How to Handle Fresh-Cut Roses as a Florist

How to handle roses with care.

When the roses arrive, you’ll want to process them as soon as possible. Open the box, and carefully remove any strapping that is keeping the roses in place. You’ll see that the roses are packed in bunches with protective cardboard wraps and an outer plastic wrap

Remove the plastic wrap and do not be alarmed if the roses look a little tired and maybe even a little squished from their journey to you. They just need to hydrate in water and they’ll start to perk up.

Prep your vase or container that you’ll use to hydrate the roses. It’s best to use something tall enough to support the rose stems (below the rose blooms). You’ll want to make sure the containers are clean. I like to use some diluted bleach and a brush to scrub away any dirt or buildup. Make sure to rinse thoroughly and fill them with about 3” to 4” of warm (not hot) water. Why warm water? Roses can drink up warmer water better than cold water. If you can’t get warm water, then room temperature water will be just fine. If you’re processing a large quantity of roses for an event, standard buckets (like you can find at most hardware stores) work perfectly for holding flowers as they hydrate. You can typically fit about 20-24 stems per bucket so they have plenty of room to breathe. You don’t want to crowd the stems because the blooms need space to open and you want air to circulate around the flowers; otherwise, any moisture or condensation that forms around the foliage or blooms can lead to premature molding.

Leave the cardboard wrap around the roses. You’ll want these on while the roses take their first drink of water. The cardboard helps support the bloom heads and keeps the stems straight, making it easier for the roses to hydrate.

Remove any rubber bands holding the bunch of roses together. If they’re too tight, just snip the bands off – just be careful because they may snap back at you! If your roses have a lot of foliage, you’ll want to carefully remove any leaves that will sit below the water line. This will help keep bacteria from dirtying up your water.

Lots of people recommend cutting stems under water (to avoid getting any air in the stem); however, it’s easier said than done and if you need to cut dozens and dozens of roses, it’s kind of a pain to do. It frankly does not have a significant impact on the vase life, so we recommend just giving each stem a quick cut at a diagonal (at least one inch from the bottom of the stem) and immediately place the roses in clean tepid water. Getting them into water right away is the key to avoiding any air in the stems.

When cutting roses (or really, any flower), make sure that you’re using clean sharp tools. It makes a big difference! If you’re using dull shears, it will be hard to cut through thicker stems and dull shears can crush stems which will make it harder for the roses to drink up water.

Make sure you’ve placed your vase or buckets in a nice cool area away from direct sun and any heating vents or drafts and relax! Let the roses sit like this for at least 4 hours and then gently remove the cardboard wrap.

After you’ve carefully peeled away the wrap, don’t be alarmed if the roses are still a bit closed. Over the next day or two, the blooms will open up more as they continue to hydrate. Different varieties open at different rates.

You’ll want to keep an eye on the water level to make sure the roses have enough. They can drink quite a bit of water, so add more if the water level drops below 3 inches from the bottom (room temperature water at this stage is fine).

Often, some of the outer petals look a bit rough and worn. Don’t freak out; there’s nothing wrong with your roses. These are guard petals that are sometimes left on to better protect the blooms during transport. When it’s time to arrange your roses, just carefully peel these away.

Before you start arranging the roses, you should let them hydrate for at least 8 hours. I typically let them drink at least a full day (sometimes two days) before arranging roses. To keep them fresh, make sure they have enough water, change the water and give the stems a fresh cut (at a diagonal) at least once every 2 to 3 days. If you notice any slimy buildup in your vase, that’s bacteria forming and it will shorten the vase life of your flowers, so be sure to clean this out or switch your flowers to a clean vase.

How long your roses last depends not only on the care they get, but on room temperature: If you place them in a hot sunny spot, they’ll open up faster, but won’t last as long as if you place them in a cool room with low light.

Another factor is the type of rose. Garden roses naturally do not last as long as standard roses, so vase life for these may only be a few days, whereas some standard roses can last weeks. Regardless of the rose type, if you follow these steps you’ll maximize the time that you get to enjoy these gorgeous blooms!

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