New and improved varieties make America’s favorite accent flower even more popular.
little flowers mean a lot Gypsophila, pronounced “jip-SOF-i-la” and commonly known as baby’s breath, features clusters of tiny single, double or semidouble florets on multibranched stems. With their airy, cloudlike appearance, these flowers are a favorite of consumers and are the No. 1 accent (filler) flowers in the U.S. floral industry.
cuts two ways
Two species of Gypsophila are cultivated as cut flowers: the annual G. elegans and the perennial G. paniculata, which is the species most widely grown as a cut flower.
news about hues
Most varieties of Gypsophila cultivated as cut flowers are white; however, some pale pink and rose-colored varieties are available. Some white varieties can turn pink if temperatures fall below 50 F for an extended period during growing. These flowers also can be stem dyed, dip dyed or spray dyed, to increase the color choices.
knows no seasons Gypsophila is available year-round from both domestic and international growers. It is most often grown as a field crop, but in some areas, it is grown in greenhouses.
buy the way
For maximum vase life, purchase Gypsophila when about one-third to one-half of the florets are open. Check bunches for brown, shriveled and dried-out blooms as well as signs of wilt/water stress.
caring for baby
Unpack Gypsophila immediately upon its arrival in your store, and check flower quality (see “Buy the Way,” bottom of the first column). Remove stem bindings and any leaves on the lower portions of the stems, then rinse the lower stems under tepid running water.
Recut stem ends with a sharp blade, removing at least 1 inch of stem, and immediately dip or place them into a hydration solution, to help the flowers take up water more quickly and easily (Gypsophila is easily water stressed). Then place stems into sterilized containers with 3 or 4 inches of properly proportioned flower-food solution.
change is good
Bacterial contamination of the vase solution, which plugs stem ends, occurs rapidly with these flowers, so change the flower-food solution and wash the containers every other day. To help slow this contamination, place Gypsophila stems into a bleach solution (about 20 drops, or 1⁄4 teaspoon, per quart of water) for several minutes between the hydration solution treatment and the flower-food solution.
Refrigerate the flowers at 33 F to 36 F and 90 percent relative humidity, and allow them to take up water for at least two hours before designing with or selling them.
A note of caution: Gypsophila can easily contract Botrytis (gray mold), a fungal disease, during cold storage if the blooms are wet and/or if the humidity level in the cooler is too high. Never store containers of Gypsophila in plastic bags or cover bunches for extended periods of time.
deadly gas Gypsophila is extremely sensitive to ethylene and will display symptoms of wilt when exposed to the gas. Check with your suppliers to ensure an ethylene inhibitor is administered at the farm or during shipping. Keep these flowers away from fruits and vegetables, automobile exhaust, cigarette smoke and other sources of ethylene.
facts of life
With proper care and handling, these flowers can last from five to 10 days, depending on variety. A common problem is that they are prone to drying out quickly.
To enhance the opening of the tiny blooms, rapidly “shake” the stems of the bunches up and down in a container of warm flower-food solution. Buds will pop open like miniature popcorn.
Some cut flower scientists say that adding one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of flower-food solution also can promote bloom opening.
tangled mess Gypsophila stems become entwined easily and can be damaged if not separated carefully. To untangle stems, hold them upside down, and gently shake them up and down to loosen and separate.
family tree Gypsophila is a member of the Caryophyllaceae family. Close cut- flower relatives include Dianthus (carnations, spray carnations, sweet Williams) and Saponaria (soapwort).
home sweet home Gypsophila is indigenous to the region from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, particularly eastern Turkey and northern Iran.
what’s in a name
The genus name Gypsophila is from the Greek gypsos (gypsum) and philos (loving), in reference to this flower’s preference for soils high in calcium (lime). The species name paniculata refers to the blooms occurring in panicles (branching clusters).
cut and dried Gypsophila can be air dried by placing it upright in an empty vase or hanging it upside down in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated environment. These flowers also can be preserved in a glycerin/water mixture (one part glycerine to two parts water).
on the safe side
Saponins in these plants’ roots are frequently used in expectorants and spermicides; however, those substances can cause asthmatic or dermatological reactions in some people, so be careful when handling Gypsophila. Use latex gloves, if needed.