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Plants with Ethylene DamageEthylene damages and kills plants and flowers. Ethylene is a naturally occurring wound hormone that causes leaf yellowing, leaf drop, bud drop, and reduced flower life. Ethylene gas is given off by dying, decaying, and dead fruits and vegetables. Also, plants and flowers produce ethylene internally as they age and when plants have undergone mechanical damage, such as vibration during shipping, drought, and heat stress. Damage to plants and flowers may be caused by ethylene in the atmosphere and from ethylene produced within the plant.  In severe situations, plants may not be marketable unless plants are treated with anti-ethylene products.

Plants with Ethylene Damage 2You can protect your plants and flowers from ethylene. Today, several products are available from Floralife and Chrysal to prevent ethylene damage if plants are treated prior to storage, shipping, and commercial display. These products will protect plants from atmospheric ethylene and ethylene produced within the plant.  AFE has funded many studies on damage from ethylene and treatments to prevent damage. You can read more on Cost-Effective Solutions for Ethylene Problems here and take a look at AFE’s other final research reports here. Growers are encouraged to treat plants and flowers to protect the plants and flowers from ethylene.

The following tables show some of the primary flowering potted, bedding plants, and potted foliage plants that are sensitive to ethylene and the symptoms associated with ethylene damage. However, other plants and flowers are sensitive to ethylene, and AFE can provide additional information.


Table 1. Ethylene Sensitive Potted and Bedding Plants*

Plant Type Symptoms of Ethylene Damage
African Violet Flower wilt
Ageratum Leaf yellowing/drop
Aster Flower/bud drop
Azalea Leaf Drop
Begonia, Rieger Flower/bud drop
Bougainvillea Flower/bract drop
Cactus, Easter Flower/bud drop
Impatiens Flower/bud/leaf drop
Geranium Bud drop, flower shattering, leaf yellowing
Lily, Easter, Asiatic and Oriental Bud drop
Kalanchoe Buds fail to open, flower wilt
Marigold Leaf/stem wilt
Periwinkle Leaf/flower/bud drop
Petunia Flower/leaf wilting
Orchids Flower/bud drop/reduced flower life
Rose, potted Flower/bud/leaf drop
Snapdragon Flower wild/drop

*Other flowering potted plants and bedding plants are sensitive to ethylene. Contact AFE if you would like additional information.

Table 2. Potted Foliage Plants Sensitive to Ethylene*

Plant Type Symptoms of Ethylene Damage
Aglaonema Leaf yellowing
Aphelandra Leaf drop
Croton Leaf yellow/drop
Dieffenbachia Leaf Yellowing
Dracaena Leaf necrosis/yellowing
Ficus Leaf Drop
Philodendron Leaf yellowing/drop
Schefflera Leaf drop
Spathiphyllum Reduced flower life

*Other foliage plants are sensitive to ethylene. Contact AFE if you would like additional information.