Ethylene Gas

Ethylene Gas

Flowers and fruit combine perfectly in a floral arrangement, however the combination drastically shortens the flower life. While the combination looks aesthetically pleasing, the pairing can be fatal for some flowers. Why ? The culprit is ethylene.

What is Ethylene Gas?

Ethylene is an odourless, colourless gaseous plant hormone that exists in nature. It is also created by man-made sources. In nature, the largest produces are plant and plant products such as fruits, vegetables and flowers. They produce ethylene within their tissues and release it into the surrounding atmosphere.

Ethylene is referred to as a ripening hormone and plays a regulatory role in many processes of plant growth, development and eventually death. The plant products contain receptors which serve as bonding sites to absorb free atmospheric molecules.

How does it effect flowers?

  • Leaf yellowing and/or transparency
  • Loss of deep colour
  • Petal Drop
  • Irregular bud opening
  • Premature death
  • Bud and leaf abscission (falling off)

It is estimated that up to 30% of flowers perish prematurely due to the harmful effects of the gas.

In fact, it does not take very much of the gas to cause the issues with the flowers. Levels of 100 ppl (parts per billion) can cause damage over time periods greater than 24 hours. That is equivalent to 100 drops of food colouring in 26,400 gallons of water.

All flowers are effected to Ethylene Gas to some degree, but particular flowers fall into the Ethylene Sensitive category.

How to reduce the effects of ethylene gas on flowers?

While there are solutions for minimising the effects of the gas commercially such as flower applications in shops, farms and wholesalers. They are not practical for the occasional flower buyer for use at home. These solutions are involving the use of a material known as Guerite that absorbs the gas.

Temperature also plays a vital role. Ethylene sensitivity is less of a problem at temperatures below 5 degrees. This is one of the reasons why maintaining the cold chain at all levels of the flower production and distribution is crucial.

The main and best advice is to avoid placing the flowers near any ethylene sources. These include:

  • Propane heaters
  • Avoid placing in areas exposed to high levels of cigarette smoke
  • Bacterial and Botrytus
  • Produce such as bananas, tomatoes, citrus fruit etc. Avoid placing next to the fruit bowl or in a domestic fridge
  • Remove any faded or wilted blooms from the arrangements
  • Avoid placing in high temperatures. Cooler, low lit environments are best during the conditioning and preparation.