A GROWING CONCERN: Florist quality blooms? Dis-buds for you

THIS IS WHAT you have been waiting for — 8:54 a.m. June 21.

Summer arrived, and with that heralding event, the daylight hours now start their long, slow, ever-shortening decline into the depths of winter.

It has always amazed me how people in general and especially gardeners put such relish on the seasons that mark the descent of the sun.

With our last article on cut-flower production, you have to now realize the necessity of both deadheading and pinching as part of a weekly maintenance program.

In just a few short days your plants will register the fact that the best is over. The sun is going down and if old flowers are present, seed, not flower, will be the name of the game.

But as we stand here today, summer is fully ahead of us with the best growing conditions of the year here until the end of September.

So with all the parties, gatherings, barbecues and weddings ahead of us, it is time to learn how to produce florist-quality cut flowers for our own arrangements and coveted party gifts.

Growers’ secret

The secret is dis-budding.

The no.1 reason your short, spindly, smallish blooms don’t compare to long, stiff, erect-stemmed florist flowers is the grower dis-buds and you don’t.

Dis-budding is the removal at a very young stage of either the terminal bud (the big center bud at the very tip) or all secondary buds (every bud but the terminal bud) for four specific reasons.

One, it dramatically increases the size of the bloom, doubling in mass the finished flower.

Two, it significantly increases the thickness of the flower stem and its rigidity, which in turn allows the stem to display a non-sagging flower head.

Three, it substantially elongates the stem itself as long stems are desired in floral arrangements.

Four, it evens out the period of flower maturity, which creates a stem whose flower buds open at one uniform time.

With these flower enhancing advantages in mind, let’s learn the two dis-budding techniques.

For flowers such as grandi-flora roses, dahlias, carnations, peonies, zinnias, marigolds, pompom mums or summer asters, you want to remove all secondary buds as soon as they are detectable.

The sooner one dis-buds the better. If you wait until the terminal bud is plump and starting to show color, there is no benefit, only fewer flowers.

In this form of dis-budding, say with dahlias or zinnias, you must carefully pull back the tiny leaves set up against the sides of the terminal bud in order to expose and then remove the secondary bud.

Then too, go down the stem removing all lower secondary buds and return to that stem a few weeks later as new lower secondary buds may have since developed.

For many cluster type blooms like floribunda roses, stephanotis, dianthus or various multi-budded mums, you remove the terminal buds.

I think everyone has experienced the floriabunda rose cluster where the first big center bloom opens right away, looks great, then slowly rots away as the surrounding buds develop poorly and open sporadically — if at all.

By removing the terminal buds early, energy is immediately transferred to the remaining buds that swell in size and open uniformly.

One slight variation of this terminal dis-bud is worth it’s weight in gold, and occurs with plume-type flowers like snapdragons, delphiniums, lupine, astible, celosia, liatris and gladiolas.

Here we pinch off the entire tip, which includes the terminal bud and the first few secondary buds.

Now go forth unto your yard and begin to produce top-quality flowers by removing many of the plants’ flower buds as early as possible — you have to spend flowers to make flowers.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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