How to Preserve a Rose
It goes without saying that roses in full bloom can make any space or event one to remember, but what should you do with them once they're past their prime or your need for them is over? Consider repurposing the bloom into something new; one of our favorite ways to do just that is by learning how to preserve a rose—it's a great way to capture a moment in time. "Being able to save those memories, feelings, and special days through flower preservation is so incredible," says Lacie RZ Porta, the owner and designer at Framed Florals. "I love that even if the flowers turn colors, wilt, or change, the flower itself still holds all those memories. One of the greatest benefits to flower preservation is being able to pass flowers down generations."
In fact, with the proper care, your florals can last for decades. "I think preserving flowers—especially when using natural methods—is a creative [and] sustainable practice that allows the beauty of a flower to take on a new life even after it's been enjoyed in an arrangement," says Karla Smith-Brown, the owner and founder of OLIVEE Floral. "Once preserved, roses should be handled delicately but most of all should not be placed in direct sunlight and should avoid hot or humid environments." Ahead, our experts walk you through the best techniques on how to preserve a rose.
Preserved roses last decades (even centuries) longer than fresh ones.
Without using any preservation techniques, you may be curious to know how long roses last. According to Porta, fresh roses won't live as long, but there are a few ways to extend their lifespan. "Change the water in the vase daily with cool, clean water so bacteria doesn't build up and wilt the flowers, she says. "Trimming the ends of the stems will also allow the roses to drink and absorb more water—and will in turn extend their life!" Smith-Brown recommends cutting each stem at a 45 degree angle with clean shears before putting them into water. With these methods, your roses can last up to a week or longer.
Porta notes that, unlike fresh blooms in a vase, preserved roses—air drying or pressing are common preservation methods—can last a lifetime. "Air dried roses have the shortest lifespan of all as their petals may begin to fall off overtime," she says, adding that roses preserved through pressing can endure for many years. "In my own personal collection, I have a rose that was pressed in the pages of a book in the 1920s with a paper tied around it that said 'sweet 16.' While the rose is faded, it is still in its original form, preserved as is from someone's special moment in time, nearly 100 years later." Overall, preserved roses have a different shape and look than fresh buds, but, they will become cherished keepsakes despite these changes. "In order to preserve their color, it is best to store them in an area with air circulation and out of direct sunlight," Smith-Brown adds. "If dried rose petals end up falling off of the stems, I still like to hold on to them as they look beautiful displayed in a decorative bowl."
The air-drying preservation method is tried and true.
"I love this sustainable method of naturally preserving flowers by dehydrating them," Smith-Brown shares of how to dry roses. "I especially enjoy using this method with roses, my favorite being large-head roses like Creme de la Creme roses, to create different shapes and utilize the soft, neutral tone, as the end result has a classic and nostalgic feel to it." Her steps to master the technique? First, wait until the roses reach their peak bloom and then twist the petals to show the layers (you'll want them to create a "striking" shape, she says). Next, spaciously hang the flowers upside-down in a cool, dark area for a minimum of two weeks. "Once fully dried, flowers will naturally have more of a muted appearance and the foliage and petals will become brittle and very fragile," she adds. "Their color will continue to fade as they age, resulting in beautiful earthy tones."
You can also air-dry a full bouquet, Porta shares. She suggests wrapping a string around the center of the stems (be sure to leave enough string to hang the roses, too) before flipping the bouquet upside down in a ventilated area. "Once the flowers are starting to dry after a few days spray the blooms with hair spray to keep the petals in place and to prevent them from falling off the stem. Once fully dry in one to two weeks, you can remove the string and place the roses in a vase or keep them hanging upside down as a piece of art!"
Pressing works, too.
Another common technique for preserving a rose comes in the form of pressing. "Spray roses are the easiest and my favorite roses to preserve through pressing," Porta says. Another helpful tip when learning how to press a rose? "Make sure they are not wet or dewy before placing them aside on a clean piece of paper," Smith-Brown adds. "For best results, I use flowers that have reached their peak bloom—as they will maintain their color best once preserved." Master this technique by cutting each flower at the base of the stem (you can keep one or two buds on each stem for pressing). Continue by removing any petals that could be bruised, browning, or damaged. You will then take a pinch of the inside petals from the center of the flower, so when you press a rose, it will flatten easier, Porta says.
Next, place the stem between the pages of one of the books you have on hand at home. "If you're pressing more than one bloom, flip the pages so that there's at least 1/8-inch of thickness and place the next set of flowers in between the pages," Smith-Brown says. She also notes that moisture from the pressed rose can damage or wrinkle pages, so you should be mindful of which of your favorite reads you use for this process. Place the book on its side and put heavier ones on top for added weight. "Leave for two to three weeks for optimal pressing time!" Porta says, adding that once the flower is dry to the touch—it's ready to be removed. "Display in a frame, use in mixed media artwork, place in a scrapbook, save in the pages of a journal, or keep it in the book to find at a later date for a sweet reminder of your rose memories!"
A gel solution, however, might deliver the most lifelike results.
As Porta notes, using a silica gel is the perfect method for any type of rose—especially if you are aiming to preserve the natural color as much as possible. She suggests spray roses: "[They] come in such a wide range of colors, and seeing those colors change through preservation is amazing too!" Begin by filling a Tupperware container with a few inches of silica gel ($31, amazon.com), she says. You will then cut the roses off the stem (only the head of the bloom should remain). After that step, place the roses in the solution facing up with the stem nestled towards the bottom of the container. "Gently start filling the Tupperware up with more silica gel and making sure to get the beads in between all the petals of the roses," Porta says. "How you place the rose in the Tupperware is the shape in which it will dry out, so try not to squish the blooms or dump the silica gel on them too quickly." After leaving the roses in the container for about two to three weeks (or until they look completely dry), you can then remove from the silica gel. Use a cotton swab to get any beads of gel from the inside of the rose, and then you are all finished. Porta and Smith-Brown note that preserved roses using this technique are great to glue on a wreath, place in a glass cloche, or add to other floral arrangements.