feature story

Proper use of these important products can double vase life.

by Terril A. Nell, PH.D, AAF; Ria T. Leonard; and Andrew J. Macnish, PH.D

A growing number of commercial flower care solutions are being marketed under the banner that they extend flower life, keep leaves green, increase flower opening and/or prevent damage from ethylene. In most cases, extensive research into the development and testing of these products is completed to ensure that these solutions are effective.

The type and purpose of each solution and who should administer these treatments, however, is not always clear. Due to this confusion and frustration, some people in the floral industry still choose not to use floral care treatments. Here we provide a simple guide for unraveling the mystery of the so-called flower care solutions.

what are flower care solutions?
Flower care solutions are products designed to extend flower life and improve flower quality. There are four basic types of flower care solutions:
• Hydration solutions
• Flower foods
• Anti-ethylene treatments
• Specialized care solutions

Each solution type has a specific role in improving flower quality and longevity. However, they all are often referred to as flower foods, thus leading to confusion about their proper use. Below we briefly describe the basic characteristics and effects of each type of the flower care solutions to help clarify their intended use.

hydration solutions
These solutions are used primarily by growers, wholesalers and bouquet-makers to assure that flowers contain high levels of water prior to shipping to retail customers and consumers. They contain biocides to control microbial activity in the solution and stem, a buffer to lower the solution pH and a wetting agent to accelerate water uptake. In many instances, wholesale florists use hydration solutions as part of a two-step program—hydration solution for one to two hours followed by a flower food until the flowers are sold because hydration solutions do not contain any nutrients (sugar).

flower foods
Flower food solutions were developed to help retailers and consumers increase the vase life and opening of their flowers. These products contain all the essential ingredients of hydration solutions with the addition of sugar. The presence of sugar, however, increases microbial growth in solutions, even if the solution contains a biocide. Accordingly, it is critical that flowers are placed into clean, sanitized containers containing freshly made flower food solutions. Most flower food manufacturers have two products with sugar: a holding solution (or low-dose flower food) and a full-dose flower food for retailers and consumers.

It is critical to provide flower food packets to consumers when they make their purchases. This should become a standard for all retailers, both traditional and mass-market florists. Vase life can double, and quality will be maintained longer when flower foods are used by consumers (see chart, above right).

anti-ethylene treatments
Ethylene is a plant hormone that reduces the vase life of many cut flowers. At present, the industry has two options to control ethylene damage to fresh-cut flowers. The first option is to use silver-containing solutions (e.g., silver thiosulfate [STS]). Silver ions are taken up by stems and block subsequent ethylene responses. The second option is to use 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) gas. Typically, 1-MCP is released from a powder upon wetting. The gas permeates through all stem and flower tissues to inhibit the damaging effects of ethylene.

Both of these solutions should be used by growers to ensure that flowers are protected immediately after harvest. In some cases, flowers are treated with silver thiosulfate by the growers and with 1-MCP by the importers or bouquet-makers on the transport trucks.

specialized care solutions
These products are the new generation of flower care solutions and have been developed to complement existing hydration, flower food and anti-ethylene materials.

• Anti-leaf-yellowing products. Lilies and Alstroemerias are prone to developing premature leaf yellowing. Specialized anti-leaf-yellowing products are now available from several companies for use by growers, wholesalers and bouquet-makers. Packets of this product also are available for consumer use. The products are a mixture of naturally occurring plant hormones (or plant growth regulators—PRGs) that effectively eliminate leaf yellowing in lilies and Alstroemerias. Every retail buyer should make sure that his or her growers, wholesalers and bouquet-makers use these products.

• Anti-microbial products. Some flowers such as Gerberas have a reputation for contaminating hydration and vase solutions. Sanitizing agents such as quaternary ammonia and chlorine have long been recognized as effective in reducing the build-up of microbes in solutions. We have shown that a number of chlorine products, other than bleach, can reduce the accumulation of microbes in Gerbera solutions. For example, slow-release chlorine products are now available and are used by growers to successfully extend Gerbera vase life.

• Bulb flower foods. These products are intended for the final arrangements or bouquets containing cut bulb flowers (tulips, Freesias, Irises, etc.). They are specially formulated for bulbs to extend flower life and maintain quality of all cut bulb flowers and are intended to be used by retailers and consumers.

conclusive evidence
Flower care solutions are effective when mixed and used properly. They also are cost effective measures to ensure against premature loss of vase life and quality. We have seen consistent increases in flower life, reductions in bent neck of roses, maintenance of leaf color, and prevention of leaf and flower drop with flower care products. Adopt an integrated approach whereby each type of solution is used at the right time, in the right sequence, for the right crop and for control of a specific problem. Always follow product label directions, and, if in doubt, seek advice from the manufacturer. Lastly, provide flower food to the consumer—don’t ignore this crucial step; future sales and repeat customers will depend on it. n

Terril A. Nell, Ph.D., AAF, University of Florida-Gainesville, co-authored the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) Flower & Plant Care manual and has presented numerous talks around the world on care and handling of fresh cut flowers.

Ria T. Leonard, research associate at the University of Florida, has written numerous papers and participated in international conferences on fresh cut flower care and handling.

Andrew Macnish, Ph.D., a post-doc in the postharvest program at the University of Florida, specializes in methods to increase cut flower longevity.

Funding from the American Floral Endowment (AFE) has allowed them to conduct this important research.


