Many gardeners like to enjoy their roses twice Â— first in the garden, then indoors as cut flowers. By choosing the right roses, cutting them at the proper time of day, and conditioning them after cutting, you can enjoy your cut roses for the longest possible time Â— up to five days or more after cutting.
When to Cut Roses
In general, the more petals a rose has the slower it will open and the longer it will last. So, the best roses to use as cut flowers are the fully double varieties. Flowers with fewer petals open quickly and need to be replaced more often. Old garden and shrub roses generally wilt rapidly because their petals lack the substance (thickness and sturdiness) of modern roses and therefore donÂ’t make good cut flowers.
In addition to the form of a rose, you should consider its blooming stage. A rose will last longer if it is cut when the sepals have separated from the bud and have turned downward, and when the bud has softened but before the stamens are visible. If you squeeze the bud and it is still hard, wait a day or two before cutting it or it may not open after it is cut.
Roses should be cut from a well-watered plant, late in the afternoon when the sugar and nutrient content of the plant is highest. This provides the bloom with ample energy to develop and open normally, and to stay open longer without wilting. During hot weather, when there is chance that a flower may be dehydrated by late afternoon, water the plant well several hours before cutting.
How to Cut Roses
Using pruning shears or flower-cutting shears cut the stem at a 45-degree angle, no shorter than just above the first five-leaflet leaf below the flower. You can cut a stem as long as you like, provided that at least two sets of leaves are left on the main stem to act as food producers for future growth and flowering.
Carry a bucket of water with you into the garden so that you can place the cut stems in the water immediately. The flowers will last much longer if the uptake of water is not interrupted for too long and the stems donÂ’t dry out. ItÂ’s all right to submerge the leaves temporarily as they too will absorb moisture.
Although you will not harm a plant if you cut off all its flowers at one time, you may want to leave a few on the plant for garden color. Cutting roses, whether new or faded, encourages the plants to grow and re-bloom quickly.
After you have cut the roses re-cut the stems at a slant with the stem underwater to permit maximum water absorption.
How to Condition Roses
Place the bucket of water containing the cut roses in a cool, dark place, like in the basement, to allow the roses to become Â“conditionedÂ” before arranging them in a vase. Conditioning roses allows them to get used to being detached from the plants and slows down the respiratory rate of the leaves. Leave them for at least several hours; preferably overnight.
You can condition cut flowers in a refrigerator as long as the refrigerator is intended only for roses and not for food. Many types of fruit stored in a refrigerator release ethylene gas, a ripening agent that causes cut flowers to open prematurely.
Water for cut flowers is best if it is slightly acidic because acid breaks up air bubbles in water by neutralizing the carbon dioxide gas. Air bubbles can clog capillaries in the stem and prevent water from reaching the flowers and foliage. Water also travels more quickly up a stem when the water is acidic. If you’re not sure whether your water is acidic, ask your water supplier. If it is not acidic, add lemon juice to acidify it.
You should not use artificially softened water; it contains sodium, which is toxic to plants. In most cases, use cold water; it slows down the respiratory rate of the leaves. However, if the flowers have wilted because they have been out of water too long or because the stems were not cut underwater soon enough and the stem ends have become clogged, hot water will revive them faster than cold water. The stems absorb hot water more quickly.
How to Prepare Roses for a Vase
Before placing the roses in a vase, remove any leaves and thorns that will be below the water after arranging, because these will quickly disintegrate, foul the water, and shorten the life of the cut flowers. Thorns can be snapped off by hand or with a special thorn-stripping tool sold by florist supply stores. Then clean the remaining foliage with soap and water if necessary to remove dirt or spray residue, and make the leaves shine by rubbing with a paper towel, a soft cloth, or a nylon stocking. If any of the leaves are ripped or chewed, they can be manicured with small scissors.
More tips: If the roses you have picked are fragrant, handle them gently. The petals of fragrant roses have more scent-emitting glands than do those of less-fragrant kinds, and they therefore tend to bruise more easily.
To lengthen the life of your cut roses, always use a clean container for the flowers, and add a floral preservative to the water. Because they are acidic, contain sugar, and include a bacteria-retarding agent, floral preservatives provide some nutrients and restrain the growth of bacteria that will shorten the life of the flowers. These preservatives can be purchased at a flower shop. If you can’t buy one, mix any clear citrus-based soft drink containing sugar with three parts water; or mix 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon sugar, and l/2 teaspoon household bleach in 1 quart of water.
Keep the container filled with water to reduce the chance that it will evaporate or be consumed by the roses. If possible, change the water daily, re-cutting the stems underwater each time. Or check the level every day and add water as needed. To prolong the life of cut roses, keep cool and away from drafts, air-conditioners, radiators, and full sun.
Display the splendor of single rose stems in simple vases. When enjoying blooms from first-year roses, it’s usually better to cut short stems.
Good Roses for Long-Stemmed Cutting
Barbra Streisand (‘WEKquaneze’)
Bride’s Dream (‘KORoyness’)
Jardins de Bagatelle (‘MEImafris’)
Love & Peace (‘BALpeace’)
New Zealand (‘MACgenev’)
Peter Mayle (‘MEIzincaro’)
Toulouse Lautrec (‘MEIrevolt’)
Veteran’s Honor (Â‘JACopper’)