Extending the Enjoyment

Florists’ Review Magazine June 2021, powered by FloraLife

4 Keys to Long-Lasting Flowers from Field to Vase

Customers fall in love with your floral designs as much as the beauty of the blooms. But prized arrangements can fade days sooner than they should from improper care. Maximized vase life is essential to consumer satisfaction. But keeping cut flowers in peak condition requires keen attention along every step of a flower’s journey.

The more you can educate yourself, your team, and your customers on optimal flower care, the longer your designs will linger and the more joy and referrals you’ll spread. Here are four keys for the entire floral supply chain to ensure the freshest flowers for your customers.

Sanitation and Disease Control

Pathogens are everywhere. Bacteria can accumulate on flower stems or in water anywhere along the supply chain. Unchecked, microbes multiply and block a flower’s water and nutrient uptake which accelerates their decline. Additionally, farmers dip or spray roses to prevent fungal botrytis damage. Vigilant cleanliness from the grower’s field to the retail cooler is critical to preventing flower deterioration before it starts.

In the flower field and en route to you, supply chain partners strive to control and prevent contamination. But it’s more than just buckets that need scrubbing. Clippers, benches, shelves, buckets, and any surface that comes in flower contact should be cleaned regularly, ideally between buckets, but certainly between shifts.

What you can do: Create a strict sanitation protocol and train your team to use it. All contact surfaces should be sanitized frequently. Bleach will work, but other commercially available products can provide longer-lasting disinfecting benefits.

Pro tip: Keep a spray bottle and rag handy on the design bench for quick tool touchups between projects.

Hydration and Nutrition

Flowers are 85-90% water. Once stems are cut, flowers lose their natural source of food and water that keeps them fresh and perky. Air and debris can clog stems shortening flower life. Stems need a steady stream of water and nutrients flowing to their flower cells to maintain peak condition.

Flower growers precisely time their harvests and treat stems to maximize hydration before shipping. A no to low sugar solution hydrates stems but limits flower development through transport and storage until you are ready to activate them in a design.

What you can do: Unbox deliveries quickly and recut stems, if necessary. Place stems in flower buckets with an appropriately balanced solution of water and flower food. Dosage matters! 50% of all fresh flower food is improperly dosed. Proper mixing can substantially increase flower life.

Pro tip: Improper hydration can show in ways besides droop. Inspect foliage for signs of dryness or decline that may become evident before affecting the flower itself.


At least 30% of postharvest flower losses come from ethylene damage. This invisible gas is concentrated around ripening produce, cigarette smoke, and fuel sources (trucks, equipment, and planes). Ethylene exposure causes wilting, discoloration, irregular opening, and shattering of flowers. Many flowers are susceptible to ethylene damage including carnations, gypsophila, sunflowers, lilies, roses, tulips, and more.

Careful attention to avoid and block ethylene damage is critical and now possible with commercial ethylene shielding products. But the insidious damage can take days to appear, sometimes not becoming apparent until flowers reach retail, or worse, your customer.

What you can do: How can you know if your flowers were protected? Ask! Ask if your flowers were treated with an ethylene shield. It’s your assurance that your floral designs will remain in top condition avoiding flower loss and customer disappointment.

Pro tip: Stressed and decaying flowers give off even more ethylene which can accelerate flower decline. Take proper care of healthy stems and promptly remove any from inventory that is deteriorating.


Temperature throttles flower lifespan. The industry’s cold supply chain slows a flower’s metabolism into a hibernation-like state keeping them dormant until you are ready to design. But it’s a team effort. For temperate flowers, every step above 38℉ / 3°C shortens flower life — as much as 3-4 times shorter above 41℉ / 5°C, depending on the duration. (Tropical flowers should be held at temperatures above 55℉ / 12°C.)

What you can do: Maintain the cold chain! Unpack flower boxes and cool deliveries promptly. Check cooler temperatures regularly and keep doors closed when possible. Use temperature to your advantage to manipulate bloom opening for optimal timing in your designs.

Pro tip: To open flowers for event work, remove stems from the cooler and switch to lukewarm bucket water the day before design. Blooms will be open to occupy the ideal space in your creation.

Extending vase life doesn’t end with you! Educate consumers on their role in feeding and nurturing their flowers. Every order is an opportunity for repeat buyers. Offer advice on proper flower care and provide flower food packets in and with every order. Certain flowers like roses, dahlias, lilies, sunflowers, and yarrow last 50-300% longer with flower food! Flower food is your best insurance policy for long vase life, customer delight, and repeat business.

To learn about best practices from the experts in flower care, visit www.floralife.com or contact your local FloraLife representative.