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Give longer life to cut roses

Look for roses with a few outermost petals beginning to unfurl.

Although ranking third for yearly sales in the cut flower market, roses move to first for Valentine’s Day. Producers take advantage of this opportunity to schedule a bumper crop of flowers to meet the valentine demand.

Here are some tips to help you select high-quality roses and extend their beauty at home:

Selection. Look for roses with a few outermost petals beginning to unfurl. If the flower was cut when all the petals were tight, it may not have matured enough to open properly. However, if the bloom has several petals opening, it may have been in transit or in the floral shop too long to give you many days of enjoyment.

Look for flower heads placed squarely on strong, straight stems. A crooked stem just below the flower may signal that the plant was under water stress during production or shipment, which will reduce display life.

Look for roses of normal colour and size for their variety. Leaves and stems that are light green or yellowed can be a sign of nutrition problems.

Promote water uptake. Recut stem ends to encourage them to “drink.” Use a sharp knife or pruners to avoid crushing plant tissue. If possible, cut stems under water or place in water soon after cutting. Contrary to popular thought, cutting at an angle does not promote greater water uptake.

A floral preservative typically contains agents that will limit bacterial growth and therefore encourage water uptake. Change the solution in the vase every day or two. Avoid having foliage under water where it can easily rot. Reduce water loss through evaporation from your roses by keeping them away from drafts.

Provide energy. Indirect light can fuel a limited amount of photosynthesis, providing some energy to keep your roses looking vibrant. Additionally, a floral preservative contains sugar as an extra energy source.

Packaged floral preservatives are easy to use by following package instructions. However, a number of ingredients commonly found in the home can substitute. A simple homemade floral preservative consists of 1 quart of water, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of bleach. Other ingredients people commonly mix with vase water include aspirin and clear soda pop.

Slow down flower development. Keep your roses in a cool place. If the room where you would like to enjoy your roses is warm, consider moving them to a cooler place when you are away. Direct sunlight should be avoided because it can make your roses thirsty and open quickly, and that will make your lovely valentine roses a memory all too fast.

– David Zlesak is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

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