Cutting Flowers

Flowers help to enhance our environment thanks to their sweet smell and beautiful colours. However, if you want some of that freshness and colour inside of your home or office, you’ll have to learn how to cut your flowers correctly.

Having the right approach will not only help keep your plant intact and blossoming around the clock, but you'll have longer-lasting cut pieces.

cutting stems


Mornings are the best time to cut flowers. By the morning, plants have had plenty of time to cool through the night and will contain plenty of moisture from morning dew. Their stems are also much healthier during this time, as they have built up more carbohydrates inside of them. If you cut them later when the temperature is high, there is more of a chance that they won't do as well - this is because of dehydration.

Type of Flower

You also need to make sure you consider the type of flower you are treating. This is because flowers have different development stages, which in turn affects their ability to grow. Flowers that grow with more than one bud on their stem (for example, snapdragons, larkspurs, gladioli, delphiniums, and salvias) will have one or more buds already opening before being cut.

The same applies to flowers that grow in clusters, such as Queen Anne's lace, yarrow, phlox, agapanthus, clarkia to name a few. If you take a cut before budding, the mother plant may not be affected, but the cut flower will not open up. On the other hand, you can cut flowers that grow alone on their stem when they have fully blossomed, e.g., chrysanthemums, daisies, sunflowers, marigolds, etc.

Use the Right Tools

To have freshly cut flowers with a long vase life and an intact mother plant, you'll need a sharp knife, clippers, or shears. Some people use domestic scissors, which might not be ideal, as household scissors' are best used for fabrics or paper. Using them on plants can compromise the plant's vascular system's structure and impair the movement of water.

It also has to be a clean cut. If the tool isn't sharp, it can result in a crushed stem. Also, before you initiate the cut, warm water (not above 110°F) in a plastic bucket should be readily available. Once cut, place the cut flowers into the water immediately to prevent premature wilting. Make an exception if you are dealing with bulb flowers e.g., tulips or hyacinths, which thrive better in cold water.

Further Cutting

Once the flowers are cut, recut the stems at a near 45° angle before loading them into your vase. If the stems are flat at the bottom instead of at an angle, absorbing water will be challenging as the flat end will be sealed off at the base of the vase. The aim is to make sure water can be absorbed properly.

Hardening Off

By now, you should know how to make a good cut. Hardening off means to acclimatise your flowers to their new indoor environment. Luckily, this is easy.

To do so, place them in warm water and position them in a dark location in your home for half a day. This way, your freshly cut flowers will last more than ten days. You can also use preservatives such as biocides, which will help to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Read more from the Our Guide to preserving flowers series

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By Miles Warner 08 October 2020