Extend the Life of Your Cut Roses
For Maximum Beauty & Enjoyment

By Kitty Belendez
Master Rosarian
Santa Clarita, CA

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could cut a huge bouquet of roses from our garden and they could last for several weeks? And don't you wish those gorgeous bouquets  that our loved ones give us could last more than just a few days? That's not just wishful thinking, because there are a number of ways to extend the vase life of our cut roses for more than just a few days.

Sanitation of the Vase & Water
Let's begin with sanitation. This is one of the most overlooked requirements for keeping your cut flowers fresh for extended periods of time. Start with a clean vase. Not just one that has been rinsed out, but a vase that has been thoroughly washed with hot, soapy water. Scrub your vases with a bottle brush to eliminate all the residue that builds up inside. Then soak them in a 5% dilution of bleach for a few minutes (about one cup per gallon of water). I sometimes run my vases through the dishwasher using very hot, soapy water, followed by a hot water rinse. Vases that have been used over and over without cleaning will accumulate bacteria that stand ready to attack and deteriorate your freshly cut roses. The cutters you use to cut your roses should also be cleaned often. Wipe down the cutter blades with a solution of bleach or alcohol.

Water Your Roses Before Cutting
If cutting roses from your own garden, the night before you plan to cut your roses, water your roses well. The plants will drink up the water, which will give more substance and holding power to the cut flowers. As I water my roses, I make a mental note of the perfect blooms that I will be cutting the next morning. Sometimes, after I am finished watering, I will jot down on a notepad the names and locations of the roses to be cut. That way, I can quickly go out in the morning and cut my roses and refrigerate them before I leave for work. 

The Best Time of Day to Cut Your Roses
I prefer to cut my roses between the hours of 8:00 and 10:00 A.M., and sometimes I will cut them as early as 6:00 A.M. if there is enough daylight at that time of year. The hotter the weather, the earlier I will cut my roses. I believe that the blooms are the freshest at this time of day, especially if I have watered them well the evening before. However, if you have a lot of morning dew where you live, you may need to cut your roses later in the day, or after the dew has dried. I rarely cut my roses at midday as they have the least amount of substance at that time.

Some people claim that cutting roses in late afternoon is preferred because supposedly the sugar content of the rose is higher at that time. Does the sugar content disappear overnight? I've never seen or read any scientific proof of this theory. I do know that my roses are limp from lack of substance in the afternoon, and they have excellent substance in the morning. So that's why I cut my roses in the morning.

The Weather Factor
We have no control over weather, but cut roses will last much longer during cooler weather, and will deteriorate faster in hotter weather. If the weather is cool enough, sometimes you will be able to cut roses throughout the day

Degree of Openness of the Flowers
The degree of openness at which you cut your roses will depend on how you intend to use them. If intended for a bouquet in the home, your cut roses will last longer if you cut them just beyond the bud stage with the petals just starting to unfurl

Another factor to consider is how many petals a particular variety has. Roses with many petals can be cut at a more open stage, while a rose with fewer petals will need to be cut tighter. For example, Moonstone and St. Patrick have many petals, and Silverado has fewer petals.

Cut & Re-cut the Rose Stems
Use sharp, clean cutters, and cut the rose stems at an angle so that they do not sit flat on the bottom of the vase, which could impede water uptake. Promptly put the cut flowers and roses in a bucket of lukewarm water. Then, re-cut the rose stems under the water to eliminate air bubbles, which can decrease flower life and promote premature wilting of the rose bloom. If your roses will be used in a bouquet, remove the foliage below the water line to help prevent bacteria. 

Condition & Refrigerate Your Bouquets
Next, condition your roses by letting them drink up the warm water in a cool, dark room for about an hour. Fill the bucket full of water so that most of the stem is under water, but don't let the bloom get wet. Then, refrigerate your roses at about 38 degrees for at least two hours or until you are ready to use them. 

If you have made a bouquet for the home, or if you have received a bouquet from the florist, and have the space in your refrigerator, your bouquet will last much longer if you put it in the refrigerator at night while you are sleeping.

Select Long-lasting Rose Varieties
Florist roses are bred to last a long time in a vase. So, it stands to reason that some of the roses we grow in our gardens will last a long time after being cut, while others will have an extremely short vase life. You will have to experiment and do some testing, but after awhile you will know which of your roses are longer lasting. In general, antique roses do not last as long as hybrid teas. Roses such as Crystalline, Secret, and Red Intuition, were originally florist roses, so they have a long vase life. Some roses such as St. Patrick, Veteran's Honor, Black Magic, Andrea Stelzer, Louise Estes, Moonstone, and Elizabeth Taylor have proven to last extremely long as cut flowers.

Floral Preservatives
Floral preservatives extend the life of cut roses and flowers. Floralife, is a good powdered product for adding to the vase water of arrangements and bouquets. Chrysal is a different type of preservative that is used for keeping cut roses stored under refrigeration for several days before making bouquets.

Change the Vase Water Often
And, finally, change the vase water of your bouquets often. Every day if you can, because old water contains bacteria, and fresh water will help to extend the life of your cut roses. Never use softened water, because it may contain salt, which is not good for your cut roses. It also helps to re-cut the stems of your roses under water every day with a sharp pair of cutters.

Maximize Your Cut Roses
If you follow the suggestions given here, you can be sure to get the most out of your cut roses and floral bouquets. You can have a bouquet of roses to enjoy for a full week.

Click here for more about Hybrid Tea Roses.

© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.

This article is an ARS Award of Merit Winner, originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez



Updated April 3, 2023

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