November: Monthly Floral Design Tips and Inspiration

Conditioning Plant Material

Conditioning is the preparation of cut plant material prior to arranging.Correct conditioning promotes water uptake and will ensure that flowers and foliage last for the max amount of time.

The most important general rule is to cut all stems at a 45 degree angle, place in tepid water for several hours (preferably overnight) with floral food additive and let them stand in a cool place out of direct sunlight.Clean disinfected buckets are a must.Remove all leaves that will be below the water line.

If you are cutting from your garden, collect specimens early in the morning when stems are fully turgid.Carry a bucket with you and place stems in water asap.Most flowers should be picked when just starting to show color.Spike Flowers (foxgloves, gladiolus) when the lowest flowers have just opened.Roses and Dahlias should be cut at full bloom as they do not open after cutting.

If flowers are purchased from a wholesaler or florist the plant material should be unpacked as soon as possible and the plastic sleeves and elastic bands removed.All stems should be recut a minimum of ½”-1” at a sharp 45 degree angle. Buckets should be filled ¼ full with warm water, flower food added for best water uptake.Flowers and foliage should be left in water at least 3 hours but best overnight.

Special Notes:
All stems should have all foliage removed which will be below the level of water

Woody Stems (Lilacs, branches, roses)
Cut stems at a sharp angle, and split stem ends for ½”.Scraping the bark also will increase surface area for water absorption. Place in very warm water with preservative. Do not hammer stems, this will damage.

Semi- Woody Stems (Lily, Carnation, Fern, Chrysanthemum)
Cut Stems at a sharp angle and place in warm water with preservative added.

Soft Stems (Freesia, Anemone)
Cut stems at sharp angle but deeper water should be used so that flowers are immersed up to their necks

Hollow Stems (Delphinium, Lupin, Amaryllis)
Cut at a sharp angle.Turn the stems upside down, and fill the hollow stem with tepid water.Plug the stem with a cotton ball, secure with a small piece of plastic wrap with rubberband to keep from splitting.

Milky Stems (Poppy, Euphorbia, Poinsettia, Ficus)
The stems of these flowers exude a milky substance called latex when cut.These stems should be burnt in a flame for a few seconds to seal. The cut stem can also be rinsed under running warm water to remove the excess latex before placing in warm water.

Bulbous Stems (Daffodils, Tulips, Bluebell, Hyacinth)
These stems are often white and firm.The stem will often not drink from this white area and it should be removed completely to the point of the green stem.
Bulb flowers should be conditioned in cool water unless you want to open more quickly; warm water will speed this process up.
Many bulb flowers have a tendency to “droop”; condition in their brown wrappers to support their stems as they uptake water during conditioning.
Daffodil stems secrete a poisonous sap when cut; they should be conditioned separately.
Remember tulips will continue to grow after they are cut, take this into consideration when arranging.

Hellebores and Hydrangea
They are notorious for being difficult!Both benefit from a treatment of boiling water:Add about 1” of boiling water in a jug, then place the stems in the water for around 1 minute.Take them out of the boiling water, recut their stems and put them into water up to their necks or completely submerge them overnight.
Hellebores due best as a cut flower if we wait until they have begun to form seed pods.Hydrangeas best if we wait until they are mature and turning slightly papery.

Carnations and Pinks
Stems should be cut between the nodes or joints as they cannot take up water if cut at a node.

Clematis, Violets
Benefit from complete immersion.

Lilac, Azalea Forsythia
Should have all foliage removed to promote water uptake to flower heads.

Remove stamens before the pollen forms to prevent staining.

Flowers that Wilt after Conditioning such as roses.
Recut their stems and place in 1” of nearly boiling water for about 15-30 minutes; wrap in newspaper to keep flower heads protected from steam during this process.Recut the stem as the boiling water will have damaged the ends and continue to condition overnight before arranging.

Single Leaves
Immerse completely in water. Exception is any grey foliage as immersion will affect the color of the leave