Collapsible plastic flower vases: Do they work?

Fresh cut flowers add color and beauty to your surroundings, but unless you're buying flowers to take home -- where you have vases -- finding the proper container to place your petals can pose a thorny challenge.

Collapsible, plastic, reusable vases are supposed to solve that problem. They look like flat plastic cut-outs and are about the thickness of a sheet of construction paper. How well do they hold up? How much can they hold? And what are they made of?

Collapsible flower vases don't really have a single brand name. A quick check online explains why. All sorts of companies make and sell collapsible vases in a garden variety of shapes, colors, sizes and designs. And it appears that most, if not all, are made of PVC, or Polyvinylchloride. You should know that some health advocates link excessive exposure to PVC products with potential health risks in small kids. That said, PVC can be found in any number of common household products.

The two layers of plastic at the top of the collapsible vase are fused to a wider base. Adding water expands the sides and the base to create a flexible container and sure enough during our tests it worked. I found the vases worked best with a few flower stems but the size of your arrangement will be determined by the size of the opening. I had to break down a large bouquet to about half its original size to fit our largest vase. Even then, it was a snug fit, which caused the flexible plastic to buckle a bit.

My verdict? Collapsible vases do work. There's clearly no mistaking them for glass or crystal, so don't expect high-end results. But when you're sharing flowers at work, or visiting someone in the hospital, or you want fresh flowers while on vacation, they're much nicer than using a jar, a coffee mug or a paper cup. And since they go flat when you empty the water, they're easy to carry and store.

You can find plastic collapsible vases at many florists or gift shops. A KOMO colleague told me she once found some at Goodwill, so if you're interested, keep your eyes open. And again, you can also look online where I noticed a number of distributors selling them through Amazon. Retail prices range from as little as $1 to around $10 depending on the source, size and quantity.