“Understanding proper care and handling practices remains key for same-day flower usage.” 

In ideal business relationships, clients plan ahead, and flowers have time to open naturally for special events. However, as many of you know, last-minute requests can be common. When faced with these situations, you have to work your magic so that closed flowers reach the desired openness in time for picture-perfect photos.

Before you can expedite a flower’s blooming, you must understand the proper care and handling of open/closed flowers. You also must understand the characteristics of different types and varieties of flowers so you can use the best care and handling procedure for each. Paying close attention to rotation, temperature, hydration and handling all enhance a flower’s natural life cycle, as well as its post-event vase life. In contrast, using incorrect methods to force flowers to open damages the flowers’ life span.

Ways You Can Doom Your Blooms

There are practices some florists use to open flowers that would make other florists cringe. These “techniques” range from old wives’-tales to tips from other florists that are assured to “always work.” In reality, these methods often do more harm than good and are generally frowned upon by those who better understand plant and flower physiology.

  • Blowing Buds Open Blowing on the tops of flowers is a technique that many florists use when flowers, such as roses, have not fully opened. The temperature of human breath is akin to a hair dryer on low speed, so while the heat may speed the opening of flowers, it can also increase the development of fungus/bacteria and spotting. The stressful effects of heat will also be seen in a shorter vase life.
  • Squeezing the Stems With closed flowers, like spray carnations, one common method used is ruffling the petals of the flower heads. A second method involves squeezing the sepals, which allegedly helps release their grip on the flower so it can relax and open. Both of these methods can be harsh and damage delicate plant tissue, and they can increase the risk of developing fungus/bacteria.
  • Applying Direct Heat Another method uses direct heat to open closed and semi-closed flowers. Examples include putting cut stems into very warm (or even hot) water and leaving the bucket near a window for direct sunlight. Even worse, some florists set the bucket of flowers in a hot car until the flowers open. These actions can damage plant tissue (cook the stems, burn the blooms); accelerate the aging process; and increase the risk of developing fungus/ bacteria – all of which hasten the death of the flowers.

Tips to Having Awesome Blossoms

Assuming that flowers are properly handled at the farm and during shipment, continuing the same level of care in the flower shop is crucial to maximizing flower life. The most successful techniques inflict the least amount of damage and help extend the vase life of the flowers, as well.

  • Hydration When you receive flowers in your shop, the flowers’ life-span clock is already ticking – set in motion at the time of harvest. One of the most important things you can do is to ensure that flowers get properly rehydrated and stay hydrated. A hydrating solution treatment will maximize the uptake of flower-food solution and keep flower stems free flowing, which is critical for proper coloring and development.
  • Feed Flowers Well Following a hydration treatment, an important aspect of bloom opening is nourishing the flowers. The most beneficial procedure is to place freshly cut flower stems into a properly proportioned and prepared commercial flower food solution, in a sanitized vase/bucket. Avoid using homemade solutions with ingredients such as aspirin, sugar, vinegar or bleach, and avoid adding those ingredients to flower-food solutions, which are precisely formulated to fulfill the nutritional requirements of cut flowers.
  • Lose Your Cool To help flower buds open, it’s essential that the flower-food solution be at room temperature, with the flowers also stored at room temperature. Because the intent is to open the closed buds, do not place flowers into a cooler where the process will be slowed by low temperatures.

    Ultimately, if you are looking to expedite the opening of cut flowers, follow the methods prescribed above, and avoid procedures that will stress and damage the flowers, shortening their vase life. With event flowers, guests often take the flowers home afterward, and should your flowers wither and die quickly, it could affect your reputation.

So help extend the enjoyment of event flowers beyond the event to the final recipients, which is an ideal scenario for everyone.

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.

Steve Daum is the director of Superflor Technologies at Floralife, a division of Smithers-Oasis Company. He has worked in floral production and cut flower postharvest care and handling for nearly 30 years. Steve also worked as a grower in Latin America and managed the quality control department for Eagle Condor Farm in Ecuador. In addition, he has conducted many seminars on care and handling in both the United States and internationally. In 2002, Steve was named PMA’s “Marketer of the Year.”