In a sense, red roses for Valentine’s Day are a big rip-off. Red roses, the traditional Valentine’s Day flower, quadruple or quintuple in price at the approach of the holiday. Even so, most people in a loving relationship won’t think twice about the cost. As the saying goes, what price love?
All over the world, rose growers have been working feverishly to produce enough top-quality red roses for this one occasion, but they’ll fail. They always do. Demand always outstrips supply and has done for over a century. Hence the extraordinary price of cut roses at this season. Lovers from all over the world want red roses for Valentine’s Day and are willing to pay the price, no matter how high.
That said, even if you are indeed convinced that your love deserves nothing less than red roses, known the world over as the symbol of true love, you can still get a little more for your money if you know how to extend the flower’s life to the fullest.
The Five Factors Involved in Prolonging Floral Life
Five factors especially influence how long cut roses will last:
- The initial quality of the flower (there are roses of top quality, second quality and third quality);
- The temperature they’re kept at (cool is best);
- Whether or not there are air bubbles in the stem (they prevent water, sugars and minerals from reaching the flower);
- Bacterial development (it clogs the stem and therefore also prevents water, sugars and minerals from reaching the flower);
- The gradual disappearance of sugars in the stem and flower tissues (sugars are the flower’s source of energy).
You may think the first factor (flower quality) is out of your control, but it isn’t.
At Valentine’s Day, everyone and their mother suddenly becomes a flower vendor. Even so, only florists have the quality blooms. They reserved them all: yes, every one!
A professional florist has a reputation to maintain and will therefore inevitably only buy from a recognized supplier and will pay whatever it takes to have top quality flowers. A premium rose will be large, in bud, although possibly slightly unfurled, unblemished and born on a long, straight, solid stem.
Second and third quality flowers are sold to non-specialists: supermarkets, big-box stores, public markets, flower girls, etc. Don’t expect as much from them. A rose drops in quality for various reasons: the flower may be too advanced, too small, lack symmetry or be damaged in some way, the stem may be too short or crooked, the flower could have been exposed to heat or was inadequately cared for in during shipping, etc.
The responsibility for the second factor in floral life is shared between the merchant and you. A responsible merchant will keep their roses refrigerated until the time of sale. It’s then up to you to continue to keep them as cool as possible after purchase.
Tip: If this is your first Valentine’s Day floral gift and you head to the florist on that fateful day, expecting to purchase the best roses, you may already be in trouble. Serious lovers don’t wait until the last minute; they order their roses in advance, at least a week or before February 14. As a result, their order will be ready on time using the very best roses: there is no risk of disappointment. By buying on Valentine’s Day, you would have to accept what are essentially leftovers! Very expensive leftovers and, hopefully, quality leftovers, but leftovers nonetheless! And if you arrive in rush at the end of the day, suddenly realizing your love is waiting expectantly, you may have to accept—horror of horrors!—roses of a different color than red, because quality red roses always sell out. Always!
Back at Home
At home, the responsibility for making Valentine’s roses last usually now lies with the person who receives them. So, here’s what to do:
In the evening, place the roses in a cool place; during the day, put them on display, of course, but away from direct sun. And bump the thermostat down a bit if you can take it. The cooler the room (above freezing, that is), the longer the flowers will last.
It is also important to prevent air bubbles from forming in the stem. To do this, as soon as you have a minute, immerse each rose stem in tepid water and cut about an inch (3 cm) off the bottom, preferably with pruning shears (scissors tend to squash stems). The important thing is to do sounder water(no, youdon’t have to be underwater, but the stem and the tip of the shears do.). Then count slowly to 10 before you lift the stem out and place it in its vase.
You see, when you cut a flower stem, that instantly causes suction inside the stem. If the stem is exposed to the air, it’s air that will be sucked in and thus bubbles are formed that will gradually rise up the stem and block off water flow to the flower, shortening its life. If the cut is made underwater, though, it’s water that will penetrate the stem, then rise upwards, keeping the flower moist. It’s as simple as that.
The fourth and fifth factors (growth of bacteria and disappearance of sugars) are best controlled by the application of a cut flower conservation product (generally sold as “flower food,” although it really isn’t a food). Sold as a powder or a liquid, and usually offered in packet form with the purchase if you bought the flowers from a florist, this product contains sugar and bactericidal products that will help your bouquet last as long as possible.
Also, remove any leaf that will be under water in the vase: another potential source of bacteria.
Monitor water quality in the vase daily: if it becomes cloudy, change it, adding a new packet of cut flower conservation product, and recut the stem under the water. You’ll probably need to change the water two to three times a week.
Any good florist will give you flower food with the purchase, but non-specialists rarely do. If not, then, make your own. 7 Up, for example, contains both sugar that will help extend the flower life and citric acid that is helpful in preventing bacterial growth. Mix 50% water and 50% 7 Up, plus a few drops of bleach (again, to prevent bacteria) and use this solution to the vase where you place your roses rather than plain water. The result won’t be as good as with a floral preservation product, but is better than water directly from the tap.
With proper care, your cut roses can last 10 days, sometimes even two weeks!