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How to Condition Flowers for an Arrangement

Sure, all flowers look great tossed into a vase without much fuss—but if you toss them in without conditioning them first, they won't look great for long.


  • Step 1: Fill bucket Fill the clean bucket a third of the way with lukewarm water.
  • TIP: If your flowers are a little droopy, or you want them to open up right away, use hot water—they'll absorb it more quickly.
  • Step 2: Add bleach & sugar Add a few drops of bleach and 1 teaspoon of sugar per quart of water, and set the bucket aside. The sugar provides nutrients for the flowers, and the bleach rids the water of any bacteria.
  • Step 3: Remove leaves Remove any leaves that will end up underwater in the vase. Weak leaves can be plucked by hand. Cut tougher leaves with a sharp knife, being careful not to damage the stem in the process.
  • TIP: Submerged leaves will rot, encouraging bacteria and shortening the life span of the arrangement.
  • Step 4: Remove thorns Remove any thorns with a sharp knife or garden shears, being careful not to damage the stems.
  • Step 5: Cut base of stem Cut at least 1 inch from the base of the stem at a 45-degree angle with a sharp pair of garden shears, making the cut as clean and smooth as possible.
  • Step 6: Place in bucket Place each flower in the prepared bucket as soon as you cut its stem—the longer it takes, the more likely that air bubbles will seal off the passageways for water.
  • Step 7: Condition all flowers Continue conditioning each flower one at a time until they are all in the bucket.
  • Step 8: Set in cool place Set the bucket in a cool place out of direct sunlight, and away from fruits, vegetables, exhaust fumes, and cigarette smoke—all of which contain or emit chemicals toxic to flowers.
  • TIP: Most flowers—except tropical varieties—will last longest at temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Step 9: Let flowers drink Let the flowers drink for several hours before arranging, especially if they've come straight from your garden. Ideally, you should cut them in the evening, condition them overnight, and wake up to beautiful, strong flowers ready for the vase.
  • FACT: An old wives' tale says that if a single man plucks a dewy bachelor's button, places it in his pocket for 1 day, and the flower remains blue, he will have a happy marriage.

You Will Need

  • Fresh flowers
  • Some warm water
  • A clean bucket
  • A sharp knife
  • Some bleach
  • And some sugar
  • Hot water (optional)
  • And gardening shears (optional)

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