How to keep your cut tulips fresh for longer — try these 5 top tips

Tulips in the soil
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Roses are the traditional flower given on Valentine’s Day, and florists are bursting at the seams with these delightful red-petalled blooms for the first half of February. But as soon as February 14th passes, it’s time for roses to move over and make space for another firm favorite — the beloved tulip.

Tulips are abundant at this time of year, filling florists and grocery stores with bright, colorful blooms. They signify a smile and a clear nod that spring is on the way. Although the bulbs look beautiful planted in flower beds or containers — my tulip bulbs are starting to shoot — they are a popular cut flower that can fill our homes with the joys of spring. Having freshly cut flowers in your home is also an interior design hack to make you home look more expensive on a budget.

However, tulips are prone to drooping and may only last for a few days without the correct care. Here, we share our top tips to keep your cut tulips fresh for longer so you can enjoy the first signs of spring inside your home.

1. Be careful what you buy

A bunch of tulips of various colors including yellow, red and white

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

You’ll want to get your money’s worth when buying any cut flower, particularly tulips. For this reason, you should look for a bunch where the buds are still closed but where the color of the flower is evident.

This is one of the nicest stages in the tulip’s life, as I particularly like the elegant shape of the flower head before the petals fully open. 

Don’t be tempted to buy tulips with fully-opened petals (see image above), as they won’t last as long as those with unopened buds. If you purchase them while the buds are still closed and care for them correctly, your cut tulips can last up to ten days. 

2. Choose the right vase

Mixed colored tulips in a tall glass vase on a coffee table

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Tulips will appreciate being displayed in a tall vase, at least half as tall as the flower stems. The vase’s side will help support the stems and reduce the chance of the flowers drooping. Think of your vase as giving your tulips a firm hug. A tall vase also takes into account that the tulip's, unlike most cut flowers, continue to grow once they are placed in a vase. 

The Aida tulip vase takes a flowy form and is designed specifically to hold tulips ($32, Royal Design), or you could try this modern tall ribbed glass vase ($31, Amazon).

If needed, the vase can be changed to a shorter one once the stems are shortened to keep them fresh — there’ll be more on this later. It’s also important to ensure the vase in clean before adding your tulips — if the vase contains bacteria it can shorten the life of your flowers. So, give it a good clean with warm soap and water to remove any remnants of what was in the vase before.

3. Prepare the tulips before placing in a vase

Woman cutting a bunch of flower stems with a pair of scissors

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The tulips must be prepared before they are placed in the vase to give them their best chance of keeping fresh for longer. Firstly, remove any leaves which will sit below the waterline; this reduces the risk of bacterial growth in the water and keeps it clean and odorless, preventing the water from smelling murky. 

Then, gather the blooms together so the buds are at the same height. You may want to measure the stems against your vase to work out your preferred height. Then, using a pair of sharp scissors or a knife, to ensure a clean cut, snip at least one inch off the stems at 45°. Cutting the stems at an angle, rather than straight across, leaves more surface space for water to be absorbed.

4. Tulips enjoy a good drink

Woman pouring fresh water into a glass vase with tulip on the side

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Avoid keeping your tulips out of water for a long length of time, and if you’re not ready to trim the stems and place them in a vase as soon as you arrive home, place them in some cold water until you have time.

When you are ready, fill your vase half full with fresh cold water and add some flower food, which will help prolong the life of your tulips. It’s then advisable to change the flower water every day or every other day, as this will prevent bacteria growth, which will spoil the flowers. However, when doing this, always retrim the stems.

What ingredients does flower food contain?
The main ingredients in flower food are sugar, citric acid and bleach, but what role do they play?

  • Sugar gives the tulips energy 
  • Citric acid lowers the pH level, allowing the tulips to absorb water faster while reducing wilting
  • Bleach acts as a disinfectant by preventing the build-up of mold and other harmful bacteria

5. Position your vase away from direct sunlight 

Yellow tulips in a white vase on a kitchen table

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

To encourage your tulips to last longer, place your vase away from direct sunlight, so avoid sunny windowsills. Tulips are sunseekers, and if placed in direct sunlight they will bend towards the light. I tend to place my tulips on my dining table that’s in the centre of my room, and away from any windows. 

They’ll also thrive if kept away from direct heat. So, keep them away from radiators, heaters or kitchen stoves. 

If you follow these top tips to prepare your tulips before placing them in a vase, keep the water fresh and position them away from direct sunlight and heat, you should be able to enjoy your beautiful cut tulips for up to 10 days.

As Spring arrives you might also be interested in 5 jobs to do in your yard in March.

More from Tom's Guide

Camilla Sharman
Staff Writer, Homes

Camilla Sharman has worked in publishing and marketing for over 30 years and has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  

As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader. In her spare time, when she’s not in her kitchen experimenting with a new recipe, you’ll find her keeping fit at the gym. In the pool, stretching at a yoga class, or on a spin bike, exercise is her escape time. She also loves the great outdoors and if she’s not pottering about in her garden, she’ll be jumping on her bike for a gentle cycle ride.