Call us at 1-800-355-8086
Cut Flower
of the month


tropical flowers

(printable PDF)
If you have trouble viewing these PDF (portable document format) files, download a copy of the free Adobe Reader.


WHAT IS A TROPICAL FLOWER, AND WHAT IS NOT?
Tropical flowers, as their category name suggests, are native to the Torrid Zone (a.k.a. the tropics)—the section of the Earth between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

     The regions immediately on the other sides of the tropics are known as the subtropics, and flowers that are native to those regions are known as subtropical flowers. They include Strelitzia (bird-of-paradise) and members of the Proteaceae family.

     Birds-of-paradise Strelitzia, which is native to South Africa, is included in this article because it is widely considered a tropical flower and requires higher refrigeration temperatures than most other flowers that are native to subtropical and temperate zones.

     Proteas Proteaceae family members, however, including Banksia, Leucadendron (conebush), Leucospermum (pincushion), Protea and Telopea (waratah), which are native to South Africa and southern Australia, are not included because they have many of the same care requirements as nontropical flowers, such as refrigeration at 33 F to 36 F.

     Note about orchids: While most orchids are native to tropical regions (southern Asia, northern Australia, Central America, and northern and central South America), they are not included in this article because they were featured in our June issue (Pages 42-47) and will be showcased again in a 2010 issue.

vase-life extenders

PROCESSING Immediately remove tropical flowers from their shipping boxes. Check the flower quality, and inspect for insects. If insects are present, spray the flowers with an insecticidal soap (e.g., Safer®, Garden Safe® or Ortho® EcoSense™)

     With Alpinias (red ginger, shell ginger) and Anthuriums, submerge the flower heads in room-temperature water to help hydrate them (see “Special Handling” under “Alpinia” and “Anthurium,” opposite page).

     Next recut the stem ends with a sharp knife, removing at least 1 inch of stem, then immediately place them into containers half filled with warm (100 F to 110 F) properly proportioned flower-food solution. Some tropical flowers respond favorably to the nutrients in flower-food solutions, but others are unaffected. However, other ingredients in flower foods help with water uptake (citric acid) and control bacteria in storage and arrangement containers (biocide), so it is recommended that you use flower foods with all tropical flowers.

     Recut stems and change flower-food solution in storage containers every other day.

REFRIGERATION Tropical flowers are chill sensitive and will sustain damage when stored at temperatures lower than 50 F; therefore, experts advise storing most tropical flowers at 55 F to 60 F. One exception is long-term storage of birds-of-paradise (see “Storage temperature” under “Strelitzia,” Page 20).

     If your department does not have a separate tropical flower cooler to accommodate the higher temperature requirements of these special blooms, store them outside the cooler, at room temperature. If you store tropical flowers outside of a floral cooler, mist them generously at least once a day.

ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY Most tropical flowers are fairly resistant to the effects of ethylene gas. One exception appears to be Curcuma, which is reported to be highly sensitive—although no scientific tests have been performed to substantiate that claim.

CONSUMER ACTION Instruct consumers to generously mist their tropical flowers at least once a day and to avoid exposing them to direct sunlight.

ALPINIA spp.

Common names:
red ginger, shell ginger
Vase life: 6 to 14 days or longer, depending on species, variety and postharvest care
Storage temperature: 55 F to 60 F
Availability: year-round
Origin: Malaysia; Indonesia; and Oceania (Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia)
Special handling: Submerging flower heads in room-temperature water for about 30 minutes upon these flowers’ arrival, to help hydrate them, is often recommended; however, the practice has not been scientifically studied. Alpinias are geotropic (affected by gravity), so store them vertically to prevent blooms from curving.


ANTHURIUM spp.

Common names:
tailflower, flamingo flower
Vase life: 10 to 28 days or longer, depending on species, variety and postharvest care
Storage temperature: 55 F to 65 F; ideal storage temperatures vary among species and varieties
Availability: year-round
Origin: Central America and Colombia
Special handling: Submerging flower heads in room-temperature water for two or more hours upon these flowers’ arrival, to help hydrate them, is often recommended; however, it is not a scientifically proven practice.
 


CALATHEA spp.

Common names:
‘Green Ice’ Calathea, ‘Blue Ice’ Calathea, rattlesnake Calathea, cigar Calathea, cauassú
Vase life: 6 to 10 days or longer, depending on species and postharvest care
Storage temperature: 55 F to 60 F
Availability: year-round, depending on species and variety
Origin: tropical Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and the West Indies


COSTUS spp.

