a photo of rose care with woman receiving roses

You’ve been sent a gift box of long stem roses or a gorgeous arrangement in a vase from someone special. You’re delighted, and now you want to give your new flowers the best possible care so that you can enjoy them for weeks to come.

Here are five things you need to know about rose care.

1. Unpacking your roses

As soon as you receive your roses, take them out of the box and put them in a clean vase or container of tepid water until you’re ready to arrange them. If they arrive already arranged in a vase, carefully unwrap them and make sure the vase is at least three-fourths full. Then, add water if necessary.

You may see some bruised, brown, or damaged outer petals in boxed roses. Don’t be upset; these are called “guard petals,” and they are deliberately left on by growers to protect the inner petals while the roses are being packed and in transit. If you want to remove a guard petal, hold it at the base and gently pull it down toward the stem so you don’t damage the rest of the flower.

2. Adding the flower food

If you received an arrangement of roses in a vase, add the packet of flower food and preservative to the water that is usually included with it. Long stem roses in a box should also come with a packet of flower food. Pick out an appropriate tall vase in which to arrange your roses and fill it three-fourths full with tepid water, and add the flower food.

a photo of rose care with making rose food

If you didn’t receive flower food, you can make your own. Mix three-fourths teaspoon of household bleach, two tablespoons of lemon juice, and one tablespoon of sugar in one quart of water.

The bleach will keep the water clear and bacteria free, the lemon juice will keep the acidity of the water stable, and the sugar will provide food for the flowers. Make enough of this recipe for several changes of water in your vase.

3. Cutting the stems

Preparing the stems is one of the most important things you can do for rose care, and is especially important for boxed roses. Cut one inch off the base of each stem at an angle with sharp, clean scissors or clippers while holding the bottom of the stem under water.

Stems sitting on the bottom of a vase with flat cuts keep the flowers from drawing up enough water. Cutting the stems at an angle gives the stems more surface area for water uptake and ensures the flowers will stay well hydrated. Flowers arriving in an arrangement should already have their stems cut at an angle, but boxed flowers won’t, and will need to be cut. If there are filler flowers, cut the stems of those, too, as well as the filler foliage, such as ferns.

Clip off any leaves that will sit below the water’s surface. Leaves in the water will decay and cause bacteria to grow, shortening the vase life of your roses. Snipping the leaves off next to the stems is preferable to pulling them off, as this won’t damage the stems as much.

a photo of rose care with woman arranging roses in a vase

4. Arranging roses in a vase

After you unpack your flowers from the box, prepare the vase with water, and cut all the stems, it’s time to arrange your flowers. All this takes is three easy steps.

  1. First, separate the roses, filler flowers, and filler foliage.
  2. Next, create a grid in the vase with the filler foliage and flowers, crossing the stems under the water. These stems will hold the roses in place in the arrangement.
  3. Now, place the roses one by one in the grid you’ve created.

Voila! You have a beautiful arrangement.

If you’re more of a visual learner, watch this rose care video with floral expert Julie Mulligan about how to arrange flowers in a vase.

5. Extending the life of your roses

Whether you have a prepared arrangement or box of flowers that you arranged yourself, you want your flowers to last as long as possible. Here are five rose care tips to make your beautiful blooms live longer.

  1. Recut the stems one at a time, taking 1 to 2 inches off each. Be sure to cut them at an angle with sharp scissors or clippers so you don’t crush the ends, and cut off any leaves that will sit below the water line in the vase.
  2. As a general guideline, change the water every 2 to 4 days, but if it starts to get cloudy, change it ASAP. The best way to do this is to take the whole bouquet out and put it in another container while you’re refilling the vase.
  3. Recut the stems and change the water regularly, and add fresh flower food every time you do the latter.
  4. After a week or more, some of the flowers will be past their prime and can be discarded. The remaining flowers will have shorter stems and can be put in a small vase. When this is no longer possible, the flowers with very short stems (or none at all) can still be enjoyed in other containers, such as bowls, fancy glass baskets, or jars.
  5. Cut flowers will last longer in a cool environment (65° F to 72° F) and out of direct sunlight. At night, put them in the coolest room of the house, out of the way of drafts from heating or cooling vents.

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Nancy Maffia has a bachelor’s in biology and a master’s in horticulture and communications. She has worked in plant taxonomy, has written and edited gardening books and plant articles, and currently works at a garden center helping customers with plant and gardening questions. She has been published in the Encyclopedia of Indoor Gardening, Getting the Most from Your Garden, and others.

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