How to Perfectly Cut Marigolds for a Vase or Bouquet

Marigolds (Tagetes) are prized for their many uses and colorful blooms, and they can also be brought indoors and used as cut flowers. Follow this guide to find out how to cut and store marigolds for the longest possible vase life.

How to Cut Marigolds for a Vase or Bouquet

Key Takeaways

Cut marigolds just as they open from late spring to early fall using sharp, cleaned shears or scissors. Remove all the leaves from the stems before use to limit their strong odor. Keep them out of direct sunlight in a cool area and change the water frequently to extend their vase life.

Best Tools for Cutting Marigolds

A person cutting marigold flowers at the stalk in a garden

When trimming plants for cut flowers or pruning, it’s vital to start with a clean pair of shears or scissors. Dirty tools can carry bacteria and harmful germs that limit the vase life of your flowers and spread disease to your plants, causing more significant problems later on.

Clean your chosen tools with a 5% bleach solution before starting. If you haven’t used them recently and have stored them clean, a simple scrub with soap and water should be sufficient. Dry them off before use and storage to limit problems with rusting.

Your scissors should also be as sharp as possible. A clean cut will heal the fastest and make it easier for the stems to draw up water and food in the vase. Blunt tools can damage the transport systems within the stems, resulting in irreparable damage.

While cleaning and sharpening, grab a bucket and fill it with lukewarm water. Placing the stems in water immediately after cutting will stop them from drying out. This step is essential if you want fresh and healthy flowers for as long as possible.

When to Cut Marigolds for Cut Flower Arrangements

Bright orange marigold flowers blooming in a garden with rays of sunshine hitting the flower heads

Most varieties of marigolds generally bloom from late spring up to fall, creating a bright summer display with yellow, orange, and red fields. These plants bloom continuously throughout their season, allowing you to keep trimming off the flowers for use in a vase (for more, see our guide to marigold flower growth expectations).

Unlike Peonies that must be cut before the flower opens, marigolds are best removed as the petals reveal themselves. Don’t cut flowers with wilted bottom petals, as they won’t last much longer in a vase.

Choose flowers with solid, bright colors for the best vase life. Avoid cutting any flowers that are starting to appear dull, indicating their blooming time is ending.

For more, see our in-depth guide to cutting back marigold flowers at the end of the season.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting Marigold Flowers

A person assessing the suitability of marigold flowers for cutting in a garden

Head out into the garden to cut your flowers early in the morning, preferably soon after watering marigolds. This ensures the stems are plump and healthy and the flowers look their best before wilting during the day’s heat.

Marigolds can produce sap when cut or handled. This sap can cause skin irritation if it comes into contact with exposed skin, so always wear gloves when handling marigolds.

Follow these steps to get cutting right:

  • Identify a suitable flower that has just opened and appears bright and healthy.
  • Remove the stem several inches down to the desired vase length or arrangement. Cut just above a leaf node at a 45° angle to promote further flowering on the plant.
  • Pop the stem into the bucket of water while you finish cutting as many flowers as needed. Don’t remove too many at one time – only cut those at the perfect stage for removal to ensure all the flowers fade simultaneously.
  • Once indoors, strip the foliage from the leaves thoroughly. Marigold leaves can produce an unpleasant smell, which is one of the reasons they make such great companion plants. Removing the leaves limits this odor and places the focus on the stunning blooms. To avoid getting the smell on your hands, it’s best to wear gloves.
  • If you have giant marigolds with large heads, they may need some extra support to stay upright on long stems. Run a thin wire through the flower and into the stem to keep it attached and upright, taking care not to damage the delicate petals.
  • Arrange the stems in a clean vase with room temperature water and add flower food or a sugar solution. Without leaves, the stems need to draw food from the water to keep them going for as long as possible.

Post Cutting Care

Due to their thin petals and delicate structure, marigolds should be kept in a cool and dry place away from any direct sunlight. The flowers will likely wilt within a day or two if placed in a warm area with direct sun.

