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Cutting Roses

To prolong bloom life, you need follow only a few simple steps during the cutting and "keeping" process. These methods will allow you to keep your roses in good shape for a reasonable length of time.

When to cut: Ideally, roses should be cut in either the early morning or the late afternoon/evening. At these times, the maximum amount of plant sugars will be present in the bloom and the upper canes. Avoid cutting during the heat of the day. If possible, water the bushes heavily the day before cutting. Also, if possible, do your cutting before applying pesticide sprays, to avoid unsightly spray residues or smells.

How much to cut: When "deadheading" roses in the summer, we advise cutting above the second 5-leaflet leaf, or at a point where the remaining cane is thick enough to support a new cane. When cutting a rose for a vase, you can follow the same rule of thumb, and expect to have a sufficiently long cane. Exhibitors may cut stems as long as two feet, but this is not necessary for home use. The more cane and foliage you remove from the bush, the harder the bush has to work to produce more blooms.

Preparing the cut rose: There are three primary reasons why cut roses wither prematurely: 1. The formation of an air bubble or embolism in the stem, which prevents water and nutrients from going up the stem and reaching the bloom; 2. The clogging of the stem with bacterial growth, which also prevents water and nutrient circulation; and 3. The gradual depletion of the sugar stored within the stem and leaves of the cut flower.

The most important of these is the first: keeping air from getting into the cut stem. Some experts recommend taking a bucket into the garden for submerging cut flowers until bringing into the house. But air will still enter, unless the stem is recut under water. You can cut roses in the garden without a bucket at hand, but when you bring the cut roses into the house, get them into a cutting bucket as soon as possible.

Prepare a cutting bucket with hot tap water and a holding container with more hot water and a preservative. Hot water is used because it flows more easily in the plant tissue, and is able to dissipate trapped air more quickly than tepid or cold water. Submerge the bottom of the stem into the cutting bucket, and cut off, under the water, about a half inch of the stem. Cut the stem at an angle, and do not crush the stem. Hold the cut stem under the water for about ten seconds, then move it to the holding container. Keep the blooms in the holding container until the water cools to room temperature. Vase life can be further extended by placing the blooms in the holding container in the refrigerator overnight.

Preservatives: The underwater cut takes care of the air problem; bacteria and nutrients can be addressed with a floral preservative. There are a number of homebrew techniques, such as citric acid, bleach, aspirin, sugar and more. However, a good commercial floral preservative such as Floralife TM, Bloomlife TM or others will do the best job for your money. Instead of buying the expensive packets of preservative, consider asking a florist to get you a bulk quantity. To further deter bacterial contamination, wash your containers, vases and tools after each session.

Prolonging vase life: Once the cut roses are in a vase, there are a few other tips to prolong the bloom. Remove any thorns or foliage that will be below the top of the vase. Keep the roses in a cool, dark location as much as possible. For example, before you leave for work, move the vase out of a sunny area into a shaded part of the room. When you come home, move the vase back where you can enjoy it. Periodically change the water, recutting the stems under water, preferably daily but at least every other day.

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