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Keep those blooms beautiful


Terry Lanker can gauge the quality of a rose just by touching it.

“Most people consider roses to be the most romantic, the most loving flower that you give for very special occasions,” said Lanker, coordinator of the floral design and marketing program at The Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio. “It’s the classic symbol of Valentine’s Day.”

Roses might be able to speak on matters of the heart, but can be silent on tips for longevity. While most varieties can live about seven to 10 days, mistakes or neglect can easily shorten their vase life, Lanker explains.

This rose whisperer recommends starting with buying firm roses — a crucial step for having them last a long time — and then following the next five steps closely.

  1. Let it flow.

    The key to a flower lasting is to keep the water flowing into it. Before placing into a vase, cut ½-inch to an inch off the calloused end of the rose to expose fresh stem structure, which will allow the rose to get a better drink of water.

    Even better: Cut the roses under water in a bowl or a sink to prevent air bubbles from blocking water uptake. Place the roses immediately in the vase after cutting under water. Otherwise, you will have to recut the stems.

    Extended life of roses, The Ohio State University
  1. Actually read those directions.

    Roses need food since they are no longer attached to a plant and creating their own. Use the floral preservative or the little packet of powder that comes with the flowers to feed your roses.

    But pay attention to the package instructions! It’s crucial that you follow the directions carefully and mix the solution properly, Lanker said.

    If you don’t, you could accidentally overfeed the roses with a concentrated mixture by adding too much preservative or too little water. This expedites the aging process.

    Adding too little preservative or too much water also is harmful. For example, the sugar in the flower food attracts bacteria, and a diluted solution lacks enough biocide to kill the bacteria in the water.

    If you’re in a rush, Lanker advises just using plain tap water. This is a better option than placing roses in an improperly mixed solution.

    Extended life of roses, The Ohio State University
  2. Leave thorns be.

    Remove foliage under the water level because the leaves will attract bacteria, but leave as many thorns on as possible, regardless of whether they are under water. Every thorn removed creates a wound where bacteria can enter and shorten the life of the rose, Lanker said.

    Extended life of roses, The Ohio State University
  3. Stay cool.

    Roses love cool, humid temperatures. It’s why florists generally store roses in refrigerators kept between 33 and 35 degrees.

    To keep your roses happy, place them in a cool, humid part of your home away from direct heat and drafts, which dry the flowers. If your refrigerator can store a vase, keep roses there or in the basement overnight. Take out the bouquet to display in the morning.

  4. Forget me not.

    Roses crave attention, so check them every day.

    After about five days, give your roses a makeover with a fresh vase of water. Make sure you dump the old water, wash the vase and rinse the stems to remove any slime from bacteria. Then recut the stems about ½-inch to allow fresh water uptake. If you have another flower food packet available, mix the solution properly and add it. If not, use regular tap water.

Roses have the potential to live up to 10 days — when loved well. And what romantic gesture doesn’t deserve some good lovin’ in return?