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How to Extend the Vase Life of Roses

A bouquet of roses delights the senses and bring a good dose of cheer to every venue. It can make the dullest room look beautiful, put a smile on a sad face, or push a heart to beat double time. Such fragile beauty is short lived, however, and most bouquets will only last a few days. This does not have to be the case. By following a few simple steps you can extend the vase life the roses and enjoy your bouquet for a week. If the procedure is too arduous, pick a few steps to try; you will be surprised what a difference you can make.

Here are some suggestions for extending the life of a rose bouquet.

Cultivar Choice
Some roses last longer in a vase than others, so selecting roses that have a known long vase life is the first way to get started. Some hybrid tea with a good vase life are ‘Mister Lincoln’ and ‘Veteran’s Honor’ (both dark red and fragrant), ‘St. Patrick (yellow with green tint), ‘Touch of Class (pink, slight fragrance), and ‘Pascalli’ (white, light fragrance). The grandiflora ‘Sonia’ is pink and a favorite of florists.

Water
Roses need plenty of water in them before they are cut so water them the night before you plan to cut. This water will plump them up and give the substance so that they will stand up to life in a vase longer.

Clean Vase
Run the vase through the dishwasher to sterilize it. The number one enemy of cut flowers is bacteria that clog the water conducting vessels in the rose stems. A scrubbing with hot sudsy water and a brush followed by a rinse containing a bleach solution (1 cup bleach/gal of water) will have the same affect.

Time of Cutting
Most people find that the roses have the most substance and last the longest in the vase when they are cut in the early morning, before 10 a.m. when the sun and heat can effect the bushes. Some people swear by afternoon cuttings but everyone agrees that cutting around noon is the worst time. Cut on a cool day rather than a warm one if possible.

Choice of Flower
Choose a flower that is 1/3 to ½ open. In general roses with many petals like ‘St. Patrick’ can be cut when they are more open than flowers with few petals like “Dainty Bess’.

Method of Cutting
Carry a bucket of warm water into the garden and plunge the cut stem into it as you go. Cut the stem at forty five degree angle so the bottom of the stem will not sit flat on the bottom of the container and be unable to take up water. Cut below the first leaf with 6 leaflets, and try to leave a couple of leaves on the stem below the cut. Use a sharp knife that has been cleaned with alcohol or bleach and make a clean cut.

Conditioning
When all the roses have been cut and placed in the bucket of warm water, bring them indoors to a cool shady place and recut the stems underwater. This allows a continuous stream of water to flow through the water conducting cells, unimpeded by air bubbles. If the roses are going to be used in a bouquet remove the leaves that would be in the vase water in order to reduce contamination by bacteria on the leaves. Do NOT remove thorns as this only opens up holes for bacteria to enter the stems. Place all the roses in warm water up to the bottom of their flowers and let them take up water for at least an hour. Put in a 38o degree refrigerator for a couple of hours or longer.

Arranging
Use tap water, never distilled water, in the vase. Add a packet of floral preservative to the vase water or if none is available add a couple of drops of bleach to retard bacterial growth.

Care
After arranging, place the bouquet in a cool area out of direct sunlight and drafts. If possible put in the refrigerator at night. Change the water as often as possible, once a day is best, and recut the stems underwater every 2-3 days. Once you get the roses arranged in a vase you will be surprised how easy it is to lift the whole bouquet out without seriously disturbing it. Washing the vase with soap and water with one hand is tricky so try to get a helper to either hold the bouquet or do the washing.

By following these steps you can expect your roses to last a week; I’ve had roses last longer in cool temperatures. Once get used to the routine it won’t seem burdensome and the pleasure you get from the bouquet will be well worth it.

Floristry pointer

Recommended Reading:

Flowers: The Book of Floral Design
Tussie-Mussies: The Language of Flowers
The Complete Flower Arranging Book
Infinite Succulents