07/08/2012 01:23 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Sprout Home: How To Care For Cut Flowers

flower vase

Photo by Flickr user hello-julie.

Q: I like to pick up fresh cut flowers at my local shop, but I don't know how to take care of them. What can I do to make them last the longest?

A: Flowers, no matter where they're acquired from, need a few things to stay healthy. For starters, they need to have their stems trimmed and transported immediately to a container with water. They aren't big fans of direct sunlight or your heater or air conditioning vents.

Q: The internet tells me that I can put all sorts of things in the water to make it last longer. I've seen aspirin, bleach, pennies and more. Do any of those help?

A: Nothing is a substitution for regular cutting and water changing. Although some of the items listed might prolong the stems from wilting, the best thing you can do is to cut them every few days and change the water out, cleaning the container if needed. To give them the best fighting chance, cut at least an inch off each stem before placing them back in water.

Q: Are there certain types of flowers or cut stems that last longer than others? Could I just buy ones of that nature to start off with?

A: Absolutely! Flowers with woody or thick stems will always last longer than those with soft and mushy stems. You can mix and match branches and more hearty flowers with those of a more delicate variety. Cutting your stems every few days and rearranging as you go is the key to longevity in your arrangement. Eliminating those stems whose time is past and repositioning those who are still giving you something to work with is a great combination.

Q: What temperature should the water be in my vase? Does it matter? Am I over-thinking this?

A: No you're certainly not! Things that boast lots of petals like roses or peonies are keen on cold water where most other floral is happier with warm. Obviously you won't be able to keep the water chilled at all times, but dropping in an ice cube now and then can certainly help. Using warm water on heavily-petaled flowers can cause them to open quicker and although that might be great if you're prepping for a dinner party, if they open too soon they'll be out of commission by the time your crew arrives.