Fresh Flower Leis: How to Preserve a Lei
In ancient Hawaii, people exchanged leis as a token of affection and a religious symbol. Today, the lei is an enduring tradition. But though the tradition lives on, the lei itself won’t last forever –– unless you know how to preserve it.
Wondering how to preserve a lei? No matter what experience gave you the lei, it’s probably a special token that you want to keep as long as you can. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to maintain fresh flower leis — read on to learn more!
Why Preserve Hawaiian Flower Leis?
Wondering why the Hawaiian flower lei feels so special?
Hawaiian leis are more than just pretty decorations. They actually have different symbolic meanings, depending on the materials used. Here are just a few of the meanings a lei can have. Which kind of lei will you preserve?
Some leis were specifically meant for royalty throughout Hawaiian history.
Traditionally, the royal lei used materials more permanent than flowers. They often included polished kukui nuts, shells, feathers, or other natural materials. These long-lasting leis symbolize power and prestige.
A green flowering vine called maile can be twisted into a lei. This kind was once used as a peace offering.
These green-colored leis still thrive today at many modern events, though, including graduations and weddings. They can also be livened up with the addition of other colored flowers.
Leis of Love
For a blatantly romantic lei, carnations in shades of red, pink, or white work perfectly. These are also popular at weddings, anniversaries, and other events that call for romance. Other romantic leis might use the red and orange ilima flower.
To show a gesture of gratitude or of welcoming, orchids are the flower of choice. These leis tend to come in vibrant colors like green, purple, or white. As a visitor to the islands, you might get this kind of lei as a welcome when you arrive.
Fiery Flower Leis
If you make the trek to the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, you might get a lei made of red or yellow lehua flowers. These leis represent the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele.
History of the Lei
Another reason leis are so special is because of their fascinating cultural history. Let’s take a look at how leis have been a part of Hawaiian culture through the years.
Historians think leis originally came from the Tahitians who sailed to Hawaii, bringing their local customs with them. Leis soon translated into the culture of the islands, taking on meanings like the ones described above. Some leis, like the royal leis and the peace-giving maile leis, had more serious meanings than others.
When the tourism industry started to take off in Hawaii, leis became an easy way for travel companies to welcome visitors with something local and unique. Although many of those travelers didn’t know the meanings behind the leis they received, flowers as a gift is an almost universally appreciated token.
For many years, almost every airport handed a lei to travelers once they arrived on the islands. While the custom is less common at airports now, Hawaiian visitors often get leis as part of events or ceremonies they might visit during their stay.
How to Preserve a Lei: Your Step-by-Step Guide
Lei etiquette means always accepting a lei when it’s offered, and not taking it off while the person who gifted it to you is still there. However, when the time comes to take off your lei, you won’t want to get rid of it right away. Here’s how to preserve real flower leis.
With these steps, you can keep your lei looking fresh for almost a week.
First, gently place your lei in a plastic bag. If it looks like it’s starting to wilt, gently spritz it with water first.
Place your lei in your refrigerator, towards the bottom. The perfect temperature for a lei is actually between 50 and 55 degrees, so if you can store it at that exact temperature range, that’s even better. Try putting your refrigerator on its highest temperature setting, and you’ll probably have the right temperature for your lei.
If you don’t have room in your fridge, you can also place your lei in a cooler with ice for short-term storage. Again, avoid temperatures that are too hot or too cold. