An elegant spray of roses always makes a statement, but once they’ve passed their prime, they can begin to lose some of their magic. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to lengthen their lifespan, whether they’re in your garden or a vase in your kitchen. By making sure your roses get plenty of fresh water, nourishing them with a balanced plant food or a little glucose, and keeping them at a consistent temperature, you can ensure that they’ll look their best for days or weeks to come.

Method 1
Method 1 of 2:

Caring for Cut Roses

  1. Before putting your roses on display, run your vase through the dishwasher or wash it thoroughly by hand with warm water and antibacterial soap. Using a clean container is important, as dirty vases often harbor germs and mineral and chemical deposits from tap water.[1]
    • If you use the same vase regularly, get in the habit of scrubbing it out between uses.
    • Make sure the inside of the container is spotless. The residue left behind from previous flowers can also speed up the deterioration of your new roses.
  2. Use bottled water to keep your cut roses moist, or invest in a water purification system to filter the water that comes out of your faucet. Roses do best in water with as close to a neutral pH as possible, which won’t cause them to shrivel and discolor the way water that’s too hard or soft will.[2]
    • If you’re using tap water in your vase, allow it to sit in the refrigerator overnight to give the chlorine time to dissipate before adding the roses.
    • Water purification tablets can also help bring questionable water to a more amenable pH in a pinch. Drop in the specific number of tablets recommended in the product instructions for the amount of water you're using and wait at least 30 minutes before adding your roses.[3]
  3. Ordinary granulated sugar is one of the simplest, most effective ways to keep cut flowers nourished. A good rule of thumb is to use roughly 2 tablespoons per quart of water. The roses will absorb the sugary solution through their stems and convert it to beneficial glucose, which will keep their cells and tissues lush and full.[4]
    • Avoid using sugar substitutes, such as aspartame, saccharin, or stevia. Since these substances don’t break down the same way chemically, they won’t have the same effective on your roses.
    • It’s important to remember that flowers are living things that need to eat, too, even if they’ve already been cut, stuck in a vase, and used to decorate your home.
  4. Similar to produce, keeping cut flowers cool helps preserve them after they’ve been picked. Generally speaking, the cooler the environment, the better your cut roses will fare. Resist the temptation to situate them on a windowsill or in a picturesque sunbeam for long periods of time. Intense heat will quickly cause them to wither.
    • Consider refrigerating your roses overnight, or anytime you don’t have them sitting out. Just make sure you keep them away from refrigerated produce, as the gases released by stored fruits and veggies can be bad for their longevity.[5]
    • If you’re displaying your roses in a room that tends to be hot and stuffy, position them where they can receive some airflow, such as next to a main entrance, open window, or air conditioning vent.
  5. As produce ages, it gives off ethylene, a gaseous compound that causes it to ripen. If your roses are too close, it’s possible for the ethylene in the surrounding air to have the same effect on them. For this reason, it’s best to choose either a fruit bowl or vase of fresh-cut roses for your centerpiece, not both.[6]
    • Whenever possible, store produce and other fresh food items in the refrigerator.
    • On the flipside, keeping your roses near your fruits and veggies will encourage them to bloom faster if they were cut while slightly immature.
  6. The countdown on the lifespan of your roses begins when you remove them from the growing plant. So as not to waste a minute, gather your display flowers in the morning while they’re still fully hydrated. The warmer it gets outside, the more valuable moisture they’ll lose.[7]
    • If you absolutely insist on cutting your roses in the afternoon or evening, do it immediately after watering to give them the best chance of survival.
    • Pass over any roses at the florist or supermarket that appear limp or droopy. There's a good chance these flowers weren't well-hydrated at the time they were cut.
    • Opt for locally-grown blooms if you're buying your roses. They'll last longer since they'll have been picked more recently.[8]
  7. A good rule of thumb is to replace the water as soon as it starts to look cloudy, regardless of how long it's been.[9] Refilling your display container regularly prevents bacteria from building up and ensures that your roses have a ready supply of fresh water to draw from. It also keeps the entire arrangement smelling pleasant.
    • Don’t forget to add a little sugar to the new water.
    • If necessary, top off the water level between replacements so that it reaches at least halfway up the stems.
  8. Use a clean, sharp pair of pruning shears or blade to cut the stems diagonally. An angled cut increases the amount of surface area in contact with the water. As a result, your thirsty roses will be better able to drink their fill.
    • It’s important that each cut you make be clean and precise. Handling your roses with a dull blade can mash the stems, making it harder for moisture to pass through the damaged cells.[10]
    • Frequent trimmings alone can often help cut roses hold on for an extra week or more.
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Method 2
Method 2 of 2:

