Cutting roses: When to do it for the best results

We’ve arrived at the cusp of late spring and early summer in the Central Valley, which means that flowers are constantly in bloom. With continuous deadheading, our sprawling rose bushes have been putting out lush flowers non-stop. But as the sweltering days of summer creep up, the blooms fade just as quickly as they come. To enjoy them properly, I’ve been cutting our roses as often as possible. But like many things in life, timing is of the essence when it comes to cutting roses.

Yellow roses

The best time to cut roses

Cutting roses is an art. I try not to cut the blooms when they’ve opened up too much — they don’t tend to last very long off the bush if they’ve already in full bloom. I’ve had the best luck plucking flowers that are a third to half-way bloomed, with the outer petals open, but the inner petals still somewhat tight. That said, I’ll still grab nearly open flowers from time to time!

On the matter of when I cut the flowers, early morning is also the best time of day to cut roses because that’s when blooms are the most hydrated. With more water, the stems should feel firmer instead of looking sad and droopy.

With a clean pair of pruning shears, I cut 10- to 14-inch stems. You can pop the cut flowers into a bucket of water, but I vase up my flowers fast enough where I don’t feel like it’s necessary to leave them in water for a while.

How to prepare cut roses for a vase

Once I cut the flowers, I defoliate the stems by removing all of the leaves — you should at least pluck away leaves that might come in contact with water to avoid fungal issues. (I choose to remove all of the leaves because I don’t want foliage bits to fester in the vase water.) Then, I trim the stems at a 45-degree angle with clean scissors. Occasionally, I’ll also remove the outer guard petals if they look a little wilted or crispy. 

After all of that trimming and cutting, I simply pop the flowers in clean, lukewarm water in a clear vase. (Pro tip: Thrift stores are always teeming with cute clear glass vases! You can also buy vases at Dollar Tree, too. There’s really no need to spend a pretty penny on them, although it’s a good idea to look for a thick glass material if you plan on gathering a substantial bouquet of sorts.)

How often to change vase water

Some people add a little bit of bleach, lemon juice, and sugar to their water, creating a solution that acts as a flower food and disinfectant. I don’t do this, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to prolong flower freshness! Personally, I simply change out the water every other day. Changing out the water ensures that the stems stay hydrated and that bacteria doesn’t build up in it. Whenever you change your water, it’s a good idea to trim about an inch from the stems to help them uptake water.

I’m expecting our roses to bloom through early fall, but I’m planning to be more diligent about cutting them this year so that they don’t look like dessicated messes by midsummer!

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