How to Take Care of Tulips in a Vase — 6 Easy Ways to Make Them Last Longer

Wondering how to take care of tulips in a vase? We've gathered advice and tips from top experts to help you keep these beauties always fresh and healthy

In a living room, a vase with tulips placed inside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've been pondering over how to take care of tulips in a vase so that they last longer and stay healthier, there are a few tricks you should know about. These seasonal blooms can be rather delicate to handle and need to be given some attention to keep them looking their best, but maintaining them isn't as hard as you think. 

There are, of course, the basics to caring for them. 'Tulips love sunlight, so be sure to place them in a sunny spot if growing them indoors,' says Kat Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder of Staghorn NYC and The Cultivation by Kat. 'Do not overwater them, but instead keep lightly moist as they start to sprout.' But there's much more to learn about the care of these cut flowers.

From their watering routine, the shape of their vase, or where they're located, all these factors play a key role in ensuring they stay healthy. Read these tips by top experts for one of the best flowers for cut floral arrangements

1. Choose the right vase

Tulips in a vase, kept atop the kitchen counter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Vases aren't all about aesthetics. Sure you want a vase to look lovely, but they also have to provide the right environment for your flowers. For the longest-lasting flowers, you want to choose a vase that is at least half the height of the flowers to support them. 

'Picking the right vase is critical for keeping your tulips happy and looking good,' says Reese L Robins, a gardening expert at Just Pure Gardening.'Choose a vase with sufficient height to support tulip stems, allowing them room for post-cutting growth. This ensures the tulips stand tall and don't appear cramped. Also, go for a vase with a slim neck to keep tulips close together, preventing excessive spreading. This not only enhances the visual appeal of the arrangement but also provides mutual support among the tulips, maintaining a neat and orderly display.'

2. Trim your tulips and give them a long drink

A bunch of tulips in a vase

(Image credit: Flower Council)

'My tip for tulips is to provide them with a really good environment before they are placed into a vase – often by the time you receive your tulips/bring them home, they will have been out of water for several hours and might be a little droopy,' explains florist Philippa Craddock. 'When decorating with flowers, you want to carefully unwrap and remove any damaged leaves, place them back onto the same paper, ensuring each stem is straight, wrap back up tightly, and cut approx. 2cm of the base of the stems. Plunge the wrapped bundle into a bucket of deep tepid water. Let them drink ideally overnight, or at least for a few hours.'

This is a great trick for how to keep cut flowers looking fresh. 'As the tulips rehydrate, they will draw water up their stems and become rigid, retaining the shape they are in, hence straightening the stems before their drink,' says Philippa. 'Once fully hydrated, they are ready to arrange into a vase. Ideally, select a vase with a slightly tapered neck, as this helps to support the stems.  Enjoy your tulips as they continue to grow (they are one of the only cut flowers to continue growing once cut) and take on dance-like shapes, with the stems twisting and turning. Refresh the water and clean the vase, every other day.'

When it comes to regular watering, it's all about keeping them happily hydrated for a vibrant display. 'Swap out the water every two days with fresh, clean water,' says Reese. 'This routine ensures your tulips stay well-hydrated and avoids unwanted bacteria contributing to their overall well-being. Keep your tulips perky by filling the vase so that at least half of the tulip stems are submerged. Tulips have a thirst, and this practice ensures they get the hydration they need for a sustained, lively appearance.'

3. Move your vase around to keep tulips straight

A living room with tulips in a vase

(Image credit: March Kirsten Francis)

Tulips also make for wonderful window box decor, but the main issue with keeping tulips inside is that they are one of the very few plants that continue to grow even after they have been cut from their bulbs – meaning they move. 'Tulips are one of the very few flowers that grow in length,' says Kielly Blackman-Young, director of Floristry at Lavender Green Flowers. 'With that in mind, always cut them shorter than you think when you arrange them in your vase otherwise they will look messy as they grow.'

'Location makes a difference,' says Kat Aul Cervoni. 'Tulips will grow and lean towards the sun, so keeping them away from strong sunlight will help. Rotating them will also help them straighten up. Cut their stems at a 45-degree angle before placing them in their vase. Keep water fresh and cold, which will help them last longer.'

4. Try the dime trick

Colorful vases with tulips inside them

(Image credit: Flower Council)

This might sound a little unbelievable but for a while it was a tried and tested trick for keeping blooms looking fresh. By dropping a dime into the vase, people would ensure the flowers always looked fresh and stood up straight. The science? Copper is a natural fungicide, capable of killing bacteria build-up in water which can make your flowers die quicker. By placing a penny (or another material containing copper) into your flowers' water, you can help keep them fresher for longer. 

Sadly though, this ingenious technique is no longer a popular flower trend. Only coins produced before 1982 contained enough copper to keep your flowers in bloom, as this was the year that the US mint started to make them out of copper-plated zinc instead of pure copper. But the sustainable plant pot brand POTR's co-founder, Andrew Flynn has come up with a solution. He's designing a self-cleansing, flat-pack vase with a copper rod to improve the lifespan of your floral arrangements.  The POTR copper stem can be kept with the flower stems, and it acts as an antimicrobial rod, utilizing the natural fungicidal properties of copper to extend the life of your flowers.

'For the process to work, a pure grade of copper is required to effectively neutralize bacteria,' says Andrew. 'The Copper Stem is engineered from 95% pure copper ensuring the anti-microbial process works effectively.'

5. Store your tulips in a dark room 

'Because tulips keep growing in their vase, you’ll find they playfully move around in the water. It’s part of their charm and nothing to worry about,' explains Caroline Grimble, lead florist at Bloom & Wild.

'But if you want your tulips to stand up straight for a dinner party or special occasion, I recommend taking them out of their vase, tightly wrapping them with newspaper into a cone shape, popping them back in water, and keeping them in a dark room overnight,' says Caroline. 'When you unwrap them in the morning, they’ll be perfect! Then remember to rotate your vase throughout to prevent them growing one way towards the light.'

6. Additional Tips

If you're looking for the best indoor plants to add color then nothing beats the charm of tulips. To ensure these look aesthetic and remain healthy for a long, Reese offers some extra tips.

1. Cut Stems at an Angle: Before placing your tulips into the vase, trim their stems at a 45-degree angle. This simple step enhances water absorption, ensuring your tulips stay well-hydrated for a longer-lasting vibrancy.

2. Avoid Direct Sunlight and Heat: Help your tulips keep cool by placing the vase in the shade, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Tulips thrive in a chilled environment, and excessive sun exposure can lead to premature wilting.

3. Avoid Ethylene Sources: Keep your tulips away from apples and bananas – they're not the best companions. Fruits release ethylene gas, which can accelerate the aging process of your tulips. To maintain that fresh look, keep your tulips at a safe distance from these ethylene-emitting fruits.

How long do potted tulips last?

If you're keen to keep your tulips in pots and vases, do keep in mind that these take 8 to 10 weeks to bloom and last for 15 to 30 days after blooming. If well taken care of, they can last several weeks to several months. 

How often do you water tulips in pots?

For your potted tulips, it's best to water them once per week for the first month after planting. During springtime, leave these be till the leaves appear, and then start watering them again.

Do tulip bulbs multiply?

They do, but the tulips will need a full year's growth to start multiplying and spreading. This will ideally happen during their first bloom, and the baby bulbs will sprout from the main tulip root.

3 products to maintain tulips

Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.

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