Re-evaluating the role of bacteria in gerbera vase life

Rob E. Schouten*, Julian C. Verdonk, Uulke van Meeteren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The relation between bacteria numbers in vase water and vase life of gerbera cut flowers has recently been challenged because of reported negative effects of bactericidal compounds. This relation is investigated using two types of experiments that do not rely on antimicrobial compounds. The first type controls vase water temperature (4, 15, 22 or 28 °C) independently from air temperature (15, 22 or 28 °C) to investigate whether fresh weight behavior for two mini gerbera cultivars (‘Okidoki’ and ‘Kimsey’) is affected by bacterial growth and leaking of soluble sugars in the vase water, or by senescence of the flower head. Fresh weight loss, when compared at constant water temperatures, was higher at higher air temperatures. At higher water temperatures and constant air temperatures fresh weight loss was not higher, although bacterial levels were high enough to expect water uptake issues. Also sugar consumption in the vase water depended on water temperature. This indicates that senescence was the main reason for the decline in fresh weight for these flowers, not bacterial growth. The second type of experiments was based on adding predetermined levels of bacteria (0, 103 or 105 CFU mL−1) and sugars (0.1% glucose or 0.2% sucrose) into vase water of flowers of three large-bloomed (‘Carambole’, ‘Candela’ and ‘Iceberg’) cultivars harvested with closed stem-ends and had their scapes sterilized before the start of vase life. When bacteria were added varying types of responses were observed. ‘Carambole’ flowers showed lower water uptake and lower transpiration and, early scape bending. Petal wilting was observed for ‘Candela’ flowers. ‘Carambole’ flowers showed higher scape sugar leakage levels in the vase water while ‘Candela’ flowers had higher scape firmness. ‘Iceberg’ flowers were also affected by bacteria, resulting in early scape bending, although sugar levels in the vase water were low. Furthermore, adding sucrose and/or bacteria in the vase water of one ‘Iceberg’ and one ‘Carambole’ flower in the same flask resulted in later scape bending for ‘Iceberg’ flowers compared to having two ‘Carambole’ or two ‘Iceberg’ flowers. The results indicate that bacteria interactions with gerbera flowers depend strongly on genotype.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalPostharvest Biology and Technology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • Antimicrobial compounds
  • Elongation
  • Temperature
  • Transpiration
  • Water uptake


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