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  • Quick Care and Handling Guide, Part 1
    By Bill McKinley, AIFD


    Flower Processing Step by Step

    Consumers are keenly aware of the quality of fresh cut flowers. In making purchasing decisions, they give far more weight to perceptions about freshness and longevity (66 percent) than to design considerations (about 15 percent), according to the Society of American Florists. Proper care and handling of cut flowers and foliage, therefore, are of paramount importance to retail florists' success.

    While some flowers require treatments different from those outlined here, for most cut flowers and foliage, the following procedures will ensure the best possible quality.

    1. Open shipping boxes immediately upon arrival to dispel any ethylene gas or heat build-up.

    2. Assess how many buckets will be needed to hold the flowers and foliage. Prepare buckets by cleaning them and mixing floral food solution or pre-treatments, always following manufacturer's instructions.

    3. Separate out those flowers requiring a hydration solution and process these first. Follow manufacturer's instructions, as different types of hydration solutions require different processing times.

    4. De-bunch the flowers and remove all foliage that will fall below the water line. ("De-bunch" means removing the rubber band or twist-tie at the base of the stems.) The plastic sleeve may be left on for tulips to confine their growth, and for roses to keep them upright during hydration; for all other flowers, it should be removed to prevent botrytis mold from developing. The plastic wrap on roses must be removed within 12 hours.

    5. Cut stems under water with a sharp knife, shears, or a commercial underwater cutter at least one inch from the stem end. Re-cutting removes previous stem blockages; underwater cutting prevents further blockage from air bubbles. Place immediately in a tepid floral-food solution.

    6. Condition the flowers or foliage by allowing them to stand at room temperature for one to two hours. This permits uptake of floral-food solution, which could be impeded by immediate placement into the cooler.

    7. "Harden" the flowers by placing them in a cooler (36 - 38 degrees F and 85% humidity) for approximately two hours prior to use. This step aids in longevity by lowering the flower's temperature and slowing transpiration (water loss) as well as other physiological activity.

    8. The cooler, or other small, enclosed area is a good place to treat to prevent damage from ethylene gas.

    The care and handling information presented here was compiled for the Flower and Plant Care Manual by George Staby, published by the Society of American Florists (703.836.8700) and from The Cut Flower Companion by William J. McKinley, Jr., Interstate Publishers (800.843.4774). 


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