My Fresh Cut Roses Keep Wilting: How To Keep Cut Roses Fresh

Rose Bouquet In Glass Vase In Garden
BouquetOfRoses TeresaByington 1
(Image credit: Garden Know How, via Teresa Byington)

Roses look great in the garden but are good in bouquets too. If your fresh-cut roses keep wilting, then this article can help. Read on to find tips for keeping roses fresh after being cut so you can enjoy these lovely flowers even longer.

Preserving Cut Roses

It is nice to cut several blooms from the rose bushes and bring them inside to enjoy. They make a great centerpiece for those special dinners or luncheons with family or friends. The fine bouquets of roses are also a wonderful way to enjoy and share their beauty and fragrance with our significant other. That said, keeping them fresh once they have been cut is the battle.

While pretty much any rose works well for cutting, some types work better than others. Some of my favorite roses for cut bouquets include:

  • Veterans’ Honor
  • Crystalline
  • Double Delight
  • Mary Rose
  • Graham Thomas
  • Brigadoon
  • Gemini
  • Fragrant Cloud
  • Gold Medal
  • Rio Samba
  • Mister Lincoln
  • Stainless Steel
  • Peace

How to Keep Cut Roses Fresh Before and After Cutting

When I cut roses to take to rose shows, I am always concerned about keeping the roses fresh until the judges have a chance to look them over. I found that adding an ounce or two of Sprite or 7-Up (30-59 ml.) and ¼ teaspoon of bleach (1 ml.) to the water helps keep them nice and fresh. (Note: The bleach helps keep the wilt causing bacteria from developing.)

Here are a few more tips on things to do prior to cutting the roses and after cutting them that will help keep the flowers fresh and enjoyable for a long time:

  • Water the rose bushes well prior to cutting them for the home, office, or show.
  • Make sure the vase you put them in is totally clean. Dirty vases can harbor bacteria that will shorten their display life severely.
  • Wipe down pruners with Clorox or Lysol anti-bacterial wipes prior to making each rose cutting. (You may also dip the pruners in a bleach and water solution.)
  • The best time to cut your roses is anywhere from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. while the air temperature is still cool. The hotter the temps are, the earlier the roses should be cut.
  • Use sharp pruners and cut the roses with as long a stem on them as possible, making slightly angled cuts as well, which will help them take up the water easier.
  • Once cut, place the rose(s) immediately into a container of cool to lukewarm water, cutting them off again about ½ inch (1 cm.) at an angle underwater. Cutting the rose canes under the water eliminates the bubbles that can gather on the cut ends and impede the water from going up the canes properly.
  • Using a preservative product will help keep the roses fresh as will the sugars in Sprite or 7-Up.
  • Change the water in the vase daily or every other day to keep it fresh and clean. Vase water develops bacteria fairly quickly and will limit the vase life of the cutting.
  • Each time the vase water is changed, the cane/stem should be re-cut underwater, doing so at a slight angle. This keeps the xylem capillaries open for easier water and nutrient uptake, which also prevents wilting.
  • Keep the cut roses in a cool spot in your home or office, out of the hot direct sun, for better longevity.
  • Remove some of the lower leaves/foliage, which will only help foul up the water more quickly. Leave the thorns on, if at all possible, as removing the thorns can create wounds in the canes that allow the easy entrance of microbial bacteria.

All of these tips will work for cut roses from the garden as well as the florist or grocery store.

Stan V. Griep

Stan V. Griep contributed to Gardening Know How for many years. An American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian in the Rocky Mountain District, he served as Gardening Know How's in-house expert on all things roses.