How to take care of tulips in a vase – 5 expert florist tips

Want to know how to take care of tulips in a vase? We have asked the pros for their top tips to bring life to your spring blooms

Tulips in a vase
(Image credit: Getty)

Nothing says spring quite like a bold and cheering vase of tulips. But these seasonal blooms can be a tad... delicate, and we have many a time brought home a beautiful bunch only to put them in a vase and they just sag sadly over the sides. 

So we've asked the experts for their best tips on how to take care of tulips in a vase – how to make them last longer, stay straighter and look fresher.  Then you can transform your drooping store brought flowers into a beautiful bouquet that looks like you could have picked them fresh from your own garden...

How to take care of tulips in a vase in 5 easy steps

1. Choose the right vase

Vases aren't all about aesthetics, sure you want a vase to look lovely, but they also have to be the right environment for your flowers. For tulips you want to choose a vase that is at least half the height of the flowers – they need support. You don't want it to be too narrow either so the vase is crowded, ensure each stem has enough room and the leaves aren't getting crushed. 

And fill the vase with the right amount of water too. Two-thirds of a vase is usually the perfect amount, but do be sure to remove any lower leaves if you need to so they don't sit in the water. And opt for room temperature or even slightly tepid water rather than cold as this will hydrate the tulips faster. 

2. Trim your tulips and give them a long drink

'My tip for tulips, is to give them a really good condition 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 a number of hours and might be a little droopy.' explains florist Philippa Craddock (opens in new tab).

'Place your wrapped tulips on your kitchen table, carefully unwrap and remove any damaged leaves, place 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.'

'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.  Once fully hydrated, they are ready to arrange into a vase. Ideally, select a vase with a slightly tapered neck, this helps to support the stems.  Enjoy your tulips at 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.'

White living room with vase of tulips

(Image credit: Daniel Wang)
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3. Move your vase around to keep tulips straight

As Philippa mentioned, the main issue (or beauty?) with keeping tulips in vases 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. As Kielly Blackman-Young, Director of Floristry at Lavender Green Flowers (opens in new tab) says, 'Tulips are one of the very few flowers that grow in length. 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.'

'Tulips always grow towards the light so if you want to keep them straighter it’s worth moving your vase around from time to time – however, they are never going to look formulaic in design, that’s the beauty of them!'

4. Try the penny trick

This is such a simple trick to get your tulips standing up straight, and one our editor (and author of several plant books) Pip Rich swears by. 'Before you trim your tulip stems, fill your vase with water a drop in a copper penny. Allow it to sit in there while you prep your flowers, once trimmed pop them in the vase, and in an hour you'll notice they no longer droop and stand straight.' Genius. 

Don't us to explain the science... apparently, it's something to do with the oxidation of the copper?

Tulips in a vase in a modern kitchen

(Image credit: Simon Bevan)

5. Store your tulips in a darkened 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 (opens in new tab).

'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. 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.'

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.