Common names: spiral ginger, painted spiral ginger, spotted spiral ginger, spiral flag, red tower ginger
Vase life: 7 to 21 days or longer, depending on species
Storage temperature: 55 F to 60 F
Availability: year-round, depending on species and postharvest care
Origin: tropical Mexico; Central America; western South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru); Hispaniola (Haiti, Dominican Republic); tropical India; and Southeast Asia







CURCUMA spp.

Common name: turmeric
Vase life: 7 to 10 days
Storage temperature: 55 F to 60 F
Availability: April through December
Origin: tropical India, Southeast Asia and northern Australia





 


Etlingera spp. (syn. Nicolaia, Phaeomeria)

Common names:
torch ginger, Philippine waxflower
Vase life: 3 to 10 days, depending on species and postharvest care
Storage temperature: 55 F to 60 F
Availability: year-round, depending on species and variety
Origin: Indonesia




 


HELICONIA spp.

Common names: lobster claw, false bird-of-paradise, wild plantain, balisier, firebird, macaw flower, parrot flower, parrot’s plantain, parrot’s beak, parakeet flower
Vase life: 7 to 14 days, depending on species. Larger diameter and longer-stemmed species have longer vase life.
Storage temperature: 55 F to 60 F
Availability: year-round
Origin: lowland regions of Central America and tropical South America;
Melanesia (southwest Pacific islands)
Special handling: Do not submerge these flower heads in water as is recommended with Alpinias (gingers), Anthuriums and Strelitzias. To clean the flower heads, sponge with room-temperature soapy water, then rinse and let dry. Add shine to nonfuzzy varieties by spraying with an antitranspirant or plant shine product or by applying a light coat of cooking oil.


MUSA spp.

Common name: flowering banana
Vase life: 7 to 21 days or longer, depending on postharvest care
Storage temperature: 55 F to 65 F
Availability: year-round
Origin: Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma)




 


STRELITZIA spp.

Common names:
bird-of-paradise, crane flower
Vase life: 7 to 14 days
Storage temperature: short-term storage (three or less days), 55 F; long-term storage (more than three days), 44 F to 46 F
Availability: year-round
Origin: subtropical South Africa
Special handling: To open tight birds-of-paradise, soak the flower heads in lukewarm water for about 20 minutes, then insert your thumb or forefinger inside the unopened sheath, through the slit on the upper side of the flower head, and gently lift out at least one of the new flowers (you can remove more flowers if you handle them extremely delicately). If you remove more than one flower, carefully spread them into a fan-shaped display, cautiously remove the thin white membrane that separates each and rinse off any nectar exudate.


TAPEINOCHILOS spp.

Common names: Indonesian wax ginger, Indonesian ginger, pineapple ginger
Vase life: 6 to 14 days
Storage temperature: 55 F to 60 F
Availability: year-round
Origin: eastern Indonesia, New Guinea and northern Australia



 


ZINGIBER spp.

Common names: beehive ginger, Malaysian ginger, shampoo ginger, pine-cone ginger, wild ginger
Vase life: 6 to 14 days or longer, depending on species and postharvest care
Storage temperature: 55 F to 60 F
Availability: year-round, depending on species
Origin: tropical India and Southeast Asia
                     


To order a copy of Neotropica: Hawaii Tropical Flower & Plant Guide, visit www.superfloralretailing.com, and click on “Bookstore,” or call (800) 355-8086. Softcover. 128 pages. More than 750 cut flower and plant variety photos.

Flower photos by Colin Gilliam

Taken from Neotropica: Hawaii Tropical Flower & Plant Guide, by Hitomi Gilliam, AIFD, and Lois Hiranaga, AIFD.

Used with permission of Design358 Publishing, www.design358.com, (604) 302-4992 and Hawaii Tropical Flower Council www.hawaiisflowers.com

Some information provided by:
AmeriLink International, www.floratrader.com
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network® , www.chainoflife.org
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Neotropica: Hawaii Tropical Flower & Plant Guide, by Hitomi Gilliam, AIFD, and Lois Hiranaga, AIFD
SAF Flower & Plant Care, by Terril A Nell, Ph.D. and Michael S. Reid, Ph.D.
 

Super Floral Retailing •• Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.