How to Keep Cut Roses Fresh in Water As Long As Possible

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A vase of flowers, especially if those flowers are roses, is always a welcome sight. If you want to know how to keep cut roses fresh in water for long as possible, we have all the easy tips you need.

Roses are expensive! It’s important to enjoy them for as long as you can, and there are so many ways to ensure your fresh bouquet lasts as long as possible.

To keep cut roses fresh as long as possible you need to work clean, take good clean angled cuts from the stems, and provide the roses with fresh, clean bacteria-free water. Extra steps such as overnight conditioning, adding a packet of florist food with preservatives, and displaying the roses out of direct sunlight and away from cold drafts will add days to your arrangements.


Fresh yellow roses displayed in a vase.

Ensure your vase, work area, and cutting tools are clean and sanitized

Sanitization is vital to ensuring there is no introduction of bacteria into the plant stem. Everything that comes in contact with your roses needs to be sanitized. Use a clean vase, sanitized cutting shears, and make sure your workspace is clean as well.

Unwrap your roses and remove any bruised petals or crushed foliage as soon as possible

It is crucial to get your roses unpacked as soon as you can. The weight of freshly cut roses is mostly water, 70-95%, depending on the variety. Therefore, it is essential to make copious amounts of water available as soon as possible. Working in haste to get the flowers ready for conditioning is one step toward prolonging their vase life.

Be incredibly diligent with grocery store roses, as they tend to get jostled about more than roses from the florist. Grocery store roses may need more trimming.

If you are taking fresh cut roses from your cutting garden, remove those flowers in the evening, when the temperature is cool.

Be Very Gentle With Your Roses to prevent bruising and damage

Handle flowers quickly but gently by their stems and handle flowers as little as possible. Lay them down with great care to prevent bruising or damage. Always lift flowers by the stem and never by the flower head.

Cut 1 inch off stems at a 45-degree angle to help with water intake

It is important to cut roses the correct way. First, we want a clean cut on the stems with a slight angle. A 45-degree slanting cut has many advantages over a blunt cut. The slanting cut has more surface cell area available for water uptake.

Blunt straight cuts on the other hand can heal faster, especially at the bottom of a bucket, and prevent water access altogether.

It is also crucial that you use a sharp knife, shears, or scissors when cutting your roses. Dull cutting instruments will crush the stem and impede the flower’s ability to move water to the petals. Fresh-cut flowers with good clean cuts will last a long time in an arrangement.

The Best Flower Sheers We’ve Ever Used!

We’ve used so many different garden shears over the years, but our favorite by far is the Fiskars Softgrip Bypass Pruners.

They are rust-resistant, easy on the hands, and they create sharp precise cuts. They are also very affordable. Highly recommended!

Do not remove the leaves along the stem

DO NOT remove all leaves along the stem. Roses require leaves to help with hydration. In addition, the foliage of roses is quite hardy and is thick enough to remain in the water for some time without deteriorating.

You will, however, want to remove any damaged, crushed, or bruised petals. Parts of the flowers that are damaged will not improve. Damaged plant parts are also gateways for bacteria. Therefore, it’s best if you remove them from the start.

If you are looking for a clean display, you can remove the leaves below the waterline, but it is unnecessary.

Recondition your roses in cold water, overnight in a dark room

Conditioning roses is a step most people skip, or they do not even know they are supposed to condition their flowers before arranging them. Conditioning helps prevent moisture loss through petals, foliage, and stems and will significantly increase vase life.

To condition, your roses, place the recently cut stems in a tall bucket of cold water almost up to the bottom of the petals. Leave them for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Store conditioning roses in a cool dark room with good air circulation away from drafts. It would also be beneficial if that storage area had high humidity. If your storage area is arid, you can mist freshwater over and around the roses to simulate a humid environment.

It’s vital to condition roses in the dark. The underside of the leaves has numerous pores, sometimes referred to as breathing cells. These pores open and close to regulate the amount of carbon dioxide absorption, oxygen expulsion, and moisture loss. At night these breathing cells almost close. Preventing these cells from opening during conditioning will help the flower retain more moisture. More moisture means longer vase life!

Fresh yellow roses displayed in a vase.

Use fresh clean water for arranging your roses

Do you use hot or cold water for roses?

You can use cold water or lukewarm water from the tap. But do not use boiling water. Boiling water is ok for some milky stem plants but not for roses. It will deteriorate the stem, preventing water from being absorbed and speed the deterioration of the flowers.

Tap water is perfectly fine so long as the pH level is around 6.0 through 6.9. The average pH level of the water from a tap is 6.0 – 8.5.

Add flower food to keep your roses going strong

Various chemical formulas have been created that feed and protect the flowers from bacteria. These commercially available flower foods are specially designed to keep your flowers alive for as long as possible. If you want to extend the life of your flowers as much as you can, use the flower food packet provided by your florist. You can buy floral food directly from florists, at most hardware stores, or online.

Does sugar help prolong the life of cut flowers?

Sugar does help prolong the life of cut flowers. Sugar is beneficial because it positively affects the metabolism of cut flowers and helps them live longer. Add a teaspoon of sugar to the water and stir to dissolve before adding your roses.

But the jury is out on aspirin, clear soda pop, and copper pennies at the bottom of the vase. Unfortunately, these are generally old wives’ tales, and any success is anecdotal.

If you’ve used one of these methods with details of your success, we would LOVE to hear about it. Leave us a comment or send us an email. We’re always open to further testing.

Fresh yellow roses displayed in a vase.

Keep your bouquet of flowers away from direct sunlight, heat, and fruit

High heat and low humidity will hasten deterioration. More water escapes through the petals and leaves as the room temperature rises. Extreme heat causes more water to evaporate than can be wicked up the stem for replacement. Placing bouquets on the floor at night during a hot spell can help maintain those flowers for a few extra days.

It’s a good idea to keep your fruit basket displays away from your roses. Fruit expels ethylene gas, and ethylene will hasten deterioration.

Related: While we are on the subject of vases and planters we have several DIY projects for making your own lovely vessels for your plants and flowers:

Fresh yellow roses displayed in a vase on a mantle.

Change the vase of water every other day to help prevent bacteria

Change the water every other day to help prevent bacteria from taking over the vase. Bacteria doesn’t just smell and look bad; it will also clog the stems and prevent water from being absorbed by the flowers. If you skip all the other recommendations, do not skip this one! Adding fresh water every two days is one of the best stand-alone methods for increasing vase life in roses.

Florist food is also specially formulated to help prevent bacteria growth, so it is essential to use if you have it. You can recut flower stems early on if the water has become murky with bacteria, but it only works if the flowers are only a few days old.

You can use home remedies to help prevent bacterial growth if floral food is not available. A teaspoon of bleach or a few drops of vodka added to the vase water before the flowers will help prevent bacteria.

You will also want to check on water levels, especially dry and hot, where the roses are displayed. Water can evaporate quickly, and if it disappears entirely, the stem ends can close over.

…and there you have it, all our best tips tricks, and information to help you create long-lasting rose displays. If you give any of these tips a try let us know how it went, or tag us on social media!

Fresh yellow roses displayed in a vase.

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