Roses (Rosa spp.) have long represented love and romance, but a wilted rose or its petals are a sad affair that evokes only wistfulness and disappointment. Prolong your rose petals by taking care of your roses both before harvesting the petals and after you have plucked them. If you've purchased rose petals from a florist, you can assume that they have been cared for properly, but if you are doing it yourself, you can use some tips that all professional rose growers know.
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Before Harvesting Rose Petals
Before you even think about clipping a rose or plucking off petals, first do a few things. Most important? Water the bush. Give it a thorough watering the night before you plan to cut any blooms so its canes can plump out and provide a more robust structure for the flowers and their petals. Consider the time of day you cut your blooms, as well. If the day will be hot, cut them in the morning when they're at their coolest and least stressed. In cool weather, you might be able to cut them at any time throughout the day.
Observe the flowers. You'll be looking for roses that are in bloom but that have no trace of curling or browning at the edges. Try to catch them just before full bloom. Depending on the cultivar, some roses that are still just half-open are better for petal harvesting; this will be a subjective decision, of course. A fully open bloom will also likely have a more faded color than one that is partially open, for example. Further, some types of roses are better for providing rose petals than others. Roses that have thicker petals are the best for floral arrangements and petal display, since they last longer.
Ensuring Rose Petal Freshness
Be sure you have time to process the petals before you start. Cut off the rose stem from the bush at a 45-degree angle to ensure that rain and water flow off the remaining exposed stem. Immediately after cutting, remove the petals from the bloom by holding the flower at its base and gently squeezing. Don't squeeze the petals themselves; rather, squeeze and slightly twist at the base where the flower connects to the stem. The petals should release into your hands, but be careful, as fresh rose petals can tear easily.
If they have any dew or are moist at all, spread them out on a paper towel and pat them lightly. Wet petals can easily mold and become discolored. Place a paper towel in the bottom of a plastic bag to absorb any remaining moisture and put the petals on top. Don't fill the bag too full, as you don't want to crush the petals. Seal the bag; ideally, use a ziplock bag to avoid retaining too much oxygen in the bag — take care, however, to not flatten the bag and crush the petals.
Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator, ideally at 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature is important; any colder than 35 degrees can cause the petals to freeze, which will result in soggy and discolored petals. Every day, remove the bag and shake it out gently to ensure that the petals have space around them and are not lying on top of one another. Petals stored in the refrigerator should last at least three days, depending on the type of rose and how they were harvested.