“Maximizing cut flower vase life and consumer satisfaction with our products requires an unwavering commitment to prescribed care and handling procedures from all parties along the way, from the farm to the florist – and even the consumer.”

An experienced entrepreneur knows that it’s easier (and cheaper) to retain an existing customer than to win a new one. As a businessperson, repeat business should be your goal, and the key to repeat business is providing a superior consumer experience. As a retail florist, that means delivering eye-catching floral designs, personalized service and fresh cut flowers that last and last.

When it comes to long-lasting flowers, best practices yield best results. Using the right tools and flower food are definitely a plus. But these are effective only when accompanied by good care and handling practices. This includes properly mixing all solutions, especially flower food; proper temperature management; ethylene and Botrytis control; and sanitization at every stage of a flower’s “journey to fresh.”

The Journey To Fresh Begins with …

Partner with suppliers who carefully select varieties after extensive testing, then choose only the best-performing, hardiest and most disease-resistant ones.

Growers must harvest flowers at precisely the right moment. This ensures optimal opening, as well as the least amount of stress or mechanical damage during shipping.

This is critical throughout the distribution chain to the quality, freshness and ultimate longevity of the flowers. Place temperate flowers into a 34 F to 38 F cooler (55 F to 65 F for tropicals), with 75 percent to 85 percent humidity. Maintaining low temperature and high humidity is important to minimize water loss and maximize vase life.

Preventing diseases, such as Botrytis, requires constant monitoring. Control measures include:
• Temperature management;
• Minimizing or eliminating temperature fluctuations;
• Proper sanitation;
• Gently removing all grower packaging from bunches when unpacking boxes;
• Avoiding getting flower blooms wet;
• Avoiding touching or handling flowers by their blooms;
• Avoiding dropping or throwing flower boxes to prevent physical damage;
• Avoiding storing or displaying cut flowers near ripening produce or products that produce ethylene;
• Making sure your supplier has treated your cut flowers with an ethylene action inhibitor.

The Journey Reaches the Retail Shop …

At this point, the growers and shippers have done their part, and you receive a shipment of full, fresh and vital stems. It is now up to you to shepherd these flowers on the next steps of their journey. Here is a list of cut flowers care and handling dos and don’ts to guide you.

The Five Steps To Fresh

Clean and sanitize your buckets; tools; work surfaces; and cooler walls, floors and shelves with a professional cleaning and sanitizing product formulated specifically for the floral industry (available at your favorite wholesale florist). Unlike bleach, professional floral products have a residual effect that helps keep these items clean and sanitized for days after treatment.

Use an instant hydrating treatment to jump-start hydration and ensure free-flowing stems. This can be especially helpful with field-grown crops, and it’s a must for roses and Gerbera to help prevent bent necks. These solutions are available at your favorite wholesale floral supplier.

When using a traditional cut flower food, recut flower stems, removing approximately 1 inch of stem, using a sharp, sanitized knife or clippers. Then immediately place the freshly cut flower stems into a properly proportioned flower food solution made with cold water. Use a dosing unit that is properly calibrated, or hand mix the solution according to label instructions. Flowers need to be nourished to ensure maximum quality and enjoyment.

Professional flower food generally contains these three ingredients:
• An energy source (sugar) to nourish the flowers;

• An acid to lower the pH of the solution. Flowers like a pH of 3 to 4.5, depending on water quality;

• Ingredients to keep the stems free flowing. A good floral supply wholesaler will have a selection of cut flower foods from which you can choose.

Use a professional finishing spray to refresh, hydrate and protect your flowers. Quick and easy to apply, this is a final step before your arrangements go out the door. A simple fine-mist spray is all it takes to maximize customer satisfaction and extend the enjoyment of receiving flowers. Ask your favorite hard-goods wholesaler which sprays are best for various types of designs – arrangements in water; corsages, boutonnières, hairpieces; etc.

Educate your customers and the recipients of your flowers on how to care for the flowers. Caution them about placing flowers in direct sunlight, drafty places, or near heating and cooling vents. Remind them to change the flower-food solution at least every other day. And provide flower food packets with every purchase and delivery – enough to enable consumers to change the solution throughout the life of the arrangement or bouquet. This is your best insurance policy to guarantee that the freshness will continue.

When your flowers’ “journey to fresh” reaches a successful conclusion in the customer’s home, it will be due to the dedication, teamwork, and expert care and handling provided by every floral professional along the way, including you. Together, we can all reap the reward of repeat business!

Floralife, a division of Smithers-Oasis Company, is a worldwide leader in postharvest flower care and handling. Inventors of the first cut flower food in 1938, Floralife has developed products to feed, hydrate, nourish and protect cut flowers at every level in the distribution chain. To learn more about cut flower care and handling, visit floralife.com.