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Tips for care and handling of cut flowers.

The proper care and handling of any cut flower is imperative to its longevity. Proper processing will lengthen the life of materials from 25 to 75 percent. Follow the guidelines below for best results. For the retailer, open the package immediately upon arrival from the supplier and inspect the products for quality or shipping damage. Doing this also allows accumulated ethylene gas released by the flowers to escape. If boxes cannot be processed immediately, review product, then refrigerate the entire package until time allows for correct processing. For the gardener, harvesting flowers from cutting gardens is recommended in the early morning hours and when flowers are in the bud form, breaking or showing color.

PROCESSING GUIDELINES

PREPARE CONTAINERS. Thoroughly clean containers with a commercial cleaner or bleach and brush to remove all existing bacteria along sides, base, and corners.

REMOVE LOWER FOLIAGE. Remove all foliage below the desired water level. Any debris left in water will create bacteria that in turn will clog "xylem" or intake systems. Rinse dirt and debris from base of stems, especially from tulips and other field-grown crops.

RECUT STEMS UNDER WATER. Use a sharp tool to remove the lower 1-3 inches from the base of flower stem. Cut under water to prevent absorption of air bubbles (embolisms) that inhibit water intake.

USE A HYDRATING SOLUTION. Many flowers benefit from dipping their stems into a citric acid-based hydrating solution. Commercial solutions are available and work especially well on "heavy drinkers" such as roses, delphinium, gerberas, and field-grown crops. The solution aids in absorption.

PLACE INTO A PRESERVATIVE SOLUTION. Most commercial preservatives or flower foods are made of dextrose, acids to alter water pH, additives to control bacterial growth, antiethylene substances and other materials to enhance longevity. Follow specified directions for use. If a commercial product is not readily available to the gardener, a few drops of bleach in water will temporarily aid in bacteria reduction. It should not regularly be used as the primary preservative solution. Using warm water produces less air bubbles.

CONDITIONING. Allow the flowers to absorb water at least 30 to 60 minutes to become fully turgid before placing them into refrigeration. Some flowers need overnight conditioning.

REFRIGERATE. Preferred placement of processed flowers is into a cooler with ideal humidity of 80 to 90 percent. Temperature should be 34[degrees]F for nontropical flowers; 55[degrees]F, or room temperature, for tropicals. Some types of cut foliages benefit from these processing and refrigeration steps. Others are best in a sealed container, needing no additional processing but refrigeration. Always avoid direct sunlight, heating systems, and exposure to freezing temperatures.

CHANGE THE WATER AS NEEDED. Keep containers dirt free, stem tips clean, and water clear. Ensure all flowers receive adequate, clean water. This step is crucial.

ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY

What is ethylene and why should it be a concern? Ethylene is a colorless, odorless gas naturally produced by aging or senescing fruits, flowers, and plants. It is especially prevalent in materials under "stress," for example, materials with physical stress from water loss, diseases such as botrytis, or insect infestation. Ethylene is also the by-product of burning natural gas, propane, diesel fuel, and gasoline; it can be found in automobile exhaust or cigarette smoke.

Detrimental effects of this gas on flowers appear as translucent petals, yellowing foliage, or premature death. Correct care and handling procedures will reduce these effects, but is also helpful to pay attention to those flowers which are unusually ethylene sensitive. Limit exposure of such flowers to heavy ethylene producers. Following is a list of flowers known to have some level of ethylene sensitivity:

Achillea

Aconitum

Agapanthus

Allium

Alstroemeri a

Ammim

Anemone

Anethum

Antirrhinum

Astilbe

Bouvardia

Campanula

Centaurea

Clarkia

Consolida

Crocosmia

Cymbidium

Delphinium

Dendrobium

Dianthus

Digitalis

Eremurus

Freesia

Gladiolus

Gypsophila

Iris

Ixia

Kniphofi a

Lathyrus

Lilium

Matthiola

Narcissus

Ornithogalum

Phlox

Physostegia

Ranunculas

Rudbeckia

Saponaria

Scabiosa

Solidago

xSolidaster

Tracheli um

Veronica

Pat Diehl Scace, AIFD, AAF
COPYRIGHT 2001 Delmar Learning
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Scace, Pat Diehl
Publication:The Floral Artist's Guide, A Reference to Cut Flowers and Foliage
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Words:651
Previous Article:Plant classification and nomenclature.
Next Article:Basics of floral design.
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