California Protea Management | Cultural Care of Protea - Care and Handling - Tips from the Pros
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Care and Handling - Tips from the Pros
By: Ben Gill, California Protea Management

I was asked by a manager of a major floral distribution firm if I could tell him why his flowers were turning black. I asked him under what conditions did he hold his flowers? His response surprised me, "I keep them in the refer box on the floor in the tropical cooler."

My next question to him was the clincher, and the reason why I am writing this article. I asked him, "Didn't your supplier tell you how to properly care for protea?" After a few well-placed telephone calls and a question-and-answer time with some friends, I realized that most wholesale houses, brokers and shippers have a very vague notion of how to take care of protea. Even some grower/shippers are not treating the flowers of this majestic family correctly. As with all flowers, the "chain of life" handling starts the moment the flower stem is removed from the mother plant. Here are a few simple rules for successfully handling protea:

While some uninformed flower professionals think that protea is a tropical flower, please allow me to inform you that they are not. They are Mediterranean-grown flowers. For this reason, you can keep them at a temperature of 40 - 42°f, with a humidity of 90 - 95 percent. Protea also have the need, as some children do, to leave the light on while resting.

Pink Mink Protea Protea are very good travelers once packed into boxes and cleated down. As with most flowers, it is a very good idea to put your flowers back into the cooler after packing and pre-cool them before sending them on their way.





It is my opinion that the majority of problems that occur with protea happen after they leave the original shipper. It is here that they are under the stress of dehydration, exposure to hot and cold temperatures (depending on the season of the year), stored in the shipping boxes in dark coolers, neither re-cut nor placed in water to re-hydrate and generally abused because someone told someone else that they were hardy flowers and didn't need any special care. WRONG!

The lack of light is a major cause of leaf blackening in protea. So is the absence of water from the leaves. Almost all of the Proteaceae family will react to the absence of sugar, thus drawing from the reserves in the leaves.

Because of the complexity of the flower head, protea have a very high respiratory requirement to complete the development of the flower. Rough handling of the foliage by crushing, breaking or damaging the stem will release tannins into the water to be absorbed by the stems, turning the leaves black.

Proper post-harvesting care will minimize your problems.

Queen Protea

Remember to:

  • Take them out of the box and re-cut the stem one inch.
  • Place them loosely in a commercial preservative with four inches of water in a clean bucket. Make sure no leaves are under water.
  • Keep them in a well-lit area for one to one and a half hours, before placing in cooler.

Pass these tips on to your customers or clients with our hopes that you will keep unique, unusual, exotic and beautiful protea in your floral pallet offerings for years to come.

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