How to Cut and Display Roses

roses in a vase

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 20 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 20 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

There's no flower more suitable for cutting than the rose. Strong, sturdy stems, buds that open slowly and elegantly, and an unforgettable fragrance make roses a favorite to grow in a cutting garden. Once you bring them indoors, there are numerous ways to display and enjoy them. Handle them correctly and they will last well over a week.

Hybrid teas especially lend themselves to cutting. Hybrid tea roses generally produce one perfect blossom at the end of each stem. Virtually all hybrid tea roses are repeat bloomers throughout the growing season. Each blossom may have over 60 petals and be as large as 5 inches across. You won't need many to make an impressive display.

When to Cut Roses

The best time to cut roses is after around three in the afternoon when they are highest in food reserves. This will give them the strength they need to last a long time as cut flowers.

Safety Considerations

It's a good idea to wear protective clothing, including thick gardening gloves and long sleeves and trousers when harvesting fresh roses—or even when arranging store-bought roses. Thorn pricks are more than just a painful annoyance, as pricks can cause various bacterial and fungal infections. One common infection, sporotrichosis, even carries the name "rose-picker's disease." To avoid thorn injuries, always where thick, protective gloves and sleeves when handling roses.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pruning shears
  • Small bucket
  • Vase


  • Flower preservative or household alternative


Materials and tools to cut and display roses

The Spruce / K. Dave

  1. Choose Your Roses

    Choose rosebuds that have visibly begun to open, but that are no more than 1/3 to 1/2 fully open. Tightly closed buds may never open and flowers in full bloom won't last very long. The best cut roses will have just begun to unfurl. It won't take them long to finish the job indoors.

    Bright pink roses growing on shrub

    The Spruce / K. Dave

  2. Use the Proper Tools

    Always use clean, sharp pruners to prevent damaging the rose canes and spreading disease. This won't affect your cut flowers, but you don't want to harm the plant in the process of cutting.

    Hand pruners cutting rose stems with leaves from bottom

    The Spruce / K. Dave

  3. Pay Attention to the Leaves

    Leave at least three leaves on the stem to feed the plant. It's a less severe shock to the rose bush if you don't remove the entire stem. This is more important on hybrid tea roses and less of a problem with cluster roses and multi-stemmed roses.

    Light pink rose stem cut with leaves still attached

    The Spruce / K. Dave

  4. Remove Leaves Below the Water Line

    Once cut, remove all leaves that will be below the water line. They will just rot, turn the water foul, and possibly rot the stems along with them.

    Lower leaves on rose stem cut with hand pruners for water line

    The Spruce / K. Dave

  5. Get the Cut Roses Into Water

    Get your roses into the water as soon as possible. Bring a bucket of water with you when you cut. If you cut the roses outside without water, re-cut the stems indoors either under running water or while immersed in a bucket of water. 

    Pink rose stem placed in bucket of water after cutting

    The Spruce / K. Dave

  6. Prepare the Vase

    Use either a floral preservative, add a splash of a lemon/lime soda, or even drop a squeeze of lemon and a tablespoon of sugar to the water in the vase. Or try a few drops of bleach. You basically want to give the roses a little food and prevent fungal problems.


    If you cut a lot of flower arrangements, you can buy floral preservative less expensively, in bulk.

    Cut lemon slice squeezed over glass vase with water

    The Spruce / K. Dave

  7. Keep the Flowers Cool at First

    Let your cut roses have a few hours in a cool spot out of direct sunshine before you display them. This lets them adjust slowly and extends their vase life.

    Pink rose stems arranged in glass vase with water on table top

    The Spruce / K. Dave

  8. Change the Water Often

    Change the water whenever it starts to get murky. This is easy to remember if you use a clear vase. If your roses are in an opaque container, remember to check the water level daily.

    Fresh water poured into glass vase from kitchen sink

    The Spruce / K. Dave

  9. Revive Wilting Roses

    If your roses seem to be wilting, it could mean water is unable to flow through the stem. Re-cut the stem bottoms and submerge them in very warm water (not so hot you can’t touch it) and let them sit for about an hour before replacing them in the vase. This should open their vascular system and let the water rise through the stem.

    Wilting pink rose stem re-cut with hand pruners over kitchen sink

    The Spruce / K. Dave