Hellebores are great late-winter flowering perennials that signal spring is just around the corner.  Individual flowers may be brought inside and floated in a bowl as cut stems are thought to not last as cut flowers. The other drawback of hellebores is that the numerous stamens drop after a few days, causing a mess unacceptable in the floral industry. Two studies were conducted to determine if hellebores would make a viable cut flower, and the best treatment of stems for optimum consumer vase life. The first study tested the application of commercial pretreatment (hydrator) and holding preservative solutions from two manufacturers.  The second study compared the vase life of stems at different stages of maturity.

Materials and Methods
    
Stems of Helleborus hybrida were harvested from a seedling bed in late March.  The flower stems were cut as long as possible, generally
producing branched stems, and placed directly into tap water (Photo 1).  
The stems were sorted according to flower maturity and number of  flowers/stems, recut to 13 inches and placed in the following treatments:
•    Hydrator only (Chrysal Professional RVB or Floralife 100)
•    Holding preservative only (Chrysal Professional 2 or Floralife Professional)
•    Hydrator followed by holding preservative
•    Deionized water (control)
   
Stems were pretreated with Chrysal Professional RVB or Floralife 100 hydrating solutions for the number of hours recommended by the manufacturer: 4 hours for Chrysal and 2 hours for Floralife.  Stems were held in Chrysal Professional 2 or Floralife Professional holding preservative until the end of vase life.  Solutions were mixed according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.  The stems were placed in individual jars at 68+4F under approximately 200 ftc light for 12 hrs/day (Photo 2).
    
Flowers for the second study were divided into two groups: flowers with stamens, and flowers in which the stamens had naturally dropped (Photo 3).  Individual stems with one flower each were recut to 12 inches and placed in Floralife Professional holding solution.  No pretreatment was utilized.  The stems were placed in the same environment as the first study.

Stems were monitored daily to determine the end of the consumer vase life, designated as the day the typical consumer would dispose of the stem.  Stems were terminated when the petal edges began browning or the stems lost turgidity.

Results
    
In the first study, stems treated with the commercial holding preservative without pretreatment (hydrator) solutions had an average consumer vase life of 17.5 days. The stems pretreated with the hydration solutions and held in the holding preservative averaged 16.7 days. Both the stems pretreated with the hydration solutions and held in water and the controls (no pretreatment) had a consumer vase life of 10.5 days. There were no differences in results between the products from Chrysal as compared to Floralife.
    
In the second study flower maturity had no effect as both stages had a consumer vase life of 10.5 days.  

Conclusions
   
Helleborus hybrida flowers should be harvested directly into buckets of water and placed in commercial holding preservatives. Hydration solutions had no effect. Flowers with stamens and flowers in which stamens had naturally dropped had equal vase life. Flowers in both studies continued to mature and form seed pods, which were also attractive (Photo 5).  
    
Stems from the first study lasted 7 more days than those in the second study. This may be due to the fact that the stems in the first study had more than one flower while those in the second study had only one flower. The presence of additional flowers on the branched stems may have resulted in the longer vase life.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the American Floral Endowment for providing the funding for this postharvest research. Dick and Judith Knott Tyler, of Pine Knot Farms, [email protected], provided the plant material, generously allowing us to harvest from their seedling beds. Beth Harden, Research Technician, participated as a valuable partner in the harvesting and the postharvest efforts.