How to cut flowers and use them indoors

While your garden is peaking and is filled with vibrantly coloured flowers during spring, it is precisely the right time to create a stunning bouquet from the fruits of your labour, so that you can enjoy the sights and smells of the garden inside your home. It only takes one gusty wind or heavy summer rain to destroy your beloved blooms anyway, and cutting guarantees that at least some of your flowers will be spared that cruel fate! Another reason to cut your flowers is that it encourages more flowering on your plants throughout the summer months and even into early autumn.

Read and follow the following tips and tricks on how to cut your garden flowers and use them inside your home:

When to cut

Early morning is the ideal time to cut fresh flowers, when the flowers have had the benefit of cool night air and morning dew. Their stems are filled with water and carbohydrates, meaning that they are firm to the touch.
When harvesting, have a bucket of water on hand to immediately put the flowers into. We suggest using a plastic bucket rather than a metal one because metal can affect the pH balance of the water.

Different types of flowers must be harvested at different stages in their development. Cluster flowers with multiple buds on each stem, such as an Agapanthus, should have at least one bud showing colour and one bud starting to open before being cut. If gathered too early (while they’re still tightly budded) these flowers will not open in a vase of water. By contrast, flowers that grow on individual stems, such as roses, should be cut when fully open.

Cutting tools and techniques

Always use clean, sharp utensils when cutting flowers. Knives, clippers or shears can be employed, but never use ordinary household scissors! The gauge on scissors is set for paper or fabric, not for flower stems, which are bulkier. Using scissors will crush their vascular systems and prevent proper water uptake.

Cut all flowers about 3cm from the bottom of a main stem. Make the slice at an angle of about 45° as it will provide a larger exposed area for the uptake of water.

Water temperature

Use lukewarm water (between 37°C and 43°C) for your cut flowers to get the best results. Warm water molecules move faster than cold water molecules and so can be absorbed by flowers with greater ease. The objective is to get water and nutrients as quickly as possible to the head of the flower.


Using a preservative increases the longevity of cut flowers. To survive, flowers need three ingredients: carbohydrates, biocides and acidifiers. Carbohydrates are necessary for cell metabolism; biocides combat bacteria and are necessary for maintaining plant health, and acidifiers adjust the pH of water to facilitate and increase water uptake.

To make your own, use 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of household bleach and 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice.

Care of cut flowers in an arrangement

Here are some general rules that will help you make your cut-flower arrangements last:

  • Don’t overcrowd the flowers in the container;
  • Check the water level in the vase and replenish it frequently;
  • Flowers that go limp are not drinking well and need to be recut;
  • Always discard wilted blooms;
  • Keep flowers away from drafts, direct sunlight and ripening fruits.

The Gardener