Florist’s Field Guide: Post-Harvest Care of Cut Flowers

Image by Daria Yakoleva from Pixabay

Nothing brightens up a room quite like a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Unfortunately, once a flower’s stem is cut, the wilting process begins. However, it’s possible to keep flowers alive and healthy after being cut. Water and refrigeration allow them to continue to grow and even bloom after being cut. 

A vase of freshwater might do the trick for the average consumer. In a vase, flowers can stay fresh for a few days, or as long as two weeks depending on the variety! 

However, keeping flowers fresh before they reach the market requires great care. Florists need to take special care to ensure that their flowers stay as fresh as possible after harvesting.

Small florist farmers can have trouble keeping their crops fresh. The long trip from the field to consumers’ tables is stressful on flowers. However, by carefully harvesting and storing your crop, you can keep cut flowers fresh for 2-8 weeks!

When caring for your crop there are a few essential things to keep in mind. You need to keep bacteria and other microbes from growing. You also need to keep water moving through the plant. Just like keeping food fresh, the most important thing is refrigeration. Keeping your equipment and flowers clean will also protect them from decay. Finally, it is important to keep your flowers drinking by keeping the stems cleanly cut.

What Causes Decay?

Wilting and decay of cut flowers are caused by a number of factors.

  1. Depleting Food
  2. Bacteria and Fungi
  3. Normal aging
  4. Water stress (wilting)
  5. Physical damage
  6. Temperature changes
  7. Ethylene accumulation
  8. Poor water quality
  9. Pre-harvest conditions

Pre-Harvest Care

Image by DeltaWorks from Pixabay

Good post-harvest care hinges on the pre-harvest procedure. There are many important factors to consider when growing flowers. These considerations are essential to the postharvest longevity of your cut flowers! Below are a few key considerations for before harvesting (or even planting!) your flowers.

  • Choose the right cultivars!
    • As any florist knows, there are a wide variety of cultivars of every ornamental flower. These cultivars vary in more than just appearance. Different cultivars can be more or less hardy after harvest.

Post-Harvest Care

Image by Anelka from Pixabay

Caring for your plants before harvesting is essential. However, keeping them fresh after harvesting is the hard part. Florists need to take great care to protect their crop until it gets to market. There are many steps you can take to keep flowers healthy and fresh. 

It is essential to keep flowers cold and clean immediately after harvesting. Below are some tips on how to make sure that happens!

Water

Giving your cut flowers water is an absolute no-brainer. However, it is important that your water is at the right PH (3.0-5.5) and that it does not have too much bacteria growing. Biocides and water treatments such as aluminum sulfate can help create ideal water for your crop.

Buckets

Keeping your buckets clean and sterile is essential. They should be cleaned and sanitized between each use.

When filling buckets with flowers, don’t overcrowd them. It is important to let air circulate around the stems to prevent decay.

Walk-In Fridges

It is important to immediately refrigerate flowers to keep them from deteriorating. This is best done in a walk-in refrigerator.

Walk-in fridges can be prohibitively expensive, especially for small businesses. These limitations can make it difficult to become a farmer florist.

A walk-in is essential in the hot summer heat. Flowers begin to wilt immediately after they are cut, and this process speeds up the hotter they get. Being able to control the temperature at which you store your flowers is essential.

Making your own walk-in

A walk-in allows you to store large amounts of cut flowers for longer. Traditional walk-ins are expensive to buy and expensive to repair! A broken walk-in fridge could ruin a whole crop of flowers. 

A Coolbot allows you to have the same level of protection for your crop, without all the hassle. A broken A/C can easily be replaced with a quick trip to the hardware store, for far less money than hiring a professional repair technician.

Ethylene

Ethylene is a gas produced by flowers and fruits. It is a plant hormone that signals to other plants that it is time to ripen! This can cause flowers to decay quickly. When storing flowers, keeping them cool and well ventilated will slow the buildup of ethylene, keeping them fresh.

Keep your crop fresh

It is essential to any florist to keep your flowers fresh! There are many steps you can take to extend the life of your flowers. Refrigeration is an important part of this process and a Coolbot is a cost-effective way to make that possible!

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