The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Take Care in Choosing, Preserving Cut Roses

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Roses have a classic beauty and certainly a special meaning when given as a gift. The language of flowers was honed to a fine art in Victorian England. Flowers were a great way for lovers to communicate discreetly without the knowledge of parents and chaperons. Also, writing love notes was difficult when most could not read or write.

How the flowers were sent was also of great importance according to Laura Martin in the book The Garden Flower Folklore.For example if a boy sent a girl a rosebud with the leaves and thorns still on it, it meant "I fear but I hope." If the rosebud was returned upside down it meant "you must neither fear nor hope." If the rosebud was returned with the thorns removed, the message was "you have everything to hope for." If the thorns were left but the leaves removed, the message was "you have everything to fear." What pressure on the delivery guy!

No matter how they are delivered, starting out with quality roses and providing proper care can help to keep roses looking beautiful longer.

Good florists can be trusted to supply quality roses for maximum useful life. Generally you get what you pay for with roses.

Signs of quality roses: just outer one or two petals loose; green sepals turned down around the stem; rich, fresh color and crisp feel.

Signs of old, poor quality roses: many petals loosened; not much bud left in the center; a dull faded look; a soft, flabby look and feel; and water soaked leaves. These roses will open rapidly and be short-lived so avoid buying them.

Signs of immature roses which may never open: no petals loosened; bud is short and fat; bud feels hard; green sepals tight against the bud. I have used these for dried flower arrangements. Hang them upside down and let them dry naturally.

The following tips are for long lasting roses:

  • Unwrap the roses as soon after receiving them as possible.

  • Remove all leaves that will be in water.

  • Cut about one inch off the stems.

  • A packet of floral preservative often comes with cut flowers. Floral preservative can extend the useful life of cut flowers, sometimes even doubling the time. If no preservative is available, a homemade version can be used. To make your own preservative: add two tablespoons of white vinegar, two teaspoons sugar, one half teaspoon bleach to one quart of warm water. Another recipe uses one pint non-diet, non-cola drink (7-Up, Sprite, Mountain Dew, etc), one half teaspoon bleach with one pint warm water.

  • Check water level daily. Change water, recut stems and wash stems and containers if water becomes cloudy.

  • Place the arrangement in the coolest place available for display. Refrigerate flowers when not on display. However do not store cut flowers with fruit or vegetables especially apples. Ripening fruits and vegetables give off small amounts of ethylene gas which will hasten aging of the flowers.

  • Avoid drafts, direct sun or heat. If a rose wilts or is wilted upon receipt, remove it from the arrangement and recut the stem. Submerge the entire rose including the stem and leaves by laying it in a pan of warm water or in the bathtub, replace in the arrangement after it has revived, often after 20 minutes to an hour. Some immature roses which have been cut too tight and have wilted severely at the neck (the stem just below the flower) can never be revived.

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