How to Preserve Cut Flowers Naturally

Florists, gardeners and anyone who uses flower arrangements in their home or business benefits from extending the vase life of floral arrangements. Making a natural cut flower preservative offers the advantage of a solution that increases the life of cut flowers without using bleach or other chemicals. Floral preservative--also called flower preservative or floral food--feeds the cut flowers and protects them from bacteria. Learn natural techniques for preserving cut flower arrangements.

Make a natural citrus soda cut flower preservative by mixing one can of the soda with three cans of warm water in a pitcher. To prolong the life of cut flowers, the Kansas State University Horticulture department recommends using warm water, 37.8 degrees C. Use filtered tap water---any kind of under-sink, faucet or pitcher filter will help, or use distilled water. Use tap water if you need to, but hard or alkaline water may limit cut flower life. It is not necessary to use the exact 100 degree F temperature. Keep in mind that 37.8 degrees C feel only slightly warmer than the inside of your mouth, and will feel warm and not hot on the inside of your wrist.

Create a natural citrus fresh flower preservative with fresh lemons or limes. Squeeze the lemons or limes to obtain 2 tbs. of juice.

Mix the citrus juice into a quart of warm water in a pitcher. Stir in 1 tbsp of sugar. Most homemade flower preservatives call for ½ tbsp of plain household bleach to kill bacteria in the vase water. Flower food without bleach will extend the life of cut flowers. The sugar feeds the blooms and the citric acid helps to protect the cut flowers.

Clean a vase with hot water and dish soap, even if it looks clean. Rinse it well. Add the natural flower preservative.

Use a garden shears to cut flower stems at a 45-degree angle. This gives the flower stem the maximum surface area for taking in water and nutrition from the natural floral preservative.

Arrange the flowers in a vase filled with the homemade floral food mixture. Place them in a cool area out of direct sunlight. Change the water and add a fresh batch of natural flower preservative every other day.


Cane sugar or beet sugar from a health food store or common table sugar all work. Avoid diet soft drinks--they lack the nutrients cut flowers need. Cut flowers in the morning, before the sun reduces the water in the bloom. Select blooms in bud and partly opened flowers other than full-blown flowers. Keep them in water continuously. Use cold water for flowers grown from bulbs. If the cut flower arrangement contains mostly irises or other bulb blooms, use cold water.

Things You'll Need

  • Water pitcher
  • Natural citrus soda, non-diet type (optional)
  • One large lemon or two to four limes
  • Natural sugar or table sugar, any kind
  • Mixing spoon
  • Filtered or distilled water, if available
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About the Author

Gryphon Adams began publishing in 1985. He contributed to the "San Francisco Chronicle" and "Dark Voices." Adams writes about a variety of topics, including teaching, floral design, landscaping and home furnishings. Adams is a certified health educator and a massage practitioner. He received his Master of Fine Arts at San Francisco State University.