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Care and Handling Quiz

Take this quiz just for fun, or incorporate it into your training program. Either way, everyone is sure to learn something valuable.

Click here for a downloadable version of this flower-care quiz that you can use for training purposes

(answers below)

1. The growth of stem-plugging bacteria can be reduced by cleaning flower buckets, cutting tools, workbenches and counter tops, and coolers with:
a. a professional antibacterial bucket cleaner
b. a kitchen sanitizing spray (similar to ones used to clean home countertops)
c. a solution of one part chlorine bleach and 10 parts water
d. any of the above

2. When flowers arrive in your distribution centers or floral departments, immediately check the temperature inside the boxes or the temperature of the water in wet packs with a needle thermometer. The temperature should be no higher than:
a. 40 F
b. 45 F
c. 50 F
d. 55 F

3. Shipping temperatures that are too high can cause the following problems with flowers:
a. foliar or petal diseases, such as Botrytis
b. yellowed leaves
c. loss of blooms and leaves
d. all of the above

4. As you process flowers, it is best to carefully remove any sleeves and bindings to promote air circulation among the blooms and bunches.

5. You should always unpack flowers immediately upon their arrival in your distribution centers or floral departments; however, if that’s absolutely not possible, you should:
a. open the boxes, and leave them at room temperature
b. place the boxes unopened in a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F

6. To remove dried-out stem ends as well as dirt, debris and microbes in the stem cells when processing flowers, how much of the stems should you cut off?
a. 1?2 inch to 1 inch
b. between 1 inch and 3 inches
c. 3 inches or more

7. If cutting flowers under water, you should change the water (or, preferably, the flower-food solution) frequently to prevent it from being contaminated with bacteria.

8. If your flowers have been treated with hydration solution at the grower and/or wholesaler level (the most common treatment points), you can forgo this step, if desired, and place your flowers directly into properly proportioned flower-food solution.

9. The difference between hydration solutions and flower foods is that:
a. hydration solutions do not contain a nutrient (sugar)
b. flower foods do not contain a wetting agent to accelerate water uptake
c. both A and B
d. none of the above

10. Mixing flower-food solutions to the proper concentrations is really not so important; it is a myth created by the manufacturers to sell more product.

11. Bulb flowers experience hormone imbalances when cut, and you should use only flower foods formulated especially for them.

12. Flower-food solutions do not need to be used with some bulb flowers, including Agapanthuses, Anemones, Irises, daffodils, tulips and callas.

13. Many flower care authorities suggest placing bulb flowers into cold flower-food solutions.

14. All species of Narcissi (daffodils, paperwhites, etc.) should be isolated from other bulb flowers for a time following processing.

15. Most flowers (except tropicals and some bulb flowers including Narcissi and amaryllises) should be placed into a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F immediately after processing rather than left out at room temperature to hydrate.

16. Except for design time, you should always keep flowers refrigerated until sold or delivered.

17. Tropical blooms, including birds-of-paradise, gingers, Anthuriums, Heliconias and some orchids, require what storage temperatures?
a. 45 F to 49 F
b. 50 F to 55 F
c. 60 F or higher
d. room temperature

18. Many flower care authorities say that storing tulips, Gladioli, snapdragons, Anemones, Irises and daffodils vertically can encourage straight stems and flower heads and tips.

19. You should sell all flowers within two days of receipt.

20. You should check your cooler temperature every two days.


1. D. All of the products/solutions mentioned will kill bacteria. Flower buckets and other containers must be sanitized between every use, and cutting tools and work surfaces should be cleaned at least once daily.

2. A. If temperatures are higher than 40 F, inspect the flowers carefully for insects, Botrytis, yellowed leaves, wilted blooms, and bloom or leaf drop, and contact your supplier immediately.

3. D. All of these maladies are results of too-high shipping temperatures. (See answer 2 above.)

4. True. You can leave sleeves on the flower bunches for a few hours to prevent damage to the blooms, but it is best to remove the sleeves as soon as possible to promote air circulation among the blooms and bunches.

5. B. It is important to keep the flowers cold until they are processed.

6. B. Dried-out stem ends and stem-plugging dirt and microorganisms are generally confined to the first 1 inch to 3 inches of the stem ends. Make the cuts under clean water or in air, with a clean, sharp knife or snips.

7. True. The removed stem ends can quickly contaminate the water or flower-food solution in which they are being cut, so to gain any benefit from cutting under water, the water or solution must be changed after every few bunches are cut. Otherwise, it is more beneficial to cut flower stems in air.

8. True. Hydration solutions were developed for use at the grower and/or wholesaler level, and they are most beneficial when used at these levels.

9. C. Both hydration solutions and flower foods contain bactericides to control microbial growth and acidifiers to lower the solution pH. In addition, hydration solutions contain a wetting agent to accelerate water uptake, and flower foods contain a nutrient (sugar).

10. False. If not mixed to proper concentrations, flower foods can actually decrease flowers’ vase lives. Both too much and too little are harmful.

11. True. When they are cut from their bulbs (their food-storage organs), bulb flowers experience hormone imbalances that cause premature leaf yellowing, non-opening blooms, loss of color and reduced vase lives. Bulb-flower-specific nutrient solutions contain—in addition to the ingredients found in standard flower-food solutions—naturally occurring plant hormones (or plant growth regulators, PGRs), and they have a lower concentration of sugar, which can aggravate leaf yellowing. These bulb-flower solutions should be prepared with nonfluoridated water.

12. False. While laboratory studies show that some bulb flowers may not benefit from the nutrients in flower-food solutions, they do benefit from the bactericides contained within; therefore, flower foods always should be used with these flowers, particularly bulb-flower-specific flower foods.

13. True. Solutions that are made with cold water help keep bulb flowers from opening too quickly.

14. True. When cut, Narcissi exude a gelatinous substance that is detrimental to the vase life of some other flowers, especially tulips and Anemones. Keep them in separate containers for several hours after cutting them. After that time, the harmful sap will have leached, and the flowers can be arranged or placed with other flowers, even if recut again, without affecting the lives of the other flowers.

15. True. Studies show that maintaining flowers at cold temperatures (33 F to 35 F) is one of the most crucial factors in extending vase life. The flowers will hydrate in the cooler, and they should be kept there for at least two hours before designing with or selling them.

16. True. Keeping flowers cold slows their respiration (moisture loss); helps them maintain their carbohydrate reserves, their fuel for vase life; and decreases their sensitivity to ethylene.

17. B. Most tropical flowers require storage temperatures between 50 F and 55 F. Temperatures lower than 50 F will cause chill damage to these blooms. If these temperature requirements can’t be met inside a floral cooler, the flowers should be stored outside the cooler, at room temperature.

18. True. Many of these flowers are geotropic, meaning that their upper extremities respond to the forces of gravity and will “grow” vertically, causing curved stems, flower heads and tips if the stems are positioned diagonally in a container. It also can be helpful to store tulips and Anemones in their sleeves for a few hours to prevent stem curving.

19. True. Studies show that flowers held in a floral cooler for more than two days lose at least a day of vase life for each day they are held beyond the two days.

20. False. Many flower care authorities suggest checking the temperature in your cooler twice daily. The best method is to place a thermometer in a container of water that remains in the cooler. Keep your cooler set to maintain bucket solutions in the 33 F-to-35 F range (see No. 15 and No. 17).

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