How to care for poppies in a vase - simple but strange advice for keeping these fragile flowers fresh

Florists reveal how to care for poppies in a vase and prolong the life of your cut flowers with some very unexpected expert advice

yellow poppies in a vase on a windowsill with succulents
(Image credit: Future)

One of the more humble flowers to choose, poppies make a charming floral display. Equally attractive grouped together or mixed with other blooms and wild grasses, these pretty pollinators can thrive if you know how to care for poppies in a vase. 

Loved for their papery red petals, poppies are actually available in a variety of strong and subtle shades (including white, orange, yellow and purple). There are a number of species too, although it's the Icelandic, oriental and corn poppies we're most familiar with.  

Whether you've picked poppies from your flower bed, or bought cut stems from a florist, floral experts have simple - and unusual - ways to prolong their life and keep these fragile flowers looking pretty for longer.

'These early spring flowers are quite delicate, but that’s what makes them beautiful,' says Jessica Hall, co-founder, Harmony Harvest Farm. 'Icelandic poppies start as pods that help keep the papery bloom protected while it grows, and their crinkly petals come in a range of happy colors.'

How to care for poppies in a vase

poppies in vases

(Image credit: Alamy)

1. Trim and cauterize the stems

red poppies in a glass vase

(Image credit: Alamy)

Yes you read that right, cauterizing (burning something to seal it) the stems helps cut poppies live longer. So once you've trimmed the stems to the desired length, it's time for this unusual step - not one we've ever covered when it comes to how to look after daffodils in a vase, nor any other flower.

'Cauterizing the ends locks in the poppies' plant juices and makes them last longer,' explains Christina Stembel, founder, Farmgirl Flowers. 'Grab some matches or a lighter, then very quickly bring the end of each stem to the flame. Before dropping them in to your vase, filled to 2/3 with cool tap water.'

2. Place away from heat sources

poppies in a vase

(Image credit: Alamy)

Like most of the best flowers for cut floral arrangements, poppies don't like sitting in direct heat. Being more delicate once cut, poppies thrive best when placed away from bright sunny windows and hot radiators.

'We recommend placing your vase of poppies at least three feet away from any sunny window or any obvious heat sources,' says Christina at Farmgirl Flowers. 'This will help your blooms live their best life.'

3. Top up the water daily

red poppies in a glass vase

(Image credit: Alamy)

Topping up the water daily may sound like a chore but it's a great way to help your poppies live longer. Bacteria build up is normal in a vase of flowers. Refreshing the water will slow this process and extend the life of your poppies.

'Change the water daily or as often as you remember,' says Christina at Farmgirl Flowers. 'This way, your poppies are always getting a fresh drink. Trimming the stems at the same time will ensure they hydrate efficiently too.'

'Poppies come with little bud helmets on them. To help them shed you can gently manually peel it a little, so they open sooner. Or pop them in hot water and watch the flower do the work itself,' says Jessica at Harmony Harvest Farm.  

'While delicate and beautiful, poppies have a shorter vase life compared to others so should be enjoyed at their freshest and during their prime moments.'

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites

A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.