Apparently, the number 1 question FloraLife® get asked is 'why should I use flower food?', usually followed by the observation "After all, my flowers are good, they don't hang around the shop for more than a couple of days so why do I need to spend money buying them food!!!"
And the quick answer is because the flowers will last even longer and your customers will be even happier if you do.
Trouble is that just sounds like an advert for FloraLife®. Which in some ways it is because obviously they would prefer it if you bought their flower food. But they're also on a bit of a mission to dispel the myths that stop florists from using flower food as well.
Because they reckon no florist, however quickly they turn their stock or how good they believe their flowers are, can ignore the right way to care for flowers ... unless they want to throw money away!
So we decided it was time to dig through the archives of The Florist and with the help of FloraLife® bring you a definitive guide to looking after your flowers and prove why old wives tales are old for a reason!
Why use flower food?
Flower food is a necessity not a luxury. As soon as flowers are cut they no longer have access to water, food and growth regulators and are beginning to die. Flower food; be it at the grower when they are first cut, in the shop or at home ensures they continue to receive food and regulators, stimulates water uptake and reduces the pH of the water.
All this generates an improvement in the development of stems, leaves, petals, size, colour and scent. It extends the vase life of flowers by more than 60% compared to water alone and means you can guarantee your customers a vase life of around 7 days and far longer with some varieties.
We've covered the old wives tales at the bottom but on the basis they aren't the answer what should you be doing.
"Used properly flower food extends vase life by over 60% compared to water alone. That means you can guarantee customers 7 days satisfaction and far longer with some varieties."
Scrubbing buckets is a very unappealing job but has to be done to avoid the spread of bacteria – bleach is OK as long as you rinse it. Using the FloraLife® Cleaner, formulated for to clean your buckets, is far safer.
Avoid using metal pots since the ions in the metal reacts with flower food and nullifies the benefits. If you use metal buckets, drop a smaller plastic one inside and use that for the water – you keep the funky look but the flowers will last as well.
Be gentle when putting your flowers into vases – dropping them in from a great height simply bruises the stems, making it difficult or impossible for them to receive the water and nutrients they need.
"For the majority of flowers, the best pH level if water is 3.5 to 4.0. However do not use water from a water softener for flowers as the salt content can be detrimental to them."
Check the Water
You're in a shop not a lab so it's impossible to keep water at absolutely perfect temperatures and pH levels. But there are things you can do to help. Check your water with a pH tester to see how acidic or alkaline your water is.
For the majority of flowers, the best pH level is 3.5 to 4.0. Using flower food will ensure your water is at its optimal pH level. Water hardness can have an effect on the quality of your flowers – natural well water can have high calcium levels due to limestone deposits, which can harm flowers. Do not use water from a water softener for flowers as the salt content can be detrimental to them.
While water temperature levels do differ for each variety, the optimum is cold – up to 10°c - because it enables the flowers to take up water more easily, develop less bacteria, speeds up the cooling down process which slows down development of flowers, making them last longer. However tropical flowers are an exception to this and they should ideally they should be stored at about 18°c.
It is a common myth that hot water can hydrate roses and increase their shelf-life. WRONG. Hot water is far too aggressive for flower stems and it damages their cells causing discolouration. Proper use of a hydration solution specially made for flowers is far better.
"It’s a myth that straight cut stems will seal up; it’s more about the cleanliness of the cut. Think Holby City/Casualty - your workroom should be as clean as an operating theatre!"
Cut Stems properly
Always cut at least 3-5cm off all stems with a clean sharp knife or very sharp scissors. Research has shown that if more than 50% of the vessels which take in water at the bottom of the stem have been blocked then the flower will become limp due to insufficient water intake. Cutting this much from the end ensures most of these blocked vessels are removed.
However it's a myth that cutting stems on the straight means they will seal up when sitting on the bottom of the bucket; it's more about the cleanliness of the cut not the angle. So whether you cut at an angle or on the straight is a personal preference but - and it's a big but - if your knives or scissors are dirty or blunt that can have a huge impact so make sure you keep them as clean as the buckets. Think Holby City/Casualty – ideally your workroom should be as clean as an operating theatre!
Use secateurs to cut woody stems – NEVER hammer them. Be careful not to smash or pierce the stems, or use blunt scissors, as this destroys the stem structure and inhibits water uptake, and causes bacteria to multiply more quickly and over a larger area. It also causes the flower undue stress, which shortens its life.
Stems will develop a film and become discoloured from stagnating in the water; this blocks water flow to the flower. Recut the stems each time the water is changed to allow water to penetrate.
The key reason for giving your flowers proper tender loving care is protection from all of those nasty infections and bacteria. Tedious as it may be, the harsh reality is no florist can afford to ignore proper care and condition if they want to avoid foul smells, dying stock and wasting money.
The most obvious but often neglected tip is to always clean your vases & cutting tools and change the water in containers regularly, this is absolutely vital in stopping the spread of bacteria.
