the first day and when we changed the water every other day.


Results: These roses never opened all the way, but they did stay alive longer and didn't droop as much as many other bouquets did. They died on day 9.



Test: 7UP
This tip came from interior designer Tamara Sayago-Dunner to whom I spoke about decorating with fresh flowers. Cheri said that it's probably a combination of the carbonation adding air to the water, the sugar in the soda, and the acid.


Method: We filled the vase with 7UP (any lemon-lime soda will do!) instead of water and changed the soda every other day.


Results: We have a winner! These roses not only stayed alive for 12 days (in fluorescent lighting, nonetheless) but they also stayed perky and fresh-looking.

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