Use these tips for making fresh-cut flowers last in your vases to save money and enjoy your arrangements longer.

A simple flower arrangement can brighten any dinner party, room, staged home or office. And you can find inexpensive cut flowers in grocery and discount stores, or free in your home garden. Use these tips to keep them from wilting a few days after you place them in your favorite vase.

The first cut is crucial

Flowers come cut, but you need to cut them again at home. Use a sharp, clean knife instead of scissors, which are not made for cutting flowers and crush the stems and their delicate vascular systems. And try to make the cuts, at an angle, while the stems are emerged in water, removing about one to two inches, depending on your arrangement.

Flowers need water

If you’ve done a good job of cutting your flowers, they’ll soak up water well. It’s your job to respond and keep them hydrated. If you receive an arrangement or use floral foam, don’t assume the foam has soaked up enough water. Check the arrangement daily and add water to keep the fluid level up. If you have hard water, use demineralized water to fill the vases, not the water that comes through your water softener. Changing the water keeps it fresher, but it only works if you also clean your vase when before refilling.

Feed flowers

Once flowers are cut from their plants, they have no food source. It’s up to you to keep them alive by providing some nourishment. Commercial foods are available, and often come in packets attached to the arrangements. In short, flowers need sugar, acid and a preservative.

Mix a household solution of 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (bottled or fresh) with a tablespoon of sugar and just a 1/4 teaspoon of bleach per quart of warm water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of bleach to the water every 4 days. See this and other homemade solutions from the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, who also say that aspirin and vinegar usually don’t help maintain flowers longer.

More freshness tips

When you remove the flowers to change the water, re-cut the stems so they’ll keep soaking up the fluid and food. Bacteria can form in the water, so removing leaves below the water line keeps water fresher. You also can clean the stems with a vegetable brush for extra cleanliness. Placing your arrangement in cooler spots and out of direct sunlight or drafts from windows or ceiling fans will prolong freshness. If a few of the flowers wilt despite all of your efforts, cull the weak ones from the arrangement. They emit a gas that try to take the health flowers with them.

For tips on preserving the life of particular flowers, check out this page from Teleflora.