When the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers recently announced their Cut Flowers of the Year, the Endowment asked Dr. John Dole from NC State University to provide information on the handling of each crop. AFE has been supporting the important research at NC State for decades and is funding a new two-year project on long-term storage of cut flowers beginning in July.
Care & Handling for Cut Flowers
Fresh Cut Flower of the Year: Hellebore Ice N’ Roses series. Interest in hellebores as cut flowers has steadily increased over the years, fueled by their durability and new genetics that feature outward-facing flowers in many colors and color combinations. Flowers can be harvested over a long period – interestingly, the older flowers last longer. Harvesting can start when they are fully open, and the stamens are visible for a 7-day vase life, but flowers will last two weeks or more when harvested after the stamens have dropped or when the sepals are leathery, and the small central seed pods are developed. While single flowers can be harvested, stems with more than one flower will give a better show as the buds open. Note that the colors will darken as the flowers age; bright whites, pinks, and pale yellows are found on young flowers. Use a commercial holding preservative to extend the vase life by up to 7 more days. Flowers tolerate storage and shipping well; keep temperatures cold, 34-36F, for best results.
Woody Cut Flower of the Year: Viburnum ‘Roseum’. Many of us know this plant as “snowball bush” for its large, round clusters of pure white flowers. For the most extended vase life of 7-10 days, harvest the flowers when the sepals have just turned bright white. The immature flowers can be picked anytime from tight bud to bright green before they turn white. Be aware, however, that vase life will be shorter, 5-7 days. Use a hydrator after harvest to prevent wilting and a holding solution to maximize vase life. Store in water or flower food at 34-36F. One drawback to snowball bush is that the flowers tend to come on all at once. Luckily, the elegant foliage makes a long-lasting cut as well. Harvest after it is mature.
Bulb Cut Flower of the Year: Ranunculus ‘Cloni Success Hanoi’. The lushness of large, well-grown ranunculus flowers can be hard to beat, and ‘Cloni Success Hanoi’ is particularly striking with its soft pink petals. Harvest buds when well colored and soft, but before they are open yet. For easiest handling, harvest in the morning when they are still closed up from the night. Using a holding solution will extend the vase life from up to a week to up to 10 days. Store at 34-36F in holding solution.
Foliage Cut Flower of the Year: Baptisia ‘Twilite Prairieblues’. Baptisias are a true multipurpose plant – flowers, seed pods, and foliage all make great cuts – one of the reasons they have become an important field-grown flower. The striking and long spikes of pea-shaped flowers and charming botanical pods should be enough, but the elegant blue-green foliage is the reason baptisia was selected as the Cut Foliage of the Year. The foliage is harvested when mature and can last up to two weeks. Foliage is prone to wilting – cut early in the day into water or commercial hydrator and put in the cooler immediately. Flowers are harvested when about 1/3 of the spike is open. The pods start out green and age to black but can be cut anytime they reach full size. Flowers can last 7-10 days, but the lower florets tend to drop. Not surprisingly, anti-ethylene agents are likely effective with the flower spikes. The pods can last virtually indefinitely – just a little dusting off needed. Foliage, flowers, and pods all do well in a holding solution and can be stored at 36-41F.
Additional Postharvest Resources and Research
Production and postharvest handling of specialty cut flowers are essential to many growers. The Endowment has recognized the importance and the unique needs of these cut flowers for many years. AFE has funded numerous research projects on specialty cut flowers over the last 20 years. A wealth of information can be found across the AFE site, but some resources that we would specifically like to highlight are:
Additionally, AFE funded the Floriculture Infosearch website – established through an Educational Grant, and hosted by North Carolina State University.
The Floriculture InfoSearch is a powerful but focused search engine designed to bring you floriculture information from the scientific literature, trade and association magazines/websites, NC State University, and the American Floral Endowment Floriculture Archive (repository of literature dating back to the 1800s).
Previous winners of the ASCFG Cut Flowers of the Year can be found here (scroll down to the bottom of the page).
For even more postharvest information on over 240 cut flowers from Acacia to Zinnia, check out the ASCFG’s comprehensive publication: Postharvest Handling of Cut Flowers and Greens
By: Dr. John Dole, NC State University