How to make cut tulips last longer

woman arranging tulips in a vase

It’s officially spring, which means it’s tulip time. If you’re eager to pick up a bundle of tulips from your local flower shop or Trader Joe’s, or you’re ordering some for Mother’s Day, you’re probably curious about how to make these pretty flowers last as long as possible.

Tulips are known for their phototropism, which means they will continue to grow and bend toward the light, even after being cut, gardening expert Tony O’Neill of Simplify Gardening tells Simplemost. For a natural look, O’Neill recommends using a tall vase to support their stems and prevent drooping, allowing them to follow their natural growth pattern.

Tulips should last between five to 12 days in a vase, if you’re properly caring for them, says O’Neill.

But what else can you do to help your tulips thrive? Does placing a penny in the bottom of the vase really work? How about an aspirin tablet? Ahead, floral experts share their top tulip tips.

Tulips available for purchase

How Do You Choose The Right Tulips?

The first step to get an extended life from your tulips is finding ones that have a long bloom period ahead of them.

“You’ll want to grab the bunch that has stiffer leaves, making sure the flowers are tight but that have their color developed,” advises Carmela de Castro, owner of Los Angeles-based Orchid Republic Floral Boutique.

She finds that double tulips tend to last quite a bit longer than regular tulips. Double tulips are ones that have a more fluffy, pom appearance.

When you’re shopping for tulips, O’Neill recommends looking for ones that have stems that are green and firm, which means they’re fresh.

What To Do With Tulips As Soon As You Bring Them Home

Woman filling vase with water for cut tulips

Once you’ve hauled home your cut tulips, remove the outer leaves or any leaves that are brown or floppy. Give the stems a good trim of at least ½ an inch or more, depending on the vase you’ll be using, de Castro explains.

Choose The Right Vase

“I like to use a vase that is a bit taller with a smaller opening to provide the tulips with some support as they’ll continue to grow,” she says. “For this reason, I like to cut the tulips on the shorter side when first placing them into the vase, allowing them to grow into the vase.”

Cut The Tulip Stems Diagonally

When you’re cutting your tulips, cut the stems diagonally, suggests O’Neill. This increases the surface area for water absorption, he explains. Pro tip: Cut the stems under running water if possible, to prevent any air bubbles that can block water absorption.

Ensure The Vase Is Clean

Make sure that the vase you put your cut tulips in is thoroughly clean to avoid any type of bacterial growth, which could shorten your flowers’ lifespan, O’Neill says. Fresh, cool water works best.

Select A Good Location For Tulips To Thrive

Tulips thrive in indirect light and cooler spots away from direct sunlight, heaters or drafts — and consistent conditions help prolong their freshness, says Juan Palacio, the founder and CEO of BloomsyBox, a floral subscription company.

Unusual Hacks That Claim To Make Tulips Last Longer (But Don’t Work)

Colorful tulips in a vase

You may have heard that doing things like adding a splash of Sprite to a vase of water or placing a penny at the bottom of the vase will extend the life of your tulips. But the experts we consulted say these are mostly just old wives’ tales.

“Sprite, pennies, aspirin — I find all these methods don’t provide all that much of a benefit,” says de Castro. “In fact, it contributes to dirty or murky water, which in turn will contribute to stem rot or mushy stems.”

With that in mind, here are some common hacks that claim to extend the life of tulips — and why they probably don’t work.

Place a Penny in the Vase: The idea here is that the copper in the penny acts as a natural fungicide, says O’Neill. “However, most pennies are no longer made from copper, and there’s little scientific evidence to support this practice,” he says.

Add a Tablet of Aspirin to the Water: Aspirin can lower the pH level of the water, which some believe can help water uptake, O’Neill says. “While it may have a minor effect on longevity, keeping the water clean and fresh is more effective,” he says.

Add a Splash of Sprite to Water: Adding Sprite or another clear soda is thought to provide sugar as food for the tulips, while the acidity inhibits bacterial growth, O’Neill explains. “While there’s some truth to this, too much sugar can actually encourage bacterial growth,” he says.

If you do add Sprite, mix it with water in a 1:3 ratio, and still change the water regularly.

Rather, the best thing you can do is provide your tulips with clean, cold water, filled halfway in the vase, de Castro says.

“Tulips are heavy drinkers, so you’ll want to refill with clean, cold water every couple of days. If stems have softened at all, trim them to allow the tulips to take up the water it needs to stay fresher longer.

Gardening, Home, Tips & Advice
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About the Author
Brittany Anas
Hi, I'm Brittany Anas (pronounced like the spice, anise ... see, that wasn't too embarrassing to say, now was it?) My professional writing career started when I was in elementary school and my grandma paid me $1 for each story I wrote for her. I'm a former newspaper reporter, with more than a decade of experience Hula-hooping at planning meetings and covering just about every beat from higher-education to crime to science for the Boulder Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Now, I'm a freelance writer, specializing in travel, health, food and adventure.

I've contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more.

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