Similarly, avoid drafts from windows or air conditioners that can cause the flowers to drop their petals. While a cold room is preferred (especially in summer), a cold and consistent draft from an air conditioner will cause the flowers to fade far sooner than if left alone.

Change the water every 2-3 days or sooner if it looks cloudy. To extend the life of the flowers, clean the vase too when changing the water to limit bacterial growth.

While changing the water, you can also trim the ends off the stems. Less than an inch is plenty, again cutting at a 45° angle to increase surface area. This allows more water to travel up the stems and stops the cuts from sitting flush with the vase and attracting bacteria.

How Long Will My Freshly Cut Marigolds Last For?

If kept in the right conditions, marigolds in a vase will last for around seven days, potentially even longer. Those with denser, more resilient petals will last slightly longer than others, but you can rely on most to survive for at least a week.

How to Extend the Life of Fresh Cut Marigolds

A collection of full blooming orange marigold flowers against a blue sky

In the world of flower hacks, there are many suggestions for extending the life of your cut flowers. Some are easier than others but may come with a few caveats that necessitate a closer eye on the vase for signs of bacterial growth.

But since you’ll have an entire season of marigolds to enjoy, there’s no harm in testing some of these hacks for yourself to find out which works best for you.


We already know keeping your marigolds in a cool area during the day to preserve their flowers is beneficial. So, keeping them in the fridge overnight will extend their vase life.

Florists are familiar with this practice, keeping flowers in cold rooms to preserve the blooms until they are ready to be transported.

If you can make space in your fridge, pop the vase in before you go to bed and bring them out in the morning to make the blooms last well beyond their one-week expiration date.

Flower Food

Available at your local florist or nursery, flower food is specifically designed to extend the life of cut flowers. Since the stems are detached from the parent plant and have no leaves, they need to absorb nutrients from the water to keep the flowers blooming for long periods.

Choose a high-quality flower food and add it to the water after a couple of days to give the flowers that extra boost before they die.


Flowers bloom and fade due to the production of ethylene gas – the compound responsible for flowering and the ripening of fruits. Limiting ethylene production will slow the fading of your marigold flowers, making them last longer.

Luckily, all you need to slow ethylene production is a few drops of vodka.

A light hand is needed here, as too much alcohol in the water can have the opposite effect on flower longevity. It is also believed that this small amount of vodka can limit bacterial growth in the water, extending vase life.


Much like flower food, soda in the water serves a nutritional purpose.

Plants convert water and carbon dioxide to sugars in the process of photosynthesis. Considering the lack of leaves, this hack skips that step and directly provides the sugars as a clear soda.

Only half a cup in an entire vase will feed the stems, keeping the flowers bright and blooming. The acidity of the soda is also said to improve water uptake, keeping the stems moist. Use a clear soda to avoid clouding the water and coloring the stems.

There is one downside to this hack. Sugar in the water can encourage bacterial growth, so you will likely need to change the water more frequently to avoid doing more harm than good.


Speaking of bacteria, there is an easy way to prevent its development around your marigolds – bleach. Adding a few drops of bleach to your water after arranging will keep the water clean for longer, limiting your need to change it out.

Only add a few drops, as too much can change the pH of the water, limiting water uptake in the stems and lowering vase life.

Apple Cider Vinegar & Sugar

For a killer combo, try apple cider vinegar and sugar. The acidity of the vinegar improves water absorption and prevents bacterial growth, while the sugar feeds the flowers. It’s a win-win.

For more, see our in-depth guide to making fresh-cut flowers last longer.

Wrap Up

Marigolds are underappreciated flowers that look great in a vase as a standalone flower, or as part of a bright, summery arrangement. If picked at the right time, they’ll last more than a week, allowing you to enjoy their beauty indoors and out.

For more, see our essential guide to everything you need to know about how to grow Marigolds.

Contributing Editor | | Full Bio

Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.

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