Whether you're buying roses or receiving them this Valentine's Day, take some tips from Teresa Lanker, coordinator of the floral design and marketing program at Ohio State University's Agricultural Technical Institute:
For the giver:
- Look for roses with vibrant color and leaves that are deep green and blemish-free.
- Gently squeeze the rose heads to make sure they're firm -- softer than a golf ball, but firmer than a marshmallow.
- Don't think you're getting a bargain from cheap roses. They might be old flowers or seconds from a grower. If the florist won't let you gently squeeze the roses, go elsewhere.
For the recipient:
- Mix the flower food with the correct amount of warm water, following the package directions. If you make the solution too strong, the flower buds will open too quickly. If you make it too weak, the preservative might not be able to combat microbes that shorten flower life.
- Remove all leaves that will be below the water line, as well as any damaged or blemished foliage. But don't remove all the leaves. They're necessary for a process called transpiration that promotes water movement through the plant.
- Leave the thorns, or just nick off their sharp tips. Removing thorns creates wounds in the stems that might introduce harmful microbes.
- Place the ends of the stems in a bowl or sink filled with water, and then use a sharp knife or pruners to remove about an inch from the end of each stem. It's important to cut the stems underwater to prevent air bubbles from forming and blocking water uptake.
- Place roses in a cool place for the first hour or two to give them a chance to take up water.
- After that initial period, display roses away from drafts and heat sources.
- Check the flowers daily. When adding water, use properly mixed flower food so you don't dilute the solution that's already in the vase. If you run out of flower food, empty the vase completely, wash it thoroughly and refill with plain water. Recut the flower stems before returning the flowers to the vase.