Shelf Life of Cut Orchids? 12 Tips to Make Them Last Longer

Cut Orchids in Vase

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Have you accidentally broken an orchid flower stem while it is blooming? Do you have some freshly cut orchid flowers and you want to make the blooms last?

You can make freshly cut orchid blooms last up to 3 weeks by putting them in water with a little bit of sugar and bleach in a clean vase away from ripe fruits (ethylene gas), direct sun, and heat.  Or, you can preserve them by drying them completely using silica gel.

Before we dive more into the details of how to make freshly cut orchids long-lasting, let’s take a look at how long they normally last after they are freshly cut.

Shelf Life of Orchids:  On the plant, in water, in bouquet

Orchid flowers can last for a couple of months on the plant but their life span will be reduced when removed from the plant.

So, how long do freshly cut orchid flowers last?

Depending on the orchid species, the popular varieties can last between 1 week (e.g. Dendrobium) to 3 weeks (e.g. Moth Orchid, Dancing Lady, Slipper Orchid) in a vase of water.  In corsages or bouquets without water, they last for only 1-2 days.  When dried properly, they can last for a year or more.

Here is the shelf life of 7 popular varieties of cut orchids in and out of the water, in comparison to how long they can last if they had not been cut from the plant.

Orchid
species
Flower
on plant
Cut flower
in water
Cut flower
out of water
Dendrobium2 weeks1 week1 day
Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid)4 – 16 weeks3 weeks 2 day
Oncidium (Dancing Lady)Up to 6 weeks3 weeks2 days
Paphiopedilum (Slipper Orchid)Up to 6 weeks3 weeks2 days
Mokara and ArantheraUp to 6 weeks3 weeks2 days
CymbidiumUp to 5 weeks3 weeks1 day
Cattleya1 – 4 weeks1 week2 days

How To Make Cut Orchids Last longer In Vase

Apart from the variety of the orchid, the speed at which the cut flowers fade in the vase also depends on how well they are cared for.  Here are 12 things you can do to care for your freshly cut orchids to keep them happy and hydrated:

Fresh Cut Orchid in Vase

Tip 1. Clean the vase with soap and water to prevent bacterial growth

Tip 2. Select the flowers when the buds are still closed and half-opened, rather them those that are already in full bloom.

Tip 3. if the flower stem has been sitting outside for a while (e.g. if bought from a store), before putting it into the water, cut an inch off the stem to help the flower drink better.  Also, the shorter the flower stems, the longer they last because water doesn’t need to travel a long distance up the stem before reaching the flower.

Tip 4. Cut the orchid stem at an angle to increase surface area for the orchid to take up water at any angle

Tip 5. Remove any flower or foliage that would be immersed in water.

Tip 6. Instead of giving the orchids half a vase of water, give it only 1 cup of water

Tip 7. The water should not be warm, but cool, to avoid bacteria growth

Tip 8. Put 1/2 tsp of chlorine bleach (or 1 tsp every quart of water) into the water to prevent bacteria growth.

Tip 9. Put 1/2 tsp of sugar (or 1 tsp every quart of water) into the water to serve as food for the orchid.

Tip 10. Change the water and cut the bottom of the stem every 2-3 days.

Tip 11. Keep the vase away from a hot, sunny window to prevent the flowers from popping too much and to prevent the water to get too warm for bacterial growth. The best room temperature is in the range of 54-64 Fahrenheit (12-18 Celcius) to make the blooms last longer.

Tip 12. Keep them away from ethylene gas or the fruit bowl.  Ripening fruits, especially apples, bananas, pears, peaches, melons, release Ethylene gas which is a plant hormone that will make your orchids ripe faster.  A study by Khunmuang et al. (2019) has found that exposure of cut Vanda orchid flowers to 1 or 10 μl L−1 ethylene significantly shortened their vase life from 12 days to 7.2 and 5.2 days respectively.

How to arrange cut orchids in a vase

Putting orchids in a vase gives a clean and modern look to any interior space.  You don’t need a lot of flowers to make a statement.  Just two blooms or even one would make a simple, yet elegant centerpiece.

You can put rocks at the bottom of the vase to keep the orchids in place. Or, you can accompany the flowers using ornamental branches like Curly Willow to keep the blooms in place and to add fullness and visual impact to the flower arrangement.

How to dry an orchid flower or make an orchid bouquet?

If you have orchid flowers with a short stem, like from corsages and bouquets, or simply you want to make the blooms last much longer than in water, you can dry them completely and afterward put them in glass jars to preserve their eternal beauty.

It is not difficult to preserve the flowers using silica gel to absorb the moisture away from the flower petals.

What you need:

  • Silica gel: enough to completely cover the flower or bouquet.  Silica gel is sand-like and can be purchased in a local craft store.  When dried, it can be reused for the next batch.
  • A plastic container with tight lid: big enough and deep enough to hold the flower or bouquet

How to make dried orchids:

  • Remove the spent flowers from the stem or the bouquet
  • Put a layer of silica gel on the bottom of the container
  • Place the orchids carefully with the stem facing down to not crush the petals.
  • Pour silica gel on top so that the flowers are fully immersed.
  • Cover the container with lid and wait for 3 weeks.
  • After 3 weeks, carefully remove the flowers from the silica gel
  • To make it last longer, the dried flowers can be sprayed with hair spray and then kept in a closed glass jar to avoid contact with moisture in the air.

Conclusion

The life of a flower doesn’t end when it’s cut.  By giving cut orchids proper care in water or drying them completely, you can continue to marvel at their stunning beauty for years to come, even though you forget to water them!

Which method have you tried to make your orchids last longer?  Tell us below in the comments.

Related

Multiple Flower Spikes On Your Orchid? (7 Tips & Tricks)

Growing Orchids Without A Pot? (6 Ways To Go Bare-Rooted)

Sources

Khunmuang Sudarat, Kanlayanarat Sirichai, Wongs-Aree Chalermchai, Meir Shimon, Philosoph-Hadas Sonia, Oren-Shamir Michal, Ovadia Rinat, Buanong Mantana (2019). Ethylene Induces a Rapid Degradation of Petal Anthocyanins in Cut Vanda ‘Sansai Blue’ Orchid Flowers. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10

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