The postharvest longevity of fresh-cut flowers is often limited by the accumulation of bacteria in vase water and flower stems. Aqueous chlorine dioxide is a strong biocide with potential application for sanitizing cut flower solutions. We evaluated the potential of chlorine dioxide to prevent the build-up of bacteria in vase water and extend the longevity of cut Matthiola incana `Ruby Red', Gypsophila paniculata `Crystal' and Gerbera jamesonii `Monarch' flowers. Fresh-cut flower stems were placed into sterile vases containing deionized water and either 0.0 or 2 μL·L–1 chlorine dioxide. Flower vase life was then judged at 21 ± 0.5 °C and 40% to 60% relative humidity. Inclusion of 2 μL·L–1 chlorine dioxide in vase water extended the longevity of Matthiola, Gypsophila and Gerbera flowers by 2.2, 3.5, and 3.4 days, respectively, relative to control flowers (i.e., 0 μL·L–1). Treatment with 2 μL·L–1 chlorine dioxide reduced the build-up of aerobic bacteria in vase water for 6 to 9 days of vase life. For example, addition of 2 μL·L–1 chlorine dioxide to Gerbera vase water reduced the number of bacteria that grew by 2.4- to 2.8-fold, as compared to control flower water. These results confirm the practical value of chlorine dioxide treatments to reduce the accumulation of bacteria in vase water and extend the display life of cut flowers.
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