yourself and your staff with these tips for handling seasonal greens,
and give your customers the longest-lasting arrangements in town.
firs, spruces, junipers, cedars, cypresses, etc.
Branches of coniferous evergreens should be firm, moist and
full of green needles. Signs of drying out include browning, yellowing,
shedding needles and fading color.
Immediately open boxes when evergreens arrive, and loosen or
fluff the bunches so air can circulate between branches. If evergreens
are dry, mist them with water. Place the bunches or branches loosely
back into the boxes, and get them into a cooler immediately. Allow the
boxes to sit in the cooler with the plastic lining open until the
branches are as cold as possible, to avoid condensation and rot, and
then close the boxes.
Store coniferous evergreens in moisture-retaining boxes or
bags in a floral refrigerator at 33 F to 35 F with a minimum of 85
Conifers can be stored outside if temperatures stay below 40
F, but they should not be stored at temperatures lower than 30 F. Store
boxes in a spot sheltered from wind and direct sun, and keep them on
pallets to increase air circulation. Sprinkle evergreens with water if
it’s above freezing.
Storage in a cool room is an option if the temperature is
below 50 F and you aim for quick turnover. Use a humidifier to increase
the humidity. Keep evergreens damp and boxed or bagged.
Condition evergreens for at least two hours before using them
in designs. Give stems a fresh cut (don’t mash or split them), and place
them into a hydration solution. Flower foods won’t hurt evergreens, but
they provide no benefit aside from preventing bacterial contamination of
Greening containers with coniferous evergreens should be done
less than a week in advance to maximize vase life in consumers’ homes
and offices. Place greened containers or arrangements into the cooler,
and add fresh flower-food solution daily.
After designing with evergreens, spray them with an
antitranspirant to minimize moisture loss. Do not use antitranspirants
on juniper berries, silver fir or blue spruce; doing so can change their
Depending on the genus and the care they receive, coniferous
evergreens can last as long as two weeks in arrangements.
Conifers usually are not affected by ethylene gas, so no
pretreatment is required. And contrary to widely held beliefs, most
coniferous evergreens do not produce ethylene—unless they are infected
Although not a conifer, holly (Ilex) is an evergreen and, as such, has
similar care requirements, but there are also a few special care needs.
Upon arrival, open boxes and loosen branches for proper
ventilation. Repack the branches in moisture-retaining boxes or bags,
and place them into a cooler. Do not mist holly; the moisture can cause
spotting or molding.
The ideal temperature range for storing holly is 33 F to 35
F. You can store holly up to three weeks if it is held at 32 F or 33 F,
but never expose this foliage to temperatures lower than 32 F.
Condition holly for at least two hours before using it in
designs. Give stems a fresh cut (don’t mash or split them), and place
them into a hydration solution. Flower foods won’t hurt holly, but they
provide no benefit aside from preventing bacterial contamination of the
Do not green arrangements in advance with holly because it
will not last well. Holly should be kept in a hydration or low-dose
flower-food solution and added to arrangements just before sale.
The vase life of holly varies from five to 14 days, depending
on the care it receives and the presence of berries. Holly without
berries lasts longer.
Because many species of holly are extremely sensitive
to ethylene, this foliage requires treatment with an anti-ethylene agent
before use to reduce berry and leaf drop. This is usually done at the
grower or wholesaler levels or during transportation from the farm, so
check with your suppliers to see whether treatment has been
Members of the Buxus genus, boxwood (or box) and variegated boxwood
(commonly known in the florist trade as oregonia), are broadleaf
evergreens that require special care as well. Rather than storing these
foliages dry in boxes, recut the ends of the stems with a sharp knife or
pruners, place them into buckets containing a low-dose nutrient solution
and store them in a cooler at 36 F to 41 F. Boxwood’s and oregonia’s
vase lives can be as long as 14 days, depending on the care they
receive. These foliages are moderately sensitive to ethylene, so
pretreatment with an anti-ethylene product may be prudent. Again, this
is usually done at the grower or wholesaler levels or during
transportation from the farm, so check with your suppliers to see if
treatment has been administered.
The care and handling requirements for holly also apply to mistletoe (Phoradendron),
which grows parasitically on various trees. Although mistletoe is
typically sold to retailers in consumer packs, if you buy it in bulk, be
sure to follow the same procedures. Mistletoe berries can be toxic. Be
sure to send a note regarding berry toxicity with every design that
Sources: SAF’s Flower & Plant Care manual; Chain of Life Network®,
www.chainoflife.org; Home and
Garden Information Center of the Clemson University Cooperative
Some images courtesy of The Hiawatha Corporation, Shelton, Wash.;
A common yet incorrect belief is that coniferous evergreens
emit high levels of ethylene and, therefore, should not be
stored in the same cooler as fresh flowers. The truth is that
conifers do not produce enough ethylene to affect flowers and
other materials stored in coolers with them—with the exceptions
of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga) and redwood (Sequoia). And only a
few leafy evergreens, particularly holly (Ilex), are sensitive
This applies to healthy evergreens only, however; the
presence of fungus can cause higher levels of ethylene to be
produced. To reduce the incidence of fungus, keep storage areas
clean, and follow proper air flow, hydration and temperature
popular holiday evergreens
For help identifying some of the most common holiday greenery, here’s a
to download the Glossary as a pdf.