Care solutions each have been listed here once, in the category that represents their main use. Please contact the manufacturers for additional product information. This list was compiled for informational purposes for Florists’ Review readers and does not constitute an endorsement by Florists’ Review of any of the products listed here.

* = Available in consumer sachets

Ethylene inhibitors
• Chrysal AVB, by Pokon & Chrysal USA (liquid)
• Ethylene Control Power Pellet sachets by Ethylene Control, Inc. (sachets)
• Floralife® EthylBloc® by Floralife®
• Rogard STS/RTU, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)
• Silgard RS, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)
• Silgard SAS, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)
• Silgard Silver Booster, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)

Anti-Premature-leaf-yellowing pretreatments
• Chrysal BVB (for Irises, Alstroemerias and lilies), by Pokon & Chrysal USA (liquid)
• Chrysal BVBplus (for tulips), by Pokon & Chrysal USA (liquid)
• Chrysal Lily/Alstroemeria T-Bag (for bulb flowers), by Pokon & Chrysal USA (powder sachets)
• Chrysal SVB (for Alstroemerias and lilies), by Pokon & Chrysal USA (tablet)
• Floralife® PAL (Pretreatment for Alstroemerias and lilies), by Floralife® (tablets)

Anti-stem-plugging pretreatments
• Chrysal CVBN (for Gerberas, roses and other cut flowers), by Pokon & Chrysal USA (tablets)
• Floralife® PRG (Pretreatment for roses and Gerberas), by Floralife® (tablets)

Hydration solutions
• Chrysal FVB (for Gypsophila), by Pokon & Chrysal USA (liquid)
• Chrysal OVB (for non-ethylene-sensitive flowers), by Pokon & Chrysal USA (liquid)
• Chrysal Professional #1 Hydrating Solution, by Pokon & Chrysal USA (liquid)
• Chrysal RVB (for roses, Gerberas and Chrysanthemums), by Pokon & Chrysal USA (liquid)
• Floralife® Quick Dip®, by Floralife® (liquid)
• Floralife® Hydraflor®/100, by Floralife® (liquid)
• Hydra-Boost, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)
• Hydraplus® by Syndicate Sales, Inc. (liquid)
• HydraQuik® by Syndicate Sales, Inc. (liquid)
• Vita Hydra 2000 Hydrating-Conditioning Solution, by Vita Products, Inc. (liquid)
• Zip Sip, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)

One-step Hydrating/feeding solutions
• FM Bud Magic, by The John Henry Company (liquid)
• Vita One-Step Hydra & Nutra Solution, by Vita Products, Inc. (liquid)

Low-dose foods (Holding solutions)
For Storage, shipping and display
• AquaHold® Clear, by Syndicate Sales, Inc. (liquid)
• AquaHold® Pro, by Syndicate Sales, Inc. (liquid)
• Chrysal Professional #2 Processing Solution, by Pokon & Chrysal USA (liquid)
• Chrysal Clear Professional #2 T-Bag Processing Solution, by Pokon & Chrysal USA (powder sachets)
• Floralife® Clear Professional Fresh Flower Food, by Floralife® (liquid)
• Floralife® eZ Dose™ Clear Fresh Flower Food, by Floralife® (powder packets)
• Floralife® Professional Fresh Flower Food, by Floralife® (liquid)
• Prolenium, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)
• T-Gard, by Gard/Rogard (powder sachets)

Full-dose foods
For Retail, Vase and foam-Soaking
• Aquaplus®, by Syndicate Sales, Inc. (liquid and powder)*
• Chrysal Clear and Chrysal Clear Elite Fresh Flower Food Sachets, by Pokon & Chrysal USA (powder consumer sachets)*
• Chrysal Professional #3 Vase Solution, by Pokon & Chrysal USA (liquid and powder)
• Floral Accents Flower Preservative (also tints water), by JRM Chemical, Inc. (tablets)
• Floralife® Original Fresh Flower Food, by Floralife® (liquid and bulk powder)*
• Floralife® Crystal Clear® Flower Food, by Floralife® (liquid and bulk powder)*
• Floralife® Floroma® Scented, Clear Cut Flower Food, by Floralife® (powder packets)*
• Floralife® Special Blend Pure Water Fresh Flower Food, by Floralife® (bulk powder)
• Floralife® Special Blend Hard Water Fresh Flower Food, by Floralife® (bulk powder)
• FloraGard Crystals, by Gard/Rogard (powder)*
• FM Regular, by The John Henry Company (liquid)
• Oasis® Clear Solution Nutrient and Clarifier, by Smithers-Oasis (liquid and powder)*
• Original Gold, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)
• Spring® Clear Flower Food, by The John Henry Company (powder)*
• Super Clear, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)
• Vita Flora 2000 Nutrient Solution, by Vita Products, Inc.

Flower-specific foods (Bulbs and roses)
• Aquaplus® Bulb Flower Nutrient & Water Clarifier, by Syndicate Sales, Inc. (powder)*
• Bulb-Gard, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)
• Chrysal Clear Professional Bulb T-Bags, by Pokon & Chrysal USA (powder sachets)
• Chrysal Clear Bulb Flower Food Sachets, by Pokon & Chrysal USA (powder consumer sachets)*
• Chrysal Clear Rose Food Sachet (powder consumer sachets)*
• Floralife® Bulb Food, by Floralife® (powder)*
• FM Super (for roses), by The John Henry Company (liquid)
• Rose Booster, by Gard/Rogard (liquid)

* = Available in consumer sachets

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