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Caring for Cut Roses

Rose Care Instructions
Here is some expert advice on caring for your cut roses in a vase. Whether you cut them from your garden or buy them from a florist, these tips will help you make them last and make them look their brightest and fullest. Scroll to the bottom for a bonus video on how to arrange a dozen roses like an expert!

Follow these simple steps to get the maximum vase life and enjoyment from your fresh cut roses:

  1. Hydration, hydration, hydration! Whether you receive cut roses or buy them yourself, get them into water as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have time to arrange them in the desired vase right away, it's important to place them into some container of water until you can get to them.

  2. Use warm water. Prepare the vase first by cleaning it thoroughly. Then, fill it ¾ full with lukewarm water (100°F to 110°F, about the same temperature as bath water). Warm water can be absorbed by the flower with greater ease than cold water, allowing the water and nutrients to travel up to the bloom as quickly as possible.

  3. The importance of flower food. Be sure to add flower food to the water according to package directions. Florists include these packets with all cut flower bouquets, and they really work!

    Flower food contains three key ingredients that work together to prolong the life of your flowers: a food source for continued flower development, an acidifier to control the pH of the water, and a biocide to kill harmful bacteria.

    If for some reason you do not have commercial flower food, you can make your own! Just add 3 teaspoons of non-diet lemon-lime soda (to serve as the food source and the acidifier) and 1 teaspoon of bleach (to kill the bacteria) to one quart of warm water.

  4. Eliminate sources of bacteria in the water. Before placing the flowers into the water, remove any foliage that would fall below the water line.  Foliage in the water causes bacteria to grow which will shorten the vase life of the flower.

  5. How to properly cut stems. If your flowers were shipped with water vials to keep them hydrated, remove them. Then, cut the stems. Ideally, you should cut about an inch from the bottom of each stem, at an angle, while holding the bottom of the stem under water. Once the stem is cut, place it immediately in the vase.

    By cutting under water, the rose will immediately start to absorb water, preventing any air bubbles from forming in the stem. Cutting at an angle maximizes the amount of water that can be absorbed by the stem. Both these things prevent blockage of the flow of water to the bloom, which is where the water needs to get!

  6. Repeat. For optimum vase life (over 7 days), repeat these steps every three days--take the flowers out of the vase, and clean your vase with hot water. Then, refill the vase with clean, warm water and flower food; cut your stems an inch under water; and place back in the vase.

    On a daily basis, check the water level and add warm water as needed.

Showcasing your flowers

  1. Where to display your roses. Display your flowers in a cool place, away from direct sunlight and drafts. Avoid displaying your flowers near a direct source of heat or any extreme temperatures, such as a window with strong sunlight, heating and cooling vents, and appliances that give off heat.

  2. Give roses a "face-lift" by gently removing discolored or drooping petals from roses to give them a fresh, just-received appearance even after several days.

  3. Keep your flowers away from ripening fruit. These give off ethylene gas, which shorten the life of cut flowers.
  1. If your roses wilt, they can be revived. Submerge the entire rose under water, such as a sink or bathtub. In about 30 minutes to an hour, the rose will have absorbed enough water to become replenished. Before putting it back into the vase, remember to cut off one inch of the stem under water using a sharp knife or scissors.

Bonus Video! In this video from 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Julie Mulligan demonstrates many of the techniques mentioned in this article, and also shares a secret for how to arrange your roses to look just like a professional floral arrangement.

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Portions by Julie McCann Mulligan, expert floral designer at 1-800-FLOWERS. Reprinted courtesy of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM