The Big Spring Spruce-Up

How to Make Your Cut Flowers Last a *Lot* Longer

And does that penny trick actually work?

March 14, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham

For The Big Spring Spruce-Up, we’re throwing our windows wide open and letting in all that fresh air. Follow along for handy tips and game-changing tricks—cleaning and organizing to-dos, home decorating projects, and more.

If there is one "indulgence" I like to treat myself to somewhat regularly, it's a small bouquet of flowers from my local bodega or lately (and more likely), Trader Joe's. These colorful and inexpensive expressions of life are enough to keep me going during the week—and if I'm lucky, they'll just eke out an existence to last that long.

With longer and (hopefully) warmer days approaching, I want to arm myself with all of the information needed to keep my occasional blooms in tip-top shape. I turned to Sierra Steifman, the brains behind The Floral Society, for helpful tips on just how to keep these darn pretty things alive and flourishing. I even managed to get the answer as to whether or not that penny trick is actually effective in keeping flowers looking their best.

HANA ASBRINK: What are some of your favorite sturdy and plentiful flower varieties you look forward to come spring?

SIERRA STEIFMAN: Spring is one of the best times of the year for blooms, and we look forward to it all year. Some of our favorite varieties include hellebores, ranunculus, sweet pea, and lilac. There is always a large selection of flowering branches at that time as well, which tend to last longer than some of the floral varieties.

HA: Many of us only have access to supermarket-grade flowers and arrangements. What are some tips for making these store-bought flowers feel really special?

SS: If you can only get your hands on the more common varieties found easily in grocery stores and bodegas, we suggest keeping it simple. Choose just one variety and mass it out in a vase rather than trying to combine varieties. When choosing a flower, look for a color that speaks to you. Carnations may be thought of as a common flower easily found, but if you pick the right color they can be extraordinary fluffy flowers that last for weeks.

HA: In terms of care, what is the best way to keep cut flowers looking their best? And does the trick of throwing a penny into the vase actually work??

SS: The best way to keep cut flowers fresh and vibrant is to remove all foliage that will be underwater, and remember to change the water out daily. This will keep your vase cleaner and prevent bacteria from growing in the vase.

The penny trick does actually work! Copper is a fungicide, so putting a copper penny in the water of your cut flowers helps keep yeasts and fungi from growing. More traditional flower food or even an at-home flower food will help to keep the vase clean, too.

Two simple "recipes" you can use for your blooms:

  • 1/4 teaspoon bleach per quart (approximately 1 liter) of water
  • 3 drops bleach + 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 quart (approximately 1 liter) of water

HA: What advice would you give newbie plant fans in their spring flower arranging?

SS: If you’re a newbie and feeling intimated, I always suggest by starting with an easy vase. We were inspired to create our flower frog vases because they’re really easy to use and take no skill. I’d also suggest choosing just one color so that you don’t have to think about a color palette. You can focus all of your attention on the shape of the flowers you’re putting into the vase.

HA: What would you say is the biggest misconception of flower arranging?

SS: I think it's that there is only one right way to do it. There really is no wrong way to arrange flowers. Some people are more drawn to a classic, round shape, and others are drawn to a more loose, organic shape.

HA: What are some sustainable ways to work with flowers and arrangements if your budget doesn't allow for purchasing flowers on the regular?

SS: Dried flowers are very popular right now and a great way to arrange in your home. They have a very long shelf life and look really pretty in a vase. Depending on where you live, we always suggest foraging for seasonal blooms and foliage. When buying fresh flowers, check your local farmers' market for what’s in season.

How do you keep your flowers looking fresh? Tell us your secrets below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Suzy's Mom
    Suzy's Mom
  • Odessa
  • BerryBaby
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


Suzy's M. June 16, 2019
It’s not easy to get a copper penny these days!!!
Odessa March 30, 2019
I have always dropped a old fashioned asprin(not coated) In the water.
BerryBaby March 14, 2019
Good article! My tips...ready your vase by filling halfway with water. Give the stems a fresh cut. At least 1" or shorter if make a bouquet of various lengths. Personally, I don't add anything to the water, but do add water as needed. I change it fully after 5 days.
Currently I have cut tulips which have grown 2" since placing in a vase. They are the only cut flower that continues to grow in water.