spring bulb flowersSpring Bulb Flowers February 2010

Tips for getting the longest life from the favorite flowers of the season.

like others, except ...
For the most part, handle and care for cut bulb flowers in the same ways as nonbulb flowers; some genera, however, do have specific requirements. For example, when processing Narcissi (daffodils, jonquils, paper-whites, etc.), follow the procedures on this page, but keep these blooms separate from other types of bulb flowers for several hours because, when cut, they exude a gelatinous substance that is detrimental to the vase life of some other spring bulb flowers, especially tulips. After that time, the harmful sap will have leached, and the flowers can be arranged or placed with other blossoms, even if recut again, without affecting the lives of the other flowers.

strip and bathe.
Remove any leaves that would fall below the water line in containers. Then thoroughly rinse the stems—especially of field-grown flowers—under tepid (100 F) running water to remove debris.

ready to drink.
Remove at least 1 inch from all stem ends—except hyacinths (don’t recut hyacinth stems) —either under water or in air, with a sharp knife or pruner, to remove desiccated (dried out) ends and accumulated dirt, debris and microbes in the stem cells. If cutting flowers under water, change the water (or flower-food solution) frequently to prevent it from being contaminated with bacteria.

food and hormones.
For best results, place cut bulb flowers into a nutrient solution formulated especially for bulb flowers. When they are cut from their bulbs, corms, rhizomes or tubers, these flowers experience hormone imbalances, and bulb-flower-specific flower-food solutions contain—in addition to all the ingredients in standard flower-food solutions—“replacement” hormones. They also have a lower concentration of sugar, which can aggravate leaf yellowing.

second best.
If using a bulb-flower-specific solution is not possible, place flowers into a standard flower-food solution (a scientifically balanced formulation of nutrient [sugar], acidifier and bactericide). Although research shows that some spring bulb flowers, including Irises, daffodils and tulips, may not benefit greatly from the nutrients in standard flower-food solutions, they do benefit from the bactericides, which limit the growth of harmful stem-plugging microbes; therefore, you should always use flower foods.

cool and clear.
You can achieve best results by placing cut bulb flowers into cold flower-food solution prepared with nonfluoridated water. Prepare the solution with cold water, or make it with warm water and refrigerate it prior to use. Cold nutrient solutions help prevent bulb blooms from opening too quickly.

coolness is critical.
After processing cut bulb flowers, place them immediately into a floral cooler, and allow them to hydrate there for at least two hours before selling or arranging them. The optimal storage temperature range for most cut bulb flowers is 33 F to 35 F; however paper-whites (Narcissi) and hyacinths prefer 36 F to 41 F storage conditions, and amaryllises (Hippeastrums) require temperatures ranging from 41 F to 50 F. Except for design time, always keep cut bulb flowers refrigerated until sold or delivered.

straighten up.
Storing tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and Irises vertically will encourage straight stems. Tulips are phototropic and geotropic, meaning they respond to light and the forces of gravity, so storing them in their plastic sleeves also can help prevent their stems from curving.

beating ethyl.
Many bulb flowers are sensitive to ethylene gas; tulips  and hyacinths are about the only exceptions. Make sure the bulb flowers you purchase are treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower or wholesaler level or at the point of importation. The grower level is often the most ideal.

move quickly.
Sell all cut spring bulb flowers within two days of receipt. Flowers held for more than two days lose vase life more rapidly at the consumer level.

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