Cut flower harvesting tips
February 28, 2009
1. Start with clean buckets – use a sanitizing solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water to sanitize and kill bacteria. Use clean scissors or clippers for cutting to prevent introducing bacteria which can inhibit the stems from taking up water.
2. Harvesting of flowers is best done in the morning or evening; harvesting during the heat of the day shortens the vase life of flowers. When flowers are cut in the morning the water content of the stems are the greatest, and the stems are quite firm. It is best to wait until the dew has dried to prevent browning of petals or disease during storage. If flowers are cut in the evening, the flowers have been photosynthesizing all day and the stems will contain more carbohydrates, which help prolong the vase life.
3. The stage of harvest for cutting can be different for each flower species. Most flowers should be cut in early bloom, before they are showing any pollen, to extend the vase life. If you are cutting flowers for an arrangement that will grace your table for that very day, flowers in full bloom will work fine and give a wonderful presentation. If you are cutting a bouquet for someone and you want it to last for a week, cut the flowers in the early blooming stage to ensure a long vase life.
4. Flowers being used within a day can be held in plain water in buckets, flowers that will be held longer in a cooler need to be placed in a holding solution. Chrysal Clear # 2 professional processing solution is a low sugar holding solution that will hydrate and hold flowers in the cooler until they are sold. Use clean, sharp shears to cut flowers, strip off foliage on lower part of stems that will be in water, and place cut stems immediately in a clean bucket half filled with cool water. Let flowers rest and condition in a cool place for 1-2 hours to become fully hydrated. After resting for 2 hours, flowers can then be made into arrangements, or if transporting for sale, transfer flowers to a clean bucket half filled with a holding solution mixed according to container directions (like Chrysal Clear # 2 professional processing solution).
5. When cutting branches or woody ornamentals there are a few things that will help the stems to hydrate. First, cut the branches at a sharp diagonal, then cut a split into the bottom of the stem a few inches long. The old practice of smashing the ends of woody stems is no longer advised, due to studies showing it damages the stems rather than helping them hydrate.
6. Tulips are the only flower that do better without a holding solution, they can be held in plain water in the cooler. Tulips will continue to grow after being cut; bunches should be wrapped in newspaper to hold stems straight as they will twist and bend after cutting. A preservative should be used in the vase for a final arrangement, however.
7. Gloves should be worn when cutting Euphorbias, as their milky sap can cause a rash. Euphorbia stems must be seared after cutting. Have a small pot of water simmering and plunge the stems (about 1-2 inches) into the water for about one minute, then put in buckets to finish conditioning.
8. If flower heads are drooping, recut stems and put in warm water to force hydration.
9. When arranging flowers into a vase, use a clean vase and a professional preservative such as Chrysal Clear # 3 or Aquaplus, available on line or at craft stores, for full flower development and to extend the vase life of the flowers. Rose stems should be recut underwater before adding to arrangements to ensure no air pockets will block water flow through the stem. Any foliage that is underwater in a vase should be removed, this will help keep the water cleaner and extend vase life.