Fresh Flowers without Breaking the Budget

“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon…who could not be happy?” My thoughts exactly, Oscar Wilde!

Fresh flowers bring so much life, color, beauty and happiness. It’s no wonder that the flowers in the U.S. are big business…a 100 billion dollar industry, the third largest agricultural crop. Flowers make up 67% of Mother’s Day gifts.*

As fascinating as all this is, I’ve found that getting my fill of beautiful flowers can be expensive. A budget breaker. But I love fresh flowers in all of the rooms of my house!

Fresh Flowers Cheap …for Free!

Since we moved to our house, I discovered a wealth of plant life and blossoms. I’ve used just about every plant on my acre to decorate inside. Here are my favorite fresh flower hacks:

Dried grasses last all through the winter. The grasses in my yard are planted around the well in our back yard and serve to beautify the spot and to provide a barrier from the neighbors behind us. Although grasses need a lot of space to grow, they can be a beautiful addition to your landscaping in just the right place. Then there is the added benefit of cut grasses in a large vase or pot…they add that “boho” vibe.

flower arrangements on the cheap

The first flowers to pop in the early spring are often daffodils. Their bright and cheerful yellow faces don’t really last long, so I cut them often and replenish my dining table until there are no more. *See the tip for daffodils at the end of the post.

fresh cut arrangements

I have a plethora of bushes that need to be trimmed every spring and sometimes in the summer and fall. Why not bring the branches inside in a cute mason jar? I love green, I don’t care where it comes from.

fresh cut greenery

We have two enormous cherry trees in the front yard, probably 40 years old, or even older. I have to keep the suckers cut, so when they are blooming, it’s an added bonus to pop them in a tall thin vase. They have a very modern vibe.

Unfortunately, just before the tree bloomed this spring, we had a fierce wind storm and the majority of the blossoms ended up in the yard and in the driveway!

The table centerpiece is from a huge bush that encroaches on the driveway…so I have a lot of fodder for several arrangements! I’m not sure what this bush is, but I love the shape and the mass of small white blooms. (leave me a comment if you know what it is:)

I love the sweet little white blossoms!

Azalias are nice in a vase, too. I like to keep my azalias trimmed to a nice shape, so there are always extra blossoms for a vase in my kitchen.

fresh cut azalias
White Azalias

The rotodendron on the corner of the porch is a stunner this year! It was necessary to give it a trim underneath, so there were lots of blossoms to put into my gold vase:

fresh cut rododendron
I like the combination of gold and deep pink!

I’m super excited to see what summer brings for my arrangements! I planted a patch of wildflowers in a spot that was hard to mow. The Wisteria will bloom, as well as the Black-Eyed Susan. Then there are all the flowers from my mother’s yard…there is always something to cut and display…if you take a second look around.

I haven’t even begun to play with mixing the foliage and blossoms yet!

Flower statistics from:

How to Make Cut Flowers Last

I’m a member and a fan of the Farmer’s Almanac Club. I love getting it hot off the press! Here are some tips from an article about cutting fresh flowers from your garden:

  • cut flowers can be kept fresh longer if you put them in a vase containing a solution of 2 tablespoons vinegar, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 quart water.
  • If you have foxgloves, add them to any bouquet and the whole arrangement will last longer. Add copper pennies or pellets to the water and it will prolong the effect of the foxgloves. Who knew?!
  • Daffodils should be kept alone in a vase, as their stems secrete a fluid that promotes the wilting of other flowers.
  • Clip back any stem leaves that touch the water, lest they contaminate it and shorten the duration of freshness.
  • Changing the water daily also will increase the longevity of blooms.

Best Flowers for Arrangements

This is a blog post full of great information from my friend Barbara, who is a master gardener.

Narcissus (Daffodil or Jonquil)

When to harvest: When fully open is best, though it’s lovely to have a spectrum of buds to blooms.

Vase life: 6 to 9 days—if you precondition (see below).

Special attention: Narcissi ooze a toxic sap, so keep them away from animals and babies;

to keep from knocking off other blooms, pre-soak in cool water about six hours before adding to your mixed bouquet. If you have room, tuck them in the refrigerator for the pre-soak.

You don’t need floral preservative, but be vigilant about changing the water.

A little Mythology:  Narcissus, of Greek mythology, was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope, known for his unmatched beauty. He was proud of his beauty and had disdain for those who loved him. Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, noticed this behavior and attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus drowned. The flower grew in his place.


When to harvest: When entire bud is flush with color.

Vase life: 6 to 10 days.

Special attention: Tulips will grow one to two inches even after they’re cut. Keep that in mind if you’re designing an arrangement and scale matters. Also, tulips will bend toward the sunlight, so be sure to turn the vase often, unless you want leaning blooms.

Ranunculus or Buttercup

using fresh flowers in staging

When to harvest: As soon as buds show color.

Vase life: 5 to 7 days.

Special attention: None.

There are different varieties of Ranunculus, some full of petals, like peonies, some are petit with as few as five petals.

