feature story

are your processing methods              helping or harming
           your flowers?

Are your processing methods helping or harming your flowers? Find out why simple steps make a big difference, and post our handy checklist in your workroom.

by Amy Bauer

Few things are as important to the success of your business as the care and handling of the cut flowers you sell. Giving time and attention to this aspect of your operations will pay off manyfold in the longer vase life of your flowers and the increased confidence of consumers who will return to purchase again and again.

the basics—why care?
Just as you wouldn’t want to eat at a restaurant where the chef pays no attention to proper food temperatures, cleaning procedures or recipe steps, floral consumers are cheated of the full value of their purchases when proper protocols aren’t followed. For example, vase life increases an average of three to five days when flower food is used versus plain water, reports Carol Schram, marketing manager for Floralife, Inc. For some flowers, vase life can double. Failure to recut flower stems (either in air or under water) to remove dirty and clogged stem ends, reduces potential vase life by 40 percent to 60 percent, according to the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) Flower & Plant Care manual.

the routine—steps to take
Care and handling should be an important part of employee training, and hands-on demonstrations make the best lessons. Don Swenson, vice president of products and procurement for Minneapolis, Minn.-based retailer Bachman’s, says several times a year the company compares proper care steps to no care steps in identical flower bunches from a single shipment to show employees the value of care and handling. The state of the bunches is recorded, and photographs and meetings at which the bunches are displayed demonstrate the results. “It’s so dramatic that people buy in,” Mr. Swenson explains. Tools such as posted checklists help ensure proper steps are followed consistently (see below for a downloadable pdf). Assigning tasks, such as cleaning buckets or checking cooler temperatures, to specific employees also ensures accountability.

  care and handling tips

• Use white buckets, which make dirt easier to spot, and don’t trade them back and forth with suppliers.

• Measure flower-food solutions accurately; don’t guesstimate. Mark buckets or measuring devices to ensure accuracy.

• Post procedural lists of do’s and don’ts in your shop. Include whom to contact if problems are found during routine checks, such as incorrect cooler temperatures, dosing machine problems, etc.

• Assign tasks (cleaning, checking the cooler temperature, etc.) to specific employees to ensure accountability. Take a page from retailers who post similar checklists in their public restrooms and require employees to sign off when tasks are completed.

• Share seasonal care and handling information with employees, such as bulb flower processing routines in the spring.

• Include flower-food packets with every cut flower order and sale, and explain to customers that using them correctly will extend flowers’ vase life by days.



some roadblocks—where florists may fail
1 Omitting flower food or incorrectly measuring/mixing it. A recent article from the Chain of Life Network (www.chainoflifenetwork.org) estimates that, based on production figures, only 61 percent of cut flowers sold in the United States today likely are treated with flower food.
Flower foods aren’t effective unless mixed as directed. Too much flower food is not only wasteful but can be harmful to some flowers. Too little food actually can promote faster wilting because bacteria feed on the sugar in the solution and multiply rapidly, but the level of the included bactericide isn’t high enough to kill the bacteria and keep the flower stems clear of microbes. Kay Ruth, corporate officer for Vita Products, Inc., says simple steps, like measuring an exact gallon of water, make a big difference. Accurate levels can be marked on the sides of floral buckets with permanent marker for easy reference, she observes.

2 Neglecting cleaning. Just because a surface appears clean doesn’t mean it’s free of microscopic bacteria and spores of flower-unfriendly fungi like Botrytis, which can linger on cutting tools, work surfaces, floral buckets and containers, and cooler surfaces.
Gay Smith, technical consulting manager for Chrysal USA, says constant vigilance is necessary. For example, rather than simply sweeping off a work surface, spray and wipe it down with a cleaning solution, and don’t forget to dip brooms into a germ-killing solution when cleaning the floors. (See Step 1 on the care and handling checklist, opposite page, for a recommended cleaning schedule.)

3 Not educating customers. Flower-food packets should be included with every arrangement, bouquet or bunch of wrapped flowers. And instructions that may seem obvious to floral professionals are indispensable to customers—such as keeping arrangements away from heat and drafts; mixing their included packets of flower food to proper proportions; and changing the water and recutting flower stems, if possible, every couple of days. Share any instructions in the store, but accompany delivered orders with detailed written directions.

  care and handling steps for cut flowers checklist




Downloadable PDF:
Care and Handling Steps for Cut Flowers checklist

If you have trouble viewing these PDF (portable document format) files, download a copy of the free Adobe Reader.


You may contact Amy Bauer by e-mail at abauer@floristsreview.com or by phone at (800) 367-4708.

Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.
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Topeka, KS   66604

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