It’s just about the sweetest thing when your husband and kids give you a beautiful bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day. A thoughtful husband will get them from a store. A thoughtful kid will get them from your yard. Either way, the sentiment is adorable and always well received.

When your loving family has been this thoughtful, you want to make the evidence of it last as long as possible. Really, when will they do this for you again? If you can’t answer that question confidently, pay attention to these 10 tips for making that Mother’s Day bouquet last for as long as possible.

Pick a Vase

variety of glass vase options

If the flowers came in tissue paper or a toddler’s fist, you’ll need somewhere to display them. Make sure you put them in a clean, glass vase. It’s helpful to rinse the vase with a little bleach to kill any lingering bacteria. If nothing else, wash it with an antibacterial soap. Avoid using metal vases, since they affect the pH of the water and can shorten the life of your bouquet. Do keep in mind that if your bouquet came in a vase, the water level is probably low, because that makes it easier to deliver.

Prepare the Water

cut flower stems

Giving your beautiful bouquet somewhere to thrive is not as simple as just putting some water in a vase. You need to actually treat the water in the vase in order to make those flowers stay flowery for as long as possible. First of all, use warm water (unless you’re given tulips — they like cold) because flowers can absorb warmer water faster than colder. Then, you need to treat the water. Most store-bought flowers come with a packet of plant food, but you can make your own and know the flowers will last longer. You need to treat the water for three reasons: to control bacteria, reduce the pH and provide sugar for the flowers. To do this, you need a simple recipe of bleach, citric acid and sugar. Fortunately, these are all household items. For example, you can add a non-diet citrus soda or lemonade to control pH and provide sugar. Suggested amounts of these items differ among experts, but even if you just put some white vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar in your vase, you’re a step ahead.

Add Random Stuff If You Want

flowers in a vase of clear water

Other tricks for keeping flowers fresh in the vase for longer include adding household items to the water. Beyond the bleach, lemon juice and sugar, other suggestions include, a penny, vodka (with some sugar), apple cider vinegar (also with the sugar), lemonade, a multi-vitamin, an aspirin, salt and baking soda and some food coloring to keep the water pretty. Theories vary on if these items work, but if you keep in mind that you need to reduce the bacteria, balance the pH and provide some sugar, you can get pretty creative.

Prepare the Flowers

colorful bouquet of flowers

Now you have your vase and it’s ready with some yummy, bleach-y, vinegary, sugary, vodka-y water. It’s time to get the flowers ready to drink up that water and stay pretty. First, you’ll need to cut the stems. Basically, when the stem is cut, the flower soaks up water and not air, creating a tiny air bubble at the cut. This air bubble prevents efficient water absorption. You need to cut the stem to get rid of that bubble. And, you need to cut the stems under water to prevent more bubbling and then clean them with a vegetable brush. Make sure you use something very sharp so you don’t crush the stems and the vessels that deliver the water to the flower. You should cut the stems at a steep angle to provide more surface for soaking up the water. Also, make sure you pull off any leaves that will be under the water so they don’t add bacteria and gas. Remember, if you get roses, don’t remove the thorns because that will reduce the lifespan of the flowers.

Stabilize the Stems

tulips in a blue vase

There are a few other things you can do to the flower stems to keep them looking nice. If you’ve received tulips, poke a hole just under the bloom to prevent air bubbling up there. If any of the stems have wilted or become weak, use a clear drinking straw to stabilize them. All you have to do is slice the straw open and wrap it around the stem to support it. You can cut the straw to just the length you need for support.

Keep the Flowery Look With Hairspray

vibrant pink flowers in a glass vase

You use hairspray to keep your hair looking good all day, so of course you would use hairspray to keep your flowers looking good as well. Okay, you might not do that, but you should. When you’ve got your flowers arranged, stand about a foot away from them and spray the undersides of the leaves and pedals with hairspray. This will help keep the flowers looking fresh and new.

Find the Perfect Place

daisies in a glass of water

Now that you’ve got your bouquet arranged in a vase of its favorite water, you need to find the perfect place to display it proudly. The world, or at least anyone who comes into your house, should know what a sweet family you have. Flowers like to be in a cool, dry place. They would actually love to stay in your refrigerator, but then you might accidentally leave the milk out and that’s not good. Instead, just make sure you keep them out of direct sunlight and drafty places. Even a fan could cause the flowers to wilt faster. At night, you could place them in the fridge, or on the floor of the coolest room of your house. Something else to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t display them near fruit. As fruit ripens, it emits a gas that will cause your flowers to wilt.

Maintain the Water

a gorgeous bouquet of multi-colored roses

Just putting the flowers in a cool, shady place for display isn’t going to make them stay fresh. You will need to change the water every two or three days in order to keep them around for as long as possible. The frequency of the water changing will depend on what mixture of food you created. If you’ve used soda, you’ll want to change the water more frequently. A bleach or vinegar, fresh fruit juice and sugar combination will require changing every three days. Use the same mixture in the fresh water and make sure you also cut the stems again, about a half-inch above the previous cut. Also, make sure you’re giving the flowers a refreshing misting of water every day. They’ll be happy to absorb the water through their leaves and petals, just as they would the dew outside. You might not need to add bleach to that water, but you’ll want to put in citrus juice and sugar to balance the pH and give them that energy push.

Clear Out the Spoilers

a single rose bloom in a teacup

As in everything else in life, one bad flower in a bouquet will spoil the bunch. Make sure you remove dying flowers from the vase as soon as you see them start to wilt. A dying flower will emit a gas that causes the other flowers to wilt, much like ripening fruit does. Make sure you also keep any wilting leaves or fillers out of your displayed flowers for the same reason. This may mean you’ll have to relocate your bouquet to a smaller vase, but it will ensure that you’ll have flowers to display for much longer. You can keep thinning out your bouquet until the very last bloom. When you have one good flower left, cut the stem and put the flower in a teacup with your treated water. There’s no reason to throw out good blooms, and a teacup flower will give you a few more days of smiles.

Make Them Last Forever

flower collage for Mother's Day

All of these things will make your precious bouquet last for as long as it possibly can, but we all know that flowers don’t last forever. There are a couple of things you can do to make the memory of your family’s thoughtfulness last forever, though. Take a picture of the bouquet. In fact, take several pictures during all the stages of it and have your kids help you make a collage that you can hang on the wall. Or make it the wallpaper on your phone or computer. Better than that, put the kids to work making drawings and artwork out of what they see in the bouquet. The best way to remember those flowers your little ones picked for you is to have drawings of them that your little ones made hanging on the refrigerator. What better way to show your kids you appreciate their gift than by asking them to help you preserve it?

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