Living Large With Russian-Cut Roses

I grow roses in my garden and would never think of cutting one before its prime. However, when it comes to buying roses locally, I usually choose those that are just beginning to open. Why the disconnect? It’s mainly habit, I suppose, and the fact that we Americans are only beginning to discover the perks of Russian-cut roses.


Russian-cut roses are a common cut in Europe, but contrary to what their name implies, they are not grown in Russia. Rather, the term refers to roses that are harvested at the peak of their development – a time when their petals are more mature as opposed to the more common practice of cutting them when their buds are still tight.

This makes for a rose with a larger flower head and fatter, longer stem. And it often lasts longer. 


It sounds counter-intuitive. If the flower petals are mature, won’t they wither faster? Yet, evidence shows that roses that are left longer on the stem develop brighter colors and larger blooms than those harvested in the tight-bud stage. This is because extending their growing period allows them to absorb more nutrients and sunlight.

The rose then uses this extra energy to produce bigger flowers.

Cultivating Russian-cut roses requires patience. Growers must wait one to two weeks longer than usual before harvesting their product. But, waiting can reap big rewards. The blooms often average 50 percent larger and they last just as long or even longer than traditional, tight-cut flowers.

In fact, some roses can produce blooms measuring 3.5″  to 4″ inches across on up to three-foot stems!

A rose plantation in Ecuador/photo:


The term Russian-cut comes from the Russian tradition of giving a single, spectacular bloom as a token of appreciation. As an old Russian saying goes,

“A saying is a flower, a proverb is a berry.”

Angelica Privalihin ‘My Red Rose’

Note that this differs substantially from the American practice of giving a dozen roses. In fact, if you have Russian friends, give only odd numbers of flowers. Even numbers are reserved for funerals and sympathy arrangements only! 

So far, in the United States where Russian-cut roses are also known as European or Designer-cut, buyers are not entirely convinced. Many still hold on to the belief that tight-cut roses will last longer in the vase. The exception to the rule appears to be weddings, where a big impact is usually the goal.

Perhaps we should begin applying that thinking to our everyday flower purchases!



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About carole funger

I'm a landscape designer and Maryland Master Gardener living in the Washington, DC area. I blog about new trends in horticulture, inspiring gardens to visit and the latest tips and ideas for how to nurture your own beautiful garden. Every garden tells a story. What's yours?