Cut flowers are flowers or flower buds (often with some stem and leaf) that have been cut from the plant bearing it. It is usually removed from the plant for indoor decorative use. Typical uses are in vase displays, wreaths and garlands. Many gardeners harvest their own cut flowers from domestic gardens, but there is a significant commercial market and supply industry for cut flowers in most countries. The plants cropped vary by climate, culture and the level of wealth locally. Often the plants are raised specifically for the purpose, in field or glasshouse growing conditions. Cut flowers can also be harvested from the wild.
A common use is for floristry, usually for decoration inside a house or building. Typically the cut flowers are placed in a vase. A number of similar types of decorations are used, especially in larger buildings and at events such as weddings. These are often decorated with additional foliage. In some cultures, a major use of cut flowers is for worship; this can be seen especially in south and southeast Asia.
Sometimes the flowers are picked rather than cut, without any significant leaf or stem. Such flowers may be used for wearing in hair, or in a button-hole. Masses of flowers may be used for sprinkling, in a similar way to confetti.
Live cut flowers have a limited life. The majority of cut flowers can be expected to last several days with proper care. This generally requires standing them in water in shade. They can be treated in various ways to increase their life.
In most countries, cut flowers are a local crop; because of their limited life after harvest they have to be marketed quickly. In India, much of the product has a shelf life of only a day. Among these are marigold flowers for garlands and temples, which are typically harvested before dawn, and discarded after use the same day.
There is also a market for 'everlasting' or dried flowers, which include species such as Helichrysum bracteatum. These can have a very long shelf life.
The largest producers are, in order of cultivated area, China, India, and the United States. The largest importer and exporter by value is the Netherlands, which is both a grower and a redistributor of crops imported from other countries. Most of its exports go to its European neighbours.
In recent decades, with the increasing use of air freight, it has become economic for high value crops to be grown far from their point of sale; the market is usually in industrialised countries. Typical of these is the production of roses in Ecuador and Colombia, mainly for the US market, and production in Kenya and Uganda for the European market. Some countries specialise in especially high value products, such as orchids from Singapore and Thailand.
- Jack Goody. The culture of flowers. Cambridge University Press,
- "Sectoral Activities Department (SECTOR)". Ilo.org. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
- Gardening (2007-07-13). "Country roses: A cut above". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-12-05.