Often called “lepto” in florist shops, this Australian native is a favorite around Valentine’s Day. The woody stems bearing clusters of small white, pink, or red flowers, complement the beauty of roses as well as other flowers used during the winter months. It is a member of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae, and is related to clove, eucalyptus, and guava, and can be easily confused with its relative wax flower.
The prime time for lepto is winter to early spring but it is weather dependent. Cold temperatures can cause delayed flowering and/or rotting flowers. Buy stems in the bud stage to ensure the longest vase life. Avoid stems that are shedding or flowers that are rotting as these are two indications of old age or poor quality. Once purchased, stems should be recut with pruning shears. The stems are woody and so recutting them is an effort, but one well worth the investment as it will increase longevity. Place recut stems loosely in a bucket of flower food solution and put them in a cool place where they will get good air circulation to prevent rot. When designing with lepto keep stems immersed in water as much as possible as the stems have a tendency to dry out. Pick off any shriveled buds as you work with the stems. Lepto has a vase life of 7-10 days.
Lepto is versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. Long stems are excellent for adding line to an arrangement and are especially elegant in oriental and contemporary designs. Long stems can also be shaped into decorative handles for baskets or put into watertubes and added to dish gardens. Smaller stems can be used as fillers instead of baby’s breath and are a charming accent in bud vases.