Always remove leaves which will sit below the water level as decomposing foliage creates a breeding ground for thriving bacteria. You'll also lose less water through evaporation because you have reduced the amount of overall leaf surface area.
Remove rose thorns carefully, without shredding the stem. It may save your poor fingers but those open wounds on the stem make a welcoming entrance for bacteria and air bubbles. It is also best to avoid metal strippers as they unnecessarily damage stem bark and foliage. Best tip is to just snip the point off the thorn.
Edging clear vases with foliage is funky but can be dangerous for anything but short term installations. Use faux foliage, ribbon or cello instead.
Check that there is no condensation on plastic sleeves or petals as you are moving the flowers into a cooler. If there is then allow it to evaporate before cooling.
Always avoid unnecessarily removing foliage, petals, bark, thorns, from the stem! Just like humans, all of these open wounds create an entry point for bacteria. It also triggers the internal production of ethylene in the flower which is that dreaded poison that shortens the life of all flowers!
"Always try to remove flowers from plastic sleeves, wrapping or net cups as soon as possible because it can get too humid for them under all those layers."
Botrytis Cinera, or 'grey mildew' is the name of the fungi infection which causes brown spots in the petals of your roses, gerberas and Lisianthus and shortens their vase life considerably. Once this infection becomes visible the flowers must be thrown away. You can try to hold back the spread of the spores by keeping flowers somewhere with low relative humidity (below 90%) and low temperatures (± 5°C). When buying flowers make sure you keep an eye out for the early signs of this dreaded disease since infection often occurs early on in the chain.
Don't spray flowers or leaves with water either as this can also encourage Botrytis. They'll get all the hydration they need through the stems if you use the right food in your bucket water. However if you get wilt, especially on Hydrangea, make sure you have a bottle of Quick Dip in stock, it is miraculous at bringing flowers back to life
Always try to remove flowers from plastic sleeves, wrapping or net cups as soon as possible because it can get too humid for them under all those layers. If you have a cooler, try to keep the relative humidity level below 90%.
Daffodils and narcissi create a toxic slime which harms others varieties so don't mix them unless they have been stood for 12 hours by themselves or you use the special flower food on the market, Hyacinths however are not affected by Daffodil slime so can be mixed with confidence.
Bear in mind that many binding and mounting materials can reduce the vase life of your flowers including wires used on gerbera, natural fibres such as rope and raffia which may be biologically contaminated and unprotected metal wire which is corrosive when mixed with acidic flower water. To avoid Gerbera droop buy a stronger variety and use the right gerbera food; erect stems guaranteed.
Ethylene is the number one enemy for flowers, it is an odourless and colourless hormone given off by plants which immediately increases the decay of flowers and plants it comes into contact with. It is surprisingly powerful since even the smallest amount can cause your flowers to become discoloured and brown, drop flowers and leaves and die.
Remove all ethylene producing plants from the room that flowers are stored in. Fruit and vegetables are the biggest culprits so make sure you don't keep that banana or apple you brought for lunch in the flower cooler or near the display!
Flowers themselves also give off ethylene gas; especially when they are dead or dying, so always remove old stock immediately. Again, temperature is key since flowers become much less sensitive to ethylene in low temperatures: they can't be warm but you can wrap up!! Orchids and roses are particularly sensitive so be extra vigilant with these.
Keep them cool
Flowers are like humans. Open and active in the day and when it's warm, shut when it's dark and cold so to keep them in peak condition avoid sun, heaters and drafts.
If possible, place flowers in a cooler or cool area overnight before putting them on display so they have plenty of time to hydrate, take up their food and get ready to be sold. It is not time wasted but a key step to making sure flowers last. However tropical flowers like Anthuriums and orchids should be kept warm.
Know your numbers
Bluntly one number does not fit all which is why Floralife® have a number system; Floralife®: 100/200/300 to indicate which food should be used when and where. Not to sell more but because each formula contains a different mix to make sure the flower does the right thing in the right place.
"Dose properly: going below 80% or above 150% of the recommended dosage of Floralife® 200 in the shop can cause bacteria, lack of flower development, bad smells and discolouration."
Floralife® 100: Hydration solution: For growers and used after flowers have been cut and before shipping.
Floralife® 200: Storage solution: For florist shops to keep flowers in a perfect holding pattern whilst they are waiting to be sold.
Floralife® 300: For consumers only as it encourages opening and maintains flowers for the maximum amount of time. Ideally you should give two sachets per delivery as the average vase holds more than 1 ltr of water and underfeeding is as bad as overfeeding and if possible buy the clear versions as non-clear can damage glass vases.
Dose up Properly: Always read the instructions - going below 80% or above 150% of the recommended dosage of Floralife® 200 in the shop can cause serious problems such as growth of bacteria, lack of flower development, bad smells and discolouration. Either invest in one of their special flower food dispensers or use the purpose-mad, pre-measured in-shop level EZDose Floralife® 200 sachets which you just drop into the bucket.
