Dahlia Arr 2If you grow dahlias you may want to enjoy them in an arrangement. The stems of dahlias are hollow and they have to be full of water in order last in a vase. By following a few simple steps they will remain fresh and attractive for five to ten days, depending on the cultivar. And as a bonus, when you cut some of the flowers the plant will respond by developing more buds and flowers. Try this simple procedure to give your dahlias a long vase life.


Sharp secateurs
Bucket of clean, warm water
Bucket or preservative solution


1. Early in the morning or late in the evening, take a bucket of lukewarm water and a pair of sharp secateurs into the garden. Choose flowers than are ¾ to fully open with well-developed, firm centers. Make the cut above the nearest set of leaf nodes and set of side buds, allowing for a long stem so that you can recut the stem later. (Hint: Small dahlias are easier to use in flower arrangements than large ones)

2. Plunge the stem into the bucket of water and recut the stems under water at an angle so that the end of the stem can never lie flat on the bottom of the bucket where it can’t absorb water. Repeat with the other dahlias you wish to harvest.

3. Bring the bucket of flowers inside and sear the ends of the stems. (This is valuable for some cultivars but not others so experiment.)

4. Prepare a very warm (120 F) preservative solution (go to your local florist and buy a packet if no other source of preservative is available) and place it in a cool dark place. Put the dahlias in the bucket and let them remain in the bucket 8 hours or overnight.

5. Make your arrangement with the dahlias remembering that they will last longer in a vase than in a container with foam.

6. To keep the dahlias looking their best, display in a cool, low light place away from drafts and sources of ethylene such as auto exhaust or ripening fruit. Make sure that your vase is always full of preservative solution, recut the stems daily, and change the preservative solution every 3 days Frequent misting will also help keep the flowers looking fresh. (This is standard procedure for all arrangements!)

Bulb Pointer

By Karen

2 thoughts on “How to Cut and Condition Dahlias”
  1. Good Morning Karen: I just started reading your blog and have found it very enjoyable. I like the way you present things, keeping is simple but informative.

    In this post you mentioned preservative solution. What is it ?

    Have a great day,

    1. Thanks for the kind words. The preservative is a specially formulated product that florists use (and give out in packets with arrangements). It contains chemicals that kill bacteria and fungi (bacteria can clog the vessels of the flower stems), a nutrient that helps the flowers live longer, and some other chemical to enhance vase life. You can duplicate the anti bacterial and fungal properties by adding a couple of 1/4 teaspoon of bleach (Clorox for example) to a gallon of water, and add nutrients with 1 Tablespoon sugar per gallon. There is some debate on the value of adding the sugar or any other nutrient. The real key to long vase life is frequently (every 2-3 days) changing the water and cutting an inch off the stem when you do it (hence start with LONG stems).

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