Flowers and foliage that last out of water
“What flowers last out of water?” Is one of the most frequently asked questions in the floral community. With the help of Martha White and David Martin of Free Range Farms, we’ve created some lists—but more importantly, gathered some pointers—for your reference when shopping, foraging, or otherwise hunting for product that will hold its own through events and projects, even if left out of water for long periods of time. Get quick inspiration from the lists provided below, or take a few moments to dive deeper into the topic via the article. Happy selecting!
TOP TEN FLOWERS THAT LAST OUT OF WATER 8 HOURS OR LONGER
Standard and spray roses
TOP TEN FOLIAGES THAT LAST OUT OF WATER 12 HOURS OR LONGER
Monstera, Palm, and Tea Leaves (tropicals)
Most conifers (pine, spruce, cedar)
TOP FIVE HERBS THAT LAST OUT OF WATER FOR SEVERAL HOURS
Thyme (use older stems)
Rosemary (use older stems)
Russian Sage stems (Perovskia)
Wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare)
Quick Tips From article:
Choosing flowers and foliage that last out of water increases the quality and value of your design work, and it builds confidence for complex future projects.
Two characteristics that are an easy clue for what will do well out of water are woody stems and waxy leaves. The tougher and/or more mature the stem and the thicker and shinier the texture of the leaf, the more likely a clipping is to naturally hold in moisture and retain its shape and crispness.
Learn to predict what will perform well out of water by using the woody-waxy test in tandem with pre-existing lists curated by farmers and designers, noting the emerging patterns.
Take advantage of specialized moisture-sealing products on the market and carefully plan climate control to boost the out-of-water lifetime for even the hardiest of stems.
Testing unfamiliar products ahead of time and leaving your designs out for hours to observe the changes is one of the best practices you can adopt if your goal is to confidently produce wilt-free events.
FLOWERS AND FOLIAGE THAT LAST OUT OF WATER
By Martha White of Free Range Flowers
My first boutonniere was not exactly stellar. I made the rookie mistake of using a zinnia, which was practically on its head by the end of the ceremony and looked very sad by the time photos were taken. My dusty miller drooped too, in a somewhat artful way, but lisianthus was the sole survivor out of the four flowers I used—not such a great first start.
Fortunately, the bride was a friend and extremely low-key. She was happy to be our guinea pig and thrilled with all the flowers.
But panic set in. If I wanted to do weddings, I had to be able to design boutonnieres, corsages, wristlets, and (the scariest of all) wedding arches that would last through an entire wedding! Along with my husband, I came to flower farming and floral design late in life, and we have had to fast-track the learning process for both endeavors. David, at least, has a degree in horticulture. I am a former library administrator, so I know how to crack open a book, and we had learned a lot about growing flowers, what sells at markets, and how to sell over the four years before our first wedding.
However, when it came time to start designing, neither of us knew how to select items that would hold up well out of water for hours at a time.
So the July following our zinnia debacle, we walked around the farm and clipped, snipped, plucked, and picked samples of greenery, flowers, seed pods, fruits, and weeds to see what would last longest and hold up well out of the water. We labeled everything with masking tape and checked on its condition every hour, noting the point an item began to look sad.
As a result of this experiment, we have a much better idea of what is suitable for out-of-water use.
Here is a little of what we learned:
Most greens and flowers last longer if the stem is a little older, tougher or woodier. Yarrow and Ageratum, for example, work better if they are fully mature and bloomed out — their little dangly parts droop otherwise. Rosemary is a good example of greenery that lasts a long time when cut at the woody stage, but it can flop if cut too young. Mature lilac leaves and several varieties of oak leaves last quite well due to their woody stems that retain water and delay wilting.
In general, the glossier the leaf, the longer it lasts.
Sun and heat make a big difference in the length of time any stem stays perky. If the event is outdoors, plan to use your hardiest items.
A moisture sealant product like Crowning Glory can extend the life of your flowers and leaves—try it if you haven’t!
You can't guarantee the life of any botanical. Longevity can vary based on the time of year, the age of the plant, weather conditions, event location and/or climate control and more. If it’s critical that something lasts for several hours, always test it ahead of time to make sure it will perform well for the event.
As David and I try things, our confidence grows; practice is definitely the name of the game. Learning to be comfortable with out-of-water flower work has opened up possibilities for us that we would never have tried a few years ago. We recently created a floral halo for a photoshoot bride out of gladiola blossoms, yellow and red roses, and lilac leaves. It held up for hours and still didn't look bad the next day (and I even forgot to spray it with Crowning Glory)! Every successful experiment is empowering and motivates you to keep designing.
The best way to learn what materials will work well—and get better at predicting what you’ll be able to use out of water—is to set aside time to try things and make your own observations. Boutonnieres are a great way to run tests since they are easy to make and you can try several things quickly.
Some of the results of our experiments are included in the lists below. I frequently think I will remember things that I don't, and I find it very helpful to pull out this list before grabbing a bucket and clippers to collect items for my latest project. You might find it helpful to start a running list of your own!
Sweet William (Dianthus)
Yarrow (Achillea) fully open
Scabiosa fully open (the neck gets a little limp, so use wire)
Bicolor Rose Gomphrena
'Henry Eilers' Rudbeckia
Perennial sunflower or 'Sunshine Daydream' (Helianthus)
Ageratum (central cluster only)
Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Queen Anne's Lace seed head (Daucus carrota and Ammi Majus)
Clematis seed head (needs to be older; younger can wilt)
Drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon)
Rose, Tiger, and Easter Lilies
Calla Lily (Zantedeschia)
Pom pom mums
Variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum)
False Solomon's Seal (Disporopsis)
Holly fern (Cyrtomium)
Ghost fern (Athyrium)
Leather Leaf Fern
Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)
Toad Lily (Tricyrtis)
Sedum (Autumn Joy)
We would love to hear about your own experiments and experiences. Join the conversation below and tell us about your favorite long-lasting blooms and foliage.
Martha White and her husband David Martin of Free Range Flowers grow and test their own material at Martin Farm in Gracey, Kentucky.