Interior Design

How to keep flowers fresh in a vase – 7 mistakes and solutions to keep your blooms alive

From the water you use to the placement of your vase – these florist tips will change how you care for your flowers

kitchen with white tablecloth and white cabinets and walls and candle chandelier with big bouquet and cake and sink and part-glazed door in background
(Image credit: Brent Darby)

We all have reasons for wondering how to keep flowers fresh in a vase. Whether you want to prolong peony season for that little bit longer – or you want to extend the lifespan of your roses from a special day. Whatever the reason, the solutions remain the same. And it starts with the placement of your vase (and, maybe surprisingly, your fruit bowl. 

Keeping your best indoor plants healthy comes down to several factors: from the water you use to the vase's placement in the kitchen...

How to keep flowers fresh in a vase – 7 mistakes to avoid for healthier blooms 

Here, top florists share the most common mistakes to avoid – and solutions – for healthy blooms that will make a statement for longer.

1. Placing flowers next to a fruit bowl

How to keep flowers fresh in a vase

(Image credit: Hattie Lloyd Home)

According to Interflora Florist Vicky Wilson, your fruit bowl could be one of the main reasons why your flowers are wilting so quickly. This is because many fruits, including apples, bananas, and tomatoes, all produce high levels of ethylene, a gas that interferes with the production of ethylene in flowers. In turn, this speeds up signs of aging and shortens their life.

'Avoid keeping your flowers next to the fruit bowl,' revealed Bethany Day from Interflora, who re-emphasizes the effects of ethylene on your plant, 'Fruits release gasses that make flowers fade fast. Strange but true!'

If you love the look of fruit and flora together in the kitchen then fear not. Decorating with dried flowers is a great option in this space, as these blooms will not wilt in the presence of your favorite fruit. 

2. Choosing the wrong shaped vase

in a Georgian home

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Decorating with vases is one way to lift your space and fill a corner with color. However, it is important to remember to keep things practical as well as good-looking. If you opt for the wrong size or shape (no matter its aesthetic), your flowers will not have enough breathing space, and this can limit their lifespan. 

'If the vase is too narrow, the stems might get squished. Damaged stems equate to a short vase life,' Vicky says.'If the mouth of your vase is too wide, the arrangement will lose all shape. A pro-tip is to ensure that the stems fit nicely into the mouth of the vase'. 

3. Forgetting to trim the stems

Flowers in lilac hallway on table

(Image credit: Future/Simon Brown)

Flowers use capillary action to bring the vase water up to the blooms, and simply cutting the stems shorter will make it easier for them to collect the water. 

And, if they've been sitting in a bucket at the florists for a while, it might be that their stems have become damaged at the bottom – cutting them off by a couple of inches will create a fresh opening for water to rise through. Cut the stems at an angle and under water then pop them straight into the vase of water for best results. 

4. Not removing the leaves

Utility room with pulley dryer and sink curtains

(Image credit: Vanrenen GW Designs)

Leaves that sit in water rot, and this rot will cause bacteria to flourish, which will in turn damage the blooms over time. It's best to snip off leaves that will sit below the water line before you put them in the vase.

'Remove any leaves from the bottom of the stem before putting it into a vase of water,' adds landscaper Melody Estes from The Project Girl. 'This will keep your flowers looking fresh longer, as water and nutrients can't reach the leaves without being filtered through them first.'

5. Using the wrong water

Flowers and vases in a utility room

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

According to Melody, it is important to avoid using tap water when nourishing your plants. This is because tap water often contains chlorine which is bad for cut blooms and the best fragrant flowers alike. However, the process begins even before you put the water in the vase. 

The first thing to check is that your vase is clean – washing it out with warm water and dish soap before you fill it will again minimize bacteria. The experts suggest using filtered water that is lukewarm and letting the water sit a while as you cut the flower stems. This will help with water absorption – and keep your flowers fresh for longer. 

And, if you really want to keep flowers fresh in a vase for as long as possible, you need to change the water every two days.

6. Forgetting to feed your flowers

Coral Charm Peonies, peony styling tips

(Image credit: Future / Polly Eltes)

Flower food, often supplied taped to the stems, isn't just about nourishing your flowers – it also contains antimicrobial ingredients that will inhibit the growth of bacteria to keep the water clean, and citric acid, which helps make the water acidic, which in turn keeps the flowers healthy. 

7. Putting your flowers in the window

in a Georgian home

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

A sunny windowsill or hot living room may be where you really want to show off your flowers, but it will make them decay faster. 

'It’s not a good idea to place your bouquet in direct sunlight, or in a very warm area of your house such as near radiators – they certainly won’t thank you for it,' cautions  Hannah Sanderson, the founder of Native Roots Flowers. Instead, she suggests placing cut flowers in a cool area of the house to ensure the longest vase life.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.