By Terril A. Nell, Ph.D., AAF

Research Coordinator

American Floral Endowment

Reduce shrinkage and increase profits by making a New Year’s resolution to follow strict care and handling practices each day. Every florist operation can achieve improved profits with quality flowers. And, with regular attention to these handling practices, every employee will understand his or her role in delivering quality products to happy customers, contributing to a healthy bottom line.

The Postharvest Pledge

Achieving long-lasting, high-quality flowers does not just happen. Providing quality flowers requires a commitment from owners, managers and all employees every day. The postharvest pledge means that proper postharvest procedures are practiced consistently. Outstanding designs, good financial practices and employee management are vital parts of your business; give postharvest care the same priority. Train your employees in best-management practices, then expect them to “take the pledge.” 

Develop and Implement Postharvest Standards and Practices

The components of postharvest handling practices are readily available in trade magazines, and companies selling care and handling products provide general and crop-specific handling guidelines and requirements. The American Floral Endowment (AFE) has funded research that confirms the effectiveness of these practices. 

Implement the “3 Cs” for Postharvest Handling

AFE has identified the “3 Cs”—CoolingCare and Cleanliness—as the critical elements of successful care and handling programs. Cooling represents an easily measured component to ensure long-lasting flowers. Most flowers (except tropical flowers) should be stored and shipped at 34 F to 38 F. These temperatures reduce the respiration of the flowers and help to preserve the natural sugars in the flowers, so energy is available for flower opening and maintenance of cellular function. 

The second ‘C’ refers to proper Care of the flowers, including the use of accurately mixed flower foods and clean water. The flower food provides sugar supplements and lowers the pH of the solution. Low pH (3.5 to 5) enhances water uptake in the stems and reduces bacteria growth in the vase solution. 

The third critical element—Cleanliness—emphasizes the need to regularly sanitize buckets, floors, design tables, cutting tools and coolers, to reduce fungal and bacterial contamination of the flowers and the vase solutions.

These helpful care and handling tips are incorporated into a poster provided to the industry FREE of charge by AFE. This poster can be placed above store coolers as a reminder of the best practices for care and handling to employees. Businesses can request a copy of the poster, read about new research findings, and view “Care and Handling” webinars at

Purchase the Best Flowers

The vase life of flowers is largely determined before wholesale and retail florists receive flowers. Growers must harvest flowers at the correct stages and then treat them with hydration solutions, special solutions to maintain leaf color (prevent leaf yellowing), and anti-ethylene products to prevent damage during storage and shipping. Growers and shippers must maintain cold (34 F to 38 F) temperatures at every step, from the time flowers are boxed at the farms until they reach the wholesale florists—a process referred to as “the cold chain.” Growers and shippers begin the cold chain, and it is the responsibility of wholesale and retail florists to maintain cold conditions until flowers reach consumers.

Stay Up to Date

Keep up with new practices and new products shown to increase vase life. Review your protocols, and modify them as needed to stay current.

Make 2023 a Profitable New Year

Add a “postharvest pledge” to your 2023 New Year’s resolutions. You will enjoy the benefits of reduced waste, increased sales and even happier customers.