NEVER, EVER use Floralife® 300 in your shop display buckets ... it will over-feed your flowers and they will die sooner. Conversely if you use Floralife® 200 for consumer sales the flowers won't receive the full flower load they need, won't open and blossom as they should and will result in a disappointed customer.
The only time level 300 should be used in-store is if you are sending out flowers in vases or aquapacks that may not be changed or foam based designs.
Still not convinced?
Then why not invest in one of the nifty Floralife® starter kit. An economical way to trial the ultimate in flower care and see for yourself the difference it can make. Each care kit contains the 5 products needed to provide maximum flower life for all your flowers and at just under £20 means you can do your own vase trials instore without spending a fortune.
Happy care and conditioning!
Want to know more?
Hopefully we've covered everything you could possibly want to know – there's a list of FAQ's at the bottom – and we're working on a new site as well. You can find out about each of our products at oasisfloral.co.uk but if there is anything we've missed drop a line to email@example.com and we'll do our best to help.
"Old wives tales may make fun headlines but these myths are all so yesterday and do more harm than good."
Why NOT use home remedies
The press love rehashing all the old wives tales because it makes a fun headline. Truth is these myths are all so yesterday and do more harm than good.
Flower food – whoever makes it - is the scientifically proven method for prolonging the shelf life of flowers in the same way that tooth paste is the scientifically proven way for cleaning your teeth, so why do anything differently?! Saying you must use flower food isn't marketing hype to sell a product ... it genuinely can make a huge difference.
Here we explode some of the most common old wives tales
This is an aggressive product for plant tissues, clothing and human skin. Dosage must be very precise in order not to damage both flowers and leaves. Even if applied properly, its effect is very short-lived, because household chlorine stops working after half a day, while the cut flowers require support during their entire vase life.
Copper only affects the vase water and because the release rate of is very slow it is totally ineffective. In addition UK & US copper coins no longer contain copper but a copper coloured steel alloy so there isn't any to release!
The amount of food supplements in soft drinks is too small to support natural leaf and flower development as it would occur on the plant. Any positive effect of this remedy is because of the sugar content and the pH level. While the citric acid keeps the water "somewhat fresh" and the sugar feeds the flowers, this mixture actually encourages bacterial growth, which harms the flowers.
Sugars are actually a dream come true for micro-organisms who love to feast on it which just guarantees quick contamination in vase water. This remedy is too one sided to be effective for normal leaf and flower development.
Cut flowers and plants, like many people, can only tolerate small concentrations of alcohol, up to eight percent. The solution needs to be diluted and overall is an incredibly pricy and not very effective way to look after flowers ... keep it for yourself!
What is the difference between Floralife® Crystal Clear® Flower Food and Floralife® Flower Food?
Floralife® Flower Food is the original formula which results in an opaque, or milky, use solution versus the more recently developed Floralife® Crystal Clear® Flower Food formula, which yields a clear use solution. As far as effectiveness is concerned, there is no difference. The decision to choose one over the other is purely aesthetic and based upon whether you are using a clear vase for design, solid container, or floral foam.
What are the key ingredients in Floralife® Crystal Clear® Flower Food?
There are three main ingredients: nutritional supplement, pH adjuster, and stem absorption enhancers
How often should I change my buckets and replace with flower food solution?
Buckets should be changed every 4 days or so and cleaned with our special Floralife® D.C.D® Cleaner to reduce the amount of bacteria which is harmful to flowers. Only then should you add the flower food treated water.
Sometimes my Floralife® Crystal Clear® Flower Food concentrate looks a bit yellow. Is it still okay to use?
Yes. The use solution will become clear when the concentrate is diluted according to instructions and filled into the flower vase. Extreme heat sometimes will cause the product to turn yellow, however this is not harmful to the flowers and their development.
Can you use Floralife® Crystal Clear® Flower Food in vases that aren't clear?
No problem. However using metallic containers isn't recommended for any flower foods as overtime it could damage the metal and possibly negatively affect the chemistry of the flower food.
How long is the shelf life of Floralife® Crystal Clear® Flower Food?
All Floralife® flower foods will positively perform for at least 2 years under ambient storage conditions.
Is it okay to use only part of the powder or liquid in the Floralife® Flower Food consumer packet for the first water treatment and save the rest for when I need to change out the water?
No. It is best to dissolve the entire packet of flower food into the properly measured amount of water indicated on the packet. If the packet says it treats 1 litre of water, make sure you add all the contents to this amount of water and mix. Extreme under- or over- dosing of flower food can sometimes actually do more harm than good and reduce flower freshness and flower life.
Why should I invest in buying your dosing system?
As we've said flower food must be used at the proper concentration to get the best benefits. Our dosing units accurately measures, mixes, and dispenses flower food which increases the quality and freshness of flowers on a consistent basis. They don't take up much room, they're easy to maintain and because they're accurate you don't waste anything so you'll probably cover the cost quite quickly.