It has traditionally been recommended to cut flower stems underwater to reduce blockage and improve water uptake, although little scientific information relates this practice to vase life. The purpose of our study was to evaluate the benefit of this processing technique on quality and longevity of several cut flowers species. Stems were either cut dry or cut wet under deionized water with a stainless steel blade and placed into vases containing a commercial floral preservative. Water samples were obtained from the cutting tank over time during stem processing for bacteria counts. Stems were maintained at 2 °C at 10 μmol·m–2·s–1 (12 h/day). The results were variable from shipment to shipment, possibly due to differences in stem quality or cutting water quality. In most cases, cutting underwater had no effect on longevity of alstroemeria, chrysanthemums, gerbera daisy, roses, or snapdragons. However, in a few instances, cutting underwater improved longevity slightly. Cutting stems underwater was consistently effective in increasing longevity 2-4 days for carnations. Bacteria counts in the cutting tank water after 500 stems were processed were 6/34 × 106 propagules/mL and increased to 1.00 × 107 propagules/mL after 1000 stems. The increase in bacteria decreased leaf quality in roses and reduced the number of snapdragon flowers that opened, but did not affect longevity. In gerberas, however, longevity decreased 2 days. A high concentration of bacteria in the cutting water may effect quality and longevity of many cut flower species and may negate any benefit in cutting stems underwater.
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