For those dealing in cut flowers, bulbs and potted plants, temperature-controlled storage and transportation is an important consideration. As part of your cold-chain logistics, these facilities minimise damage to what is deemed a perishable good. Cut flowers brighten up any corner of the home, however, they are difficult to store and transport without some damage occurring. This guide will explain the temperature tolerances for these delicate products along with ways to minimise damage.
Why are cut flowers so susceptible to temperature fluctuations?
Once they are cut, flowers stop being able to regulate their own water levels or light exposure. Essentially, the condition of their surroundings then becomes dictated by the picker. The temperature has a significant impact on the quality of a cut flower, both in the way they look and how long they can be expected to last. This is why, when we are given a bouquet of flowers for the home, the longest we can expect them to last is a week or so.
Now consider that these plants have already been picked, stored, packaged and transported before they are even in your hands. High temperatures will absorb the water found within a flower’s step, causing it to dehydrate. In addition, certain flowers, such as orchids, will die when exposed to very low temperatures. It is vital to maintain the ideal level for your chosen species.
Depending on the type of plant you plan to transport or sell, understanding optimal temperature requirements is vital.
The best time to cut fresh flowers is in the morning, while their stem is full of water and carbohydrates. To maintain their shape and colour, these should be stored at temperatures between 1 – 8°C. The required humidity level varies greatly depending on the plant in question. Most types will require humidity levels of at least 90% while those placed in preservatives can withstand a minimum level of 80%. To minimise damage, flowers must be cut efficiently and transported along predetermined routes to reach their destination as quickly as possible. Their lifespan is very short and to fully benefit from their beauty, time is of the essence.
The optimal temperature for storing and transporting bulbs varies from 4 – 14°C. Humidity levels are recommended to stay between 65 and 75%. However, the complexities here come when storing a number of different bulbs within one container. Temperature control here will help to minimise mould spores which can spread easily, infect other bulbs and reduce the likelihood of them flowering in the future.
Although you have more flexibility with planted pots, it is still important to keep them at a consistent temperature between 0 – 2°C. Again, the humidity levels will vary depending on the plant in question. Another consideration to make is stability. Plant pots should be stabilised within a container to prevent them from tipping over and causing damage.
What impact can the wrong temperature have?
Identifying the ideal temperature for specific plants helps to prevent moisture loss, minimise the penetration of pathogens, reduce wilting and avoid dehydration. There are 4 main ways that temperature can impact cut flowers.
Although freezing is regularly used to store cut flowers, when done in temperatures below what they can handle this can cause:
- Browning on petals.
- Leaves and petals falling off.
If the surrounding humidity of a storage facility is not maintained properly, plants can present symptoms including:
- Stem condensation.
- Mould growth.
Lack of moisture
Where the humidity levels aren’t sufficient or cut flowers are exposed to drier temperatures, the main symptom is wilting.
Generally, this will lead to dehydration which is the number one cause of damage when it comes to cut flowers. The main symptoms experienced here include:
- Dryness in the stem.
- Yellowing leaves.
The importance of packaging for cut flowers
As we’ve mentioned before, packaging for cut flowers is just as essential as the temperature and humidity levels around. Stems and petals are both prone to damage. Not only does this impact the look of your bouquet. Broken stems can also lead to infection within the plant. This is easily spread between flowers and causes microorganisms to grow at unsafe levels. Our top tips for packaging cut flowers include:
- Allowing exposure to oxygen.
- Use a specialist film.
- Avoid exposure to direct sunlight which could cause dehydration and wilting.
- Opt for firm corrugated cardboard boxes to prevent squashing and damage.
Temperature-controlled logistics are in place to help businesses with cold-chain logistics to maintain the integrity of their products. The UK flower industry is worth £2.2billion at the retail level, making it more lucrative than the UK music industry and averages £38 spend per person, Therefore, being able to deliver high-quality and aesthetically pleasing flowers to your customers ensures business growth and development.
Here an Iceotemp, we have a fleet of temperature-controlled courier vehicles to transport cut flowers to exhibitions and end distributors. In addition, our temperature-controlled storage facility can be used to regulate ambient, chill and frozen environments appropriately. If you would like to discuss the requirements of your cut flower business or have any other enquiries, get in contact with the team here today.