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Fresh Cut Flower Preservative Packets
What’s up with that little cellophane packet of powder that comes with the flowers?
It contains a floral preservative that is a food, hydration agent and antibacterial treatment. If used correctly, flower preservers will greatly extend the vase life of your fresh cut flowers.
Food: Foods that provide preservatives are sugars. Plants produce sugar through photosynthesis from water, carbon dioxide and sunlight. When a flower is cut from the plant, photosynthesis is no longer an option for sugar production. Sugar is necessary for the flower bud to continue developing into a flower. With this sugar, flowers will perform better in terms of size, color and vase life.
Hydration: Although cut flowers do not photosynthesize, they will be translucent. That is, water is still taken up by the stems and released into the air through the stomata. A turgid flower is a hydrated flower. A wilted flower is one where the cells are completely devoid of water. The outer ring of the flower stalk, just below the bark, is made up of small tubes or vessels. This group of vessels or vasculature is responsible for transporting water from the roots, or in this case the vase, to the leaves and flowers. Water clings to itself and is generally drawn up the stem by continuous evaporation of water through pores in the flowers and leaves. However, when the flower is dehydrated after harvest and through the normal process of shipping, the chemistry needs a jumpstart. When the pH of the solution is more acidic, the molecules are more hydrophilic… or they stick together more. So, a good preservative includes an agent to lower the pH of the solution, which promotes hydration. It is usually a mild acid such as citric acid.
Control bacteria: Water in a vase or container can quickly turn into a bacteria soup. All it takes is a few stray pieces of plant tissue and some dormant bacteria. Add some sugar from the preservatives and you’ve got the recipe for cloudy, smelly water. The problem is not just aesthetic. Bacteria in the water will form plugs in the flower stems and prevent water from flowing through the flower stems. A good floral preservative contains an antibacterial agent to prevent all of this from happening.
Here’s an ugly secret about these packets. Most packets are 5 gram packets that make one pint of solution. Most average vases contain at least one quart of water. If you don’t follow the instructions for mixing the vase solution and make a solution that is too weak, you will be providing enough sugar for the bacteria to grow but not enough antibacterial to stop the growth. This is a situation where clean water with no preservatives would be better than an improperly mixed solution. As soon as you notice that the water in your vase is starting to become cloudy, it’s time to throw out the water, rinse the stems, cut them clean and put them back in the cleaned vase with fresh water. This will only double the life of your flowers.
Unfortunately, some flower distributors believe that the customer’s initial perception is all that matters. They believe that the most important factor when choosing a protective packet for delivery with their flowers is price. They will not spend an extra three to five cents to provide a 10 gram packet. Instead, they believe that consumers will be satisfied with any packet because they don’t know any better. That short-sighted approach means that the overall consumer perception of flowers is that they don’t last as long as they should, and the water quickly becomes dirty and smelly. In the long run, these consumers may turn to alternative gift ideas other than flowers, and this hurts the flower industry as a whole.
As a consumer, you must insist on proper protection. It’s worth the investment if you need to buy an extra packet or two when buying your flowers. You can double the life of your flowers!
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