Flower fanatics, unite! Regardless whether you are a retail designer, a wholesale manager, buying flowers for bouquet production, or importing blooms from Latin America, every one agrees that quality matters. Why then is there so much confusion about the handling techniques that maximize quality at every step of the chain?

Let’s take a look at several common flower handling questions and try to slay a few sacred cows in the process. A good business mantra is “under-promise and over-deliver!” Americans demand value and come back for repeat purchases when they feel your product was worth the price. When it comes to appraising the value of flowers, vase-life performance is the bottom line. That’s why proper handling practices make good business sense. Handling flowers correctly makes all the difference in vase performance, not to mention reducing shrink.

Let’s start with sacred cows pertaining to Rose handling….

Will placing rose stems in hot water help hydrate them? NO! Hot water causes more harm than good. It is too aggressive for flower stems, including dahlias, snow on the mountain, poinsettia bracts and poppies. Super hot water damages stem cells, causing stem discoloration and subsequent cell collapse. Proper use of a hydration solution like Professional #1 or Professional Gerbera pills, slow release chlorine, will give far better results. Notice the emphasis on “proper”? That means the solution is mixed according to instructions and used for the appropriate time listed on label.

I like to clean my roses before arranging. Does it matter if I strip off most the foliage? Specialized cells, called stomata, are located on the underside of the leaves. These cells pump solution up the stem into blooms. Roses need ample foliage to hydrate. To avoid droopy heads, leave as much foliage in tact as possible. Strip only those leaves that fall below the water level when hydrating blooms to keep the solution clean.

Should you remove or dull rose thorns? Removing thorns may make handling easier, but those wounds serve as perfect entryways for bacteria and air bubbles to enter stems. Use a soft stripper from Chrysal to remove thorns. Avoid metal rose strippers for two reasons; it is super easy to nick or damage the stem bark. Secondly, it’s easy to go overboard and strip off too much foliage using those vice-like strippers.

Should you remove guard petals from roses? Refrain from grooming roses unless the guard petals are blemished or have Botrytis spots. Every petal removed loosens the overall bud composition thereby accelerating the opening rate. Remember, any wound (including the area where guard petals attach to the calyx) on a flower or flower stem is a conduit for bacterial invasion. Wounding blooms also triggers the internal production of ethylene. Ethylene shortens the vase life of all flowers!

How about myths surrounding tulips and other bulb flowers?

I pierce my tulip stems then add pennies to the water. Keep my glads in the dark, pour gin in the iris buckets and strip the foliage off my lilies to maximize vase performance on bulb flowers, right?
The chemistry of bulbous flowers (including tulips) goes crazy when the flowers are cut from their bulb, corm, rhizome or tuber. You recognize the symptoms, but may not know the cause. Poor vase life; Iris start to open, but instead turn brown and shrivel. Tulips goose-neck and drop petals, anemones, ranuculas and nerines lose color vibrancy. Alstroemeria and lilies suffer premature leaf yellowing. Freesia and glads stop opening after 1 or 2 florets.

All these conditions are symptoms of the hormonal imbalance that occurs when bulbous flowers are harvested. These types of flowers don’t need much sugar in flower foods, but vase life is greatly improved when hormone chemistry is rebalanced. Chrysal bulb t-bags are the product to use for bulb flowers.

Should I remove the anthers of lilies to eliminate the possibility of pollen stains? Yes, plucking off the anthers helps avoid pollen stains, but when pollen does stain clothing or tablecloths, use tape (masking or scotch both work) to lift the pollen off material. Avoid touching or brushing pollen with hands—that sets pollen grains into the texture of the material. Some feel that removing anthers slows down maturation, but it has never been scientifically proven.


What’s up with delphinium?
I love the beautiful blue tones, but they fall apart after 2-3 days. If your flowers suffer signs of premature ageing, ethylene may be the culprit. The entire delphinium family is highly sensitive to ethylene gas and needs to be treated at farm level with STS to prevent damning effects of ethylene exposure. Another alternative is treating ethylene sensitive flowers with Ethylene Buster (1-MCP gas) during transit.

Proper flower handling starts with variety selection and continues along every link of the chain. Every time consumers are polled on how long they think flowers last, they answer 2-3 days. When you exceed that vase-life expectation, you are planting seeds for repeat business!