spring bulb flowers
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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