A summer delight
for the floral artist.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
Photo courtesy of Flower Council of
1 a brush-off.
Ageratum houstonianum (pronounced a-ge-RAY-tum hew-stone-ee-AH-num) is
most commonly known as floss flower or pussy-foot but is sometimes
called “artist paintbrush” because of the brushlike appearance of its
small blossoms, which grow in clusters. The leaves are “felted,” or
hairy, and they are somewhat heart-shaped, with shallowly toothed or
2 the name game.
The name Ageratum comes from the Greek roots “a” (without) and “geras”
(age), referring to the flowers’ retaining their color for a long time.
The species houstonianum was named after William Houston (1695-1733), an
American physician who collected plants in the Antilles and Mexico.
3 family lines.
Ageratum is a member of the Compositae or Asteraceae family, which has
the largest number of commercially grown plants in the world. Relatives
include Dahlias, Asters, cornflowers, daisies, sunflowers and
chrysanthemums as well as many vegetable crops like lettuce. Ageratums
are indigenous to the Central American countries of Mexico, Belize,
Guatemala and Honduras as well as the West Indies and Southern Florida.
4 a beautiful season.
Ageratums contribute blue-violet, red-violet, violet-blue, lilac, pink
and white to the floral artist’s palette. They are most available from
June through October from both domestic and Dutch growers although some
varieties are available year-round from Holland.
5 exam time.
When shopping for Ageratums, look for full buds that are showing color
and are about one-third open. Make sure the centers are tight. If they
are harvested too early, it will be difficult to open the blossoms.
Avoid bunches that have signs of mold or damaged foliage and flowers.
6 proper care.
Upon arrival in your shop, unpack the bunches and remove any foliage
that would fall below the water line in vases or buckets. Cut the stems
on an angle, and dip or place them into a hydration solution. Next place
the stems into a clean bucket containing a properly prepared cut flower
food solution that is several inches deep.
7 cold storage is OK.
Keep Ageratums in a brightly lit, warm area where they can open and
develop for at least two hours. These flowers can be cooled and stored
in a floral refrigerator at 34 F to 38 F. They also will do well in
8 time is on your side.
With good care, Ageratums will last an average of seven to 12 days. Some
varieties will dry well and can be used in permanent and dried
9 freshen the water.
When designing with Ageratums in floral foam, saturate the foam in a
fresh flower food solution to ensure proper hydration for the thirsty
flowers. Provide customers with extra flower food packets, and advise
them to change the water in their arrangements regularly. Caution them
also to display arrangements away from heat sources and direct sunlight
to maximize vase life.
10 the doctor is in.
Ageratums are utilized in traditional medicine by various cultures
worldwide. Extracts are used to treat pneumonia and to cure wounds and
burns. Ageratums also are used to kill bacteria, to prevent dysentery
and to prevent the formation of gall or kidney stones.
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 27 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry. Contact him at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 239-3140.
Some information provided by the California Cut Flower Commission and
Repetto Nursery, Half Moon Bay, Calif.
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