Fun Trivia: The Princess Bride was Robin Wright’s first film, playing Princess Buttercup, after acting in the soap opera “Santa Barbara” for four years. The film is number 50 on Bravo’s “100 Funniest Movies”.



Sometimes called Corn Lily.

When to harvest: As soon as you can see a touch of color on some buds.

Vase life: 10 days to two weeks, even longer.

Special attention: None.


Orchids bloom from springtime into late fall.

When to harvest: Cut with a sterilized sharp knife when the bloom is 60 to 70 percent open.

Vase Life: All orchids are not suitable for cut arrangements, but the ones that are will last four to six weeks! Look for Cymbidium and Anthurium. Other varieties will last for 1 to 2 weeks if recut and misted periodically.

Special attention: Make sure slender stems are supported. Cut a second time under running water to remove air bubbles absorbed while stem was transported inside. Place immediately in vase of water. Air bubbles will decrease water uptake and diminish the vase life. Start the stem out in a cooler room about 55 degrees if possible, or for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.



When to harvest: Once the bud is showing bright color, and petals can be seen.

Vase life: 5 to 8 days.

Special attention: As soon as you cut peonies, place the stems in warm water to increase water uptake. Be sure to shake off any ants before bringing these perfumed beauties inside.

Although Peony doesn’t last as long as some of the other flowers on the list, they fill an arrangement beautifully. Even if they start to lose petals, they will still look beautiful to the end.


Also: evening stock and night-scented stock

When to harvest: When half the flowers on the stem are open.

Vase life: 7 to 10 days.

Special attention: If you remember to keep recutting the stems, you can add an extra three days to the vase life.

Supplies for Flower Gardeners

Local nurseries are indispensable for most live plants, soil, mulch and compost. But I love Amazon for other tools and supplies! I love the sheer amount of choices. I have ordered seeds and have been very satisfied as well. Here is a link to garden supplies on Amazon for your convenience if you feel inspired to shop!

Best Summertime Blooms


When to harvest: Cut in the late afternoon or evening when the bloom has the highest level of food stored. Cut when the outermost petals have just unfolded.

Vase Life: 7 to 14 days.

Special attention: Set in a cool room away from bright sunlight for 24 hours. This allows them to take up as much water as possible at the start., allowing them to bloom longer.


When to harvest: Cut in the cool of the morning, when just open, as they will not open once they’re cut.

Vase Life: 4 to 6 days.

Special attention: Once cut, place stems in 2 – 3 inches of very hot water for about one hour. This conditions the stem to last longer.

Dahlias will benefit from floral preservative.

Delphiniums (Larkspurs)

multi colored delphinium

When to harvest: Cut when about 4/5 of the florets are open.

Vase Life: 6 to 8 days

Special Attention: Place away from direct sunlight and heat. Cut stem every three days and replace water. Delphiniums make exceptional dried flowers.



When to harvest: Cut when still in bud.

Vase Life: Up to 3 weeks if cared for. Yellow and white are most fragrant and have the longest vase life.

Special attention: If you don’t use floral preservative, freesias will benefit from cutting the stems and changing the water every day or two.

Remove spent flowers to extend the life of new blooms. Keep out of the sun and in a humid place to help them last longer.



When to harvest: Cut gladiolus stems that have several buds one quarter to one half open.

Vase Life: 6 to 12 days.

Special attention: Condition them from the start in warm water. They will not fully open in cool or cold water. Place in a dark, cool location for several hours to harden off the flowers before placing them in an arrangement, cutting off one inch of the stem. A floral preservative helps.

Gladiolus are sensitive to fluoride, causing petal damage and unopen florets. They are heavy drinkers, so check water every day.


Daylillies are common

Different varieties last a different time. Calla Lillies last three weeks.

When to harvest: At first bloom.

Vase life: 10 to 14 days.

Special attention: Keep in a cool space. Cut stems 1/2 inch ever three days and replace the water for longer life.

Flower food helps extend life.

In Irish lore: lily of the valley are said to form ladders for faeries to climb to reach the reeds they use to weave their cradles.


When to harvest:  Early in the morning.

Vase Life: 5 to 12 days.

Special attention: Cut off the bottom inch of the sunflower stem, while it’s still submerged in water, at an angle before transferring it to the vase.

Replace the water and plant preservative every one to two days to extend life.



When to harvest: Cut in the morning after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day. Choose blooms that have begun to open but aren’t full.

Vase life: 2 weeks

Special attention: Overly warm temperatures or direct sun can cause the zinnias to wilt prematurely.

Fresh flowers add beauty and aroma to your home, as well as a welcoming touch. Whether your home is on the market and you want to add an extra beautiful touch, or whether you are trying to make your space more enjoyable for your own happiness,

For more inspiration: A favorite resource many gardener’s turn to is Suzy Bales’ Garden Bouquets and Beyond.

Click image to buy the book.

Categories:   Do It Yourself