Tending the Roses in Your Garden

  1. Loose, crumbly soils do a better job of allowing water to pass through, which means your roses won’t be in danger of rotting or becoming oversaturated. This is essential for helping your roses thrive, as they require much more moisture than other types of flowers. After watering your roses, you should notice the soil beginning to dry out in a matter of hours.[11]
    • Most varieties of roses prefer a soil with a pH between 5.5-7. You can test the pH of your soil using a home soil testing kit, which are typically available at gardening centers, greenhouses, and plant nurseries.[12]
    • If you live somewhere with wet, soggy conditions year-round, consider mixing one-third sand or gravel into your growing soil to improve drainage.
  2. Spread 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm) of a natural material like garden compost, cow or mushroom manure, or peat moss over your soil during the spring and summer when the most growth occurs. These additives are full of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients that roses need to grow healthy and vibrant.[13]
    • Following the first growing season, continue feeding your roses regularly every 1-2 months.
    • Consult with a horticultural specialist at your local gardening center or greenhouse to find out what amendments will be most beneficial for the species of roses you’re cultivating.
  3. Apply a layer of mulch 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm) thick over the entire bed, leaving 5–6 inches (13–15 cm) around the base of the plants exposed for ventilation. Any type of packaged commercial mulch will do just fine, or you can spend some time shopping around for mixtures that have been formulated specifically for use on roses.
    • For a thriftier approach, try recycling garden waste like leaves, wood chips, grass clippings, or even small stones into useful mulch.
    • Be prepared to lay down new mulch once a year in the spring, or whenever the original layer becomes thinner than about 2 inches (5.1 cm).[14]
  4. The exact amount of water they’ll need depends largely on their species and size (as well as unique soil conditions). Your best bet is to wet the soil thoroughly without oversaturating it, then perform a touch test between waterings. When it feels dry, it’s time to give them another drink.[15]
    • Keep in mind that roses in containers will dry out more rapidly than those in the ground, which means they’ll need to be watered more frequently.
    • Roses are thirsty plants, but care should be taken not to overwater them. Excessive moisture could lead to complications like wilting, blights, or root rot that can easily kill off an otherwise healthy plant.[16]
  5. When you notice an older flower that’s begun to droop or lose petals, use a pair of shears to snip the stem back to the first cluster of 5 leaves. Removing dead and dying flowers as soon as you come across them is one of the best ways to keep your roses alive and alluring.[17]
    • Before you do any serious pruning, pull on a pair of elbow-length gloves to protect your hands and arms from wayward thorns.[18]
    • Don’t hesitate to also trim any leaves, stems, or offshoots that appear unhealthy while you’re at it.
    • It’s good practice to inspect your rose plants about twice a week during the flowering season to check for failing blooms.
  6. When roses get sick, they invest their energy into fighting off the cause of the disease rather than growing and reproducing. Monitor your roses to look for warning signs like dropped petals, wilting, and discoloration. After cutting back any diseased or decaying foliage, spray the plants with an appropriate chemical or herbal fungicide to prevent any further damage.[19]
    • Lingering moisture is an invitation to harmful bacteria and fungi. You can do your part to prevent disease by planting your roses where they can receive plenty of direct sunlight and allowing them to dry out completely between waterings.
    • Common diseases that affect roses include blight, rust, and black spot. These ailments are often accompanied by visible symptoms such as pustules or dark spots or growths on the underside of the leaves.[20]
  7. The best time to spruce your roses is in later winter or early spring, just before they begin to explode with new blooms. Trim dead wood and older canes down to the greenish-white pith underneath, and don’t hesitate to remove more growth than you might think necessary. It’s typically safe to cut roses back by a third or even half of their original size.[21]
    • Like deadheading, pruning serves to remove failing sections of the plant so that new growth can flourish.
    • Strategic manicuring also gives you the opportunity to fine-tune the shape and appearance of your rose bushes.[22]
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Things You’ll Need

Cut Roses

  • Clean vase
  • Fresh water
  • Pruning shears or sharp blade
  • Sugar

Garden Roses

  • Well-drained growing soil
  • Organic amendment materials
  • Mulch
  • Water
  • Shears and other tools for pruning
  • Chemical or herbal fungicides


  1. Pilar Zuniga. Florist. Expert Interview. 12 March 2020.
  2. Pilar Zuniga. Florist. Expert Interview. 12 March 2020.
  8. Pilar Zuniga. Florist. Expert Interview. 12 March 2020.
  9. Pilar Zuniga. Florist. Expert Interview. 12 March 2020.

About This Article

Pilar Zuniga
Co-authored by:
Floral Designer & Owner, Gorgeous and Green
This article was co-authored by Pilar Zuniga. Pilar Zuniga is a Floral Designer and the Owner of Gorgeous and Green, a floral design studio and Certified Green Business based in Oakland, California. Pilar has over ten years of experience in floral design. With a focus on being earth-friendly and supporting local growers, Gorgeous and Green has been featured in Energy Upgrade California, Molly My, Apartment Therapy, 100 Layer Cake, Design Sponge, and Trendy Bride. Her studio provides floral arrangements and gift basket, event and wedding design, and she teaches workshops on flower design and sustainability in her industry. Pilar received a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2001. This article has been viewed 147,674 times.
3 votes - 73%
Co-authors: 12
Updated: January 10, 2024
Views: 147,674
| Roses
Article SummaryX

To make roses last longer in a vase, start by filling a clean vase with distilled or purified water. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar to the water for plant food, and trim 1 inch from the stems before placing them in the water. Be sure to keep the vase away from direct heat and sunlight, and place the flowers away from fruits and vegetables, which release a gas that encourages quick blooming. Remember to change the water every 1-3 days, and trim 1 inch from the stems each time you refill the water! For more tips, including how to care for your roses while they're growing, read on!

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