These tiny flowers with aromatic foliage are delightful filler
flowers for spring arrangements.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
aka Confetti bush
1 PROPER NAMES. Native to South
Africa, breath-of-heaven is botanically known as Coleonema (pronounced “ko-lee-o-NEE-ma”).
Coleonemas are often incorrectly referred to as Diosma, which is a
similar but different genus. Another appropriate common name for these
tiny flowers is confetti bush.
2 GIVE US A DESCRIPTION. Coleonemas
are small heathlike shrubs with aromatic, short, needlelike leaves on
wiry twigs. They produce tiny, starry flowers (thus the name “confetti
bush”) in white, pink and even red. The leaves give off a spicy, sweet,
citrus scent when crushed (“breath-of-heaven”).
3 THE FAMILY UNIT. Like its
look-alike cousin Diosma, Coleonema is a member of the Rutaceae family.
Close relatives include Boronia, Skimmia and Citrus (lime, lemon,
orange, tangerine and grapefruit).
4 GREEK TO ME. The name Coleonema is
derived from the Greek words “koleos,” meaning “sheath,” and “nema,”
meaning “thread” and referring to the filaments of the stamens, which
are folded into the flower petals.
5 DIVIDE BY FOUR. Purchase Coleonema
when about one quarter of the blossoms are open. Stay away from bunches
with tight buds; they could have been harvested too early and might not
open fully. Branches should be pliable. In addition, avoid bunches that
show any signs of browning or rotted foliage.
6 TO CARE IS GOOD. To care for cut
Coleonemas, unwrap the bunches immediately upon arrival. Remove all
bindings as well as any foliage that will fall below the water line. Cut
at least 1 inch from the bottom of the woody stems with a sharp knife or
Next, dip or place the stems into a hydration solution, then into a
warm, properly proportioned flower food solution. Finally, place them
into a floral refrigerator at 33 F to 36 F, and allow them to hydrate
for at least two hours before designing with or selling them.
7 DON'T GET GASSED. Coleonemas show
signs of ethylene sensitivity, so check with your supplier to make sure
these flowers have been treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower
or wholesaler level or during transportation. In addition, be sure to
place the flowers into clean buckets, keep your refrigerator clean and
avoid placing the flowers near fresh fruits, vegetables and other
sources of ethylene.
8 LONG-LASTING BEAUTIES. Coleonemas
will last for five to seven days when properly cared for. These thirsty
flowers do best when arranged in vases with large capacities that are
kept filled with flower food solution.
9 COOL-SEASON BLOSSOMS. Coleonemas
are usually available from December through March although sometimes as
late as May. Much of the U.S. supply is domestically grown, primarily in
10 FRESH DESIGN IDEAS. Coleo-nemas
are excellent filler flowers and a great alternative to baby’s breath,
waxflowers, heather and other more common flowers. They combine
beautifully with roses, and with their availability during February,
they can add a distinctive look to your Valentine’s Day designs.
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 26 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.
PO Box 4368
Topeka, KS 66604
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