Say I Do To Proper Flower Care
Care & Handling

Say ‘I Do’ To Proper Prep for Wedding Flowers

I hear it time and again: wedding flowers only have to last one day, so why bother with all the care and handling processes? If this mindset applies to you, I implore you to reconsider!

Every shop owner and wholesaler has at least one horror story with wedding bloopers. Was it watching the foam base break apart when you set up the altar flowers? Or the time a bug crawled out of blooms topping the cake as the happy couple leaned in for a photo? Maybe it was when an unexpected temperature spike caused hydrangeas bouquets to flop before the ceremony even began.

Wedding work is not for sissies. Profits depend on all systems working in sync. Before the season revs into full steam, take time to polish your handling protocols, check equipment, and train employees. Efficiency matters.

When it comes to flower quality, there’s nothing more basic than temperature. Are both the back stock and tropical coolers in good operating condition? Temperature, humidity, and airflow are critical factors in maintaining freshness and longevity of flowers. When your orders arrive, move boxes directly into the cooler. Stack product on pallets rather than the floor so cold air can flow under and around them. Get deliveries from FedEx? Pop the box lids to get heat out quickly.

bucket fill line

Check cooler efficiency by verifying that the actual temperature matches what’s indicated on the wall thermometer. Using a simple needle kitchen thermometer that measures as cold as 0C, take the temperature of a cooler bucket first thing daily. Record results on a simple chart and look for unusual fluctuations. Schedule regular compressor cleanings to remove dust from units. Ask the technician to check relative humidity, too. The humidity range for flowers is between 85 to 95 percent, with low airflow velocity. Set point for back stock coolers is 1.5 to 4C. Tropical cooler set point is 10C.

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Temperature is only one consideration affecting flower quality. There’s also “sneaky Pete” a.k.a. ethylene: the odourless, colourless, naturally occurring gas that is deadly, even in minute amounts, to some flowers, blooming plants and cut foliage. It is a by-product of auto exhaust, smoke, rotting trash, fruits, and some veggies. Always keep flowers separate from food. Work clean, prohibit smoking in delivery vans, and maintain active air movement in loading areas. Some highly sensitive flowers include orchids, aconitum, sweet peas, delphinium, and wax flower. Herbs are sensitive, too. Marjoram, mint, parsley, and oregano suffer leaf yellowing and abscission when exposed to ethylene. Ethylene causes blooms on kalanchoe, begonia and Christmas cactus to fall off.

cooler door message

No article on flower handling is complete without mentioning sanitation. Remember: our product is highly perishable. Clean and sharp knives are a given, but what about tables, choppers, cutters, mops, and brooms? Prepare a spray bottle of ready-to-use floral cleaner for tables and chopper blades. Spray surfaces at least two to three times daily to prevent cross-contamination. If using a floral cleaner, there’s no need to wipe surfaces dry—just spray and go. A dip jar of ready-to-use cleaner for knives and cutters reduces the spread of bacteria. This is key because, once bacteria enters a stem, it stays there, plugging up the delicate plumbing system. On bucket washing day, let mops soak for 10 minutes before tossing the cleaning solution. Keep in mind that Botrytis fungal spores are air borne. Sweep floors and empty trashcans throughout the day to get rid of rotting green bits (a source of ethylene) and to prevent spores from floating around the room. Don’t neglect your drains—another haven for germs and disease to develop. Clean them regularly and attach hose nozzles up off the drain floor.

Implement game rules on solution use to eliminate confusion and ensure consistency. Using proven manufactured solutions makes good business sense since consumers equate quality with longevity. (For all you know, the bride’s friends and family may intend to take flowers home after the reception!) Prepare solutions in clean buckets with cold water (1 to 2C) and measure to get the dosage right. Guessing wastes time and money and gives less than optimal results. Never pour old bucket solutions together when consolidating products. Never add ice; it dilutes the solution. Illustrations are worth a thousand words, so mark each bucket with the correct fill level and amount of floral concentrate needed. Print and post this info all over the design room to eliminate confusion.

A supply checklist removes the risk of running dry at crunch time. Include hydration products, bulb flower food, holding solutions, gerbera pills, bud-opening solutions, finishing sprays and leaf shine on the list. Wondering when to order wedding flowers? Any wholesaler will tell you that it is impossible to do it too far in advance. Expect Murphy’s Law when it comes to product availability, as all kinds of events—weather, natural disasters, and political standoffs—can mess up production and transportation. (Remember Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted in Iceland and its lingering ash grounded eastbound flights from Europe for several days during prom season? Who would have seen THAT coming?) Giving your suppliers ample notice greatly increases your chance for successful procurement. How about selecting a delivery date?

That depends on flower type. Plan accordingly. Lilies and blooming branches are slow opening, so they require four to six days at room temperature before buds will start to crack.

With planning and good systems in place, a profitable wedding season awaits. Ready, set, go!



Always cut above old (brown) wood; only green stem wood can draw water.

Hydrangeas love aluminum, so a hydration solution containing aluminum sulfate like Chrysal Professional 1 gives great results.

Allow ample time (12 hours) for blooms to fully hydrate.

After stems are fully hydrated, transfer blooms into a flower food solution to introduce nutrients and sugars. The glucose element in the formula keeps flower balls turgid.


At least 1 hour before using these blooms in design, remove florets from the box, carefully cut the tiny stems, and float in a container containing flower food. To prevent pepper spots on petals, mist the florets with bottled water.


Chill the water (1 to 2C) and flower food before placing stems in buckets. This allows stems to fill without blowing open too quickly.


Keep hands wet (use bottled water) while handling gardenias. Carefully remove blooms from the box, give stems a fresh cut. and float in flower food (also made with bottled water) so blooms are fully hydrated before designs begin. Bottled water prevents petal yellowing.


If they arrived dry-packed, give them a first drink of a cold hydration solution. If your wholesaler already hydrated them, give them a fresh cut and place in a holding solution.


Process in water with Chrysal Professional Gerbera pill. Keep in tropical cooler, as zinnias don’t tolerate temperatures colder than 10C.

Sweet Peas

These blooms are extremely ethylene sensitive and fall apart quickly if not pretreated in the postharvest period. Ask your supplier for care and handling tips to avoid disappointment.

Lisianthus, Protea and Tuberoses

These flowers love sugar and fare best when treated in full load flower foods, the same kind we use to fill vases.

Gay Smith
Gay Smith is the technical consulting manager for Chrysal USA.

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