Conditioning: What do we mean by “conditioning?” The term refers to every step you take in caring for fresh flowers from the time you receive them until the time they’re placed in a design. At the studio, this process extends from the moment we unpack our morning shipment to the moment a customer buys the flowers, either wrapped up or arranged in a vase.
Conditioning is to extend the plant life and assure the best, freshest look for your event.
One of the most common causes of wilting in cut flowers and foliage is the presence of an air-lock in the stem. The air-lock usually forms as the flower is cut, when atmospheric pressure forces air into the water ducts of the stem in which there is normally a partial vacuum. It is virtually impossible to prevent the ends of dry-packed flowers and foliage from drying out during transit from the grower to the wholesaler, and from the wholesaler to the Florist. For this reason, many flowers are now shipped with their stems in a few inches of water.
All plant material should be unpacked, stripped & cut as soon as possible after unpacking from shipping or buying from the florist, and any plastic sleeves and elastic bands should be removed. Whether flowers are bought from the florist, or ordered online, all lower leaves should be removed from each stem, as any leaves left under water when sitting will quickly begin to rot and cause a build-up of bacteria which will clog the stem ends, preventing the uptake of water, as well as causing the water to smell foul.
All buckets used for conditioning should be meticulously clean, and water should be changed every 3 days, to prevent the build up of bacteria. After removing the lower leaves, all stem ends should have the bottom ½" - 1" removed at a sharp angle, thus exposing more of the central area of the stem, which is responsible for the uptake of water. As a general rule, buckets should be filled to about ¼ full with clean water, to which cut flower food has been added at the appropriate measure. This will prolong the life of the flowers, and helps to prevent bacterial growth. Using warm water allows the water to enter the stem more rapidly, so conditioning is quicker. However, use cool water for bulb flowers like peonies, unless you want them to open quickly. Flowers and foliage should be left in the water for at least two or three hours, and preferably overnight, before arranging them.
Flowers & plants should be conditioned according to their stem type:
Woody Stems : Roses, Mimosa, Eucalyptus, Beech, Yew, Pittosporum, etc.
Stems should be cut at a sharp angle, and the stem ends split for about ½". Remove all the lower foliage which will be below the level of the water, and place the stems in a bucket about ¼ filled with warm water, to which cut flower food has been added at the appropriate rate.
Semi-Woody Stems : Chrysanthemum, Lily, Carnation, Leatherleaf, Asparagus Fern, etc.
These should be conditioned by cutting the stem ends at a sharp angle, removing all the lower foliage which will be below the level of the water, and placing the stem ends in a bucket about ¼ filled with warm water, to which cut flower food has been added at the appropriate rate.
*Special flower food is available for Lilies, and this should be used if possible.
*Lilies should have their dark pips removed before the pollen forms(turn yellow/orange) , to prevent staining of the petals, or clothes and furnishings.
Soft Stems :Freesia, Hellebore, Anemone, etc.
Condition as above, but deeper water should be used so that the flowers are immersed up to their necks. After a good overnight drink, the flowers can then be arranged. Hellebores are a special case and benefit from the boiling water treatment - see special notes below for details.
Hollow Stems : Delphinium,Gerbera Daisy, Lupin, etc.
Hollow stems are notorious for forming air-locks, as air enters the stem as soon as it is cut. Cut the stems at an angle and remove lower leaves as usual. Turn the stems upside down, and fill the hollow stem with tepid water. Hold your thumb over it until it is placed in the bucket.
Bulbous Stems :Daffodil, Tulip, Bluebell, Hyacinth, etc.
Most bulbous stemmed flowers are pulled, not cut, from the plant by the grower. This means that the end of the stem is often white and firm. The stem will often not drink from this white area, therefore, it should be removed completely, by cutting at an angle, as water can only be absorbed through the green part of the stem. Bulb flowers should be conditioned in cool to tepid water, unless the flowers are wanted open, as warm water speeds up the development of bulbous flowers. Special flower food for bulb flowers is available, and should be used if possible.
** Daffodil stems exude a poisonous sap when cut. This will shorten the life of other flowers if Daffodils are conditioned in the same water.They should always be conditioned separately.
"HOW TO " from an Expert:
Certified and renowned Floral Designer
Leanne Kesler gives an extensive tutorial in this awesome video.
Leanne is a fabulous instructor at the Floral Design Institute.