How to Keep Roses Alive and Looking Their Best for as Long as Possible

red roses in glass vase

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Whether you’re buying yourself roses or have just received a bouquet from a special someone, you want your flowers to last as long as possible. Fresh flowers add something special to a room and you want to be able to enjoy that for a while. That’s why we spoke with a florist who could spill all there is on how to keep roses alive for longer.

He laid out some pretty helpful tips starting from the base of the stem all the way up to the bloom. These are the best ways to keep your roses alive and looking their best for as long as possible. 

Meet the Expert

  • Justin Lievano is the Manager of Customer Success at UrbanStems. He’s a former florist, occasional artist, and passionate customer advocate based in New York. In all his work, Justin aims to foster people’s relationships with flowers.

Get Your Roses Ready

roses being trimmed

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The first thing you need to do to ensure that your roses look their best for as long as possible is to prep the flower. You’ll want to trim your stems with floral shears or a sharp knife at an angle. “We don't often think of it, but roses grow as woody shrubs and can have thick stems,” says Lievano. “A clean cut that maximizes the surface area for water absorption is essential for keeping roses hydrated and looking beautiful.”

Next, you’ll want to prepare the stem. It’s common for people to want to remove the thorns from the stems, but you shouldn’t do it. “Stripping the thorns on the stem can pull the bark off of the stem which prevents your rose from hydrating properly,” says Lievano. You’ll also only want to remove foliage that will fall below the water line in the vase as upper leaves will help get more water to the actual flower, keeping it hydrated for longer. 

And then comes the pièce de résistance, the flower. “You may notice some bruised petals on the outside of your rose. No need to fret! These are called 'guard petals' and they protect the rose while it's developing,” says Lievano. It also protects them while they're being shipped to you if you've ordered them from a flower delivery service.

These can be removed by gripping the petals at the base of the flower and rocking them side to side to pop them off. “But, a tip from the pros—the more petals you remove, the more you shorten the rose's life overall. Leaving more petals on your flower will help keep them fresher and longer,” says Lievano.

Finally, it’s time to place your roses in water. You’ll want to use cold water and flower food. If at any point the water starts to get a little bit cloudy, swap it out for clean water and trim all of the stems a ¼ inch. “If a rose starts to 'neck' or hang its head over, separate it from the bouquet, trim at least an inch off of the bottom of the stem, and let it rehydrate in a separate vessel away from your other flowers,” says Lievano, “It's not magic, but it can often bring roses back from the brink!”

Styling Tips so Your Roses Look Gorgeous

Justin lievano

Urban Stems

We also wanted to find out some styling tips to make your roses shine and arrange them like a pro. The first thing to do is to know your roses. “You don't have to be an expert, but knowing a little bit about what kind of roses you're working with will help you understand how best to take care of them and what to expect,” says Lievano. “For example, garden roses have many more petals than standard roses and tend to look more open. But this doesn't mean that they're 'blown' or will die faster.”

Once you know what kind of rose you have, it’s easy to style them up. If you love a bit of drama, you can reflex your roses. All you have to do is flip it over so the bloom is upside down. Hold the stem between your palms and spin the stem back and forth to open the petals. Afterward, you can reflex the petals. “To do that, hold a petal at its base gently between your thumb and pointer finger,” says Lievano. “Then, slide your finger along the petal while softly pressing up with your thumb to turn it 'inside out.' Just be aware that reflexing roses can shorten their vase life.”

If you prefer something simple, stick with one variety of roses and then choose the right vase for the flower. For long-stemmed roses, a vase with a wider opening is best so the blooms can spread out. Lievano recommends using floral tape for support. If you want a smaller display, a vase with a narrow opening is a great choice so the roses are close together. Just make sure to trim the stems short enough that the roses sit just above the top of the vase.