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Sweet William

Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

sweet william030
Michael S. Reid

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality


Dianthus barbatus. A close relative of carnation, normally grown in the field, Sweet William flowers are borne on a short-stemmed inflorescence. Colors range from white through intense red and purple, and provide strong accents in an arrangement. The specific epithet barbatus means bearded or barbed in reference to the beard-like growth emerging from the petals.

Quality Indices

Flowers in the Sweet William inflorescence continue developing after harvest and they should be harvested with the outer ring of flowers open. Flowers should have at least the outer whorl of florets open. Avoid flowers with withered or sleepy florets, as this indicates ethylene-induced problems.

Grading and Bunching

Quality Sweet William flowers are of uniform maturity, are free from damage and evidence of pests and diseases, have reasonable stem length and good quality foliage. Flowers are sold in a grower's bunch of at least 12 stems.

Ethylene Sensitivity

Sweet William flowers are ethylene-sensitive.


Sweet William flowers should be pretreated with 1-MCP or STS to prevent the deleterious effects of ethylene.

Storage Conditions

Like the closely-related carnation, Sweet William flowers should be stored at 0-1°C.


Sweet William flowers are normally packed in horizontal fiberboard boxes.

Special Considerations

As with many flowers grown in the field, fungal infections due to the wet foliage and flower conditions sometimes experienced at harvest can be a problem. Make sure that flowers are rapidly unpacked and aerated to reduce possible disease spread.


October 2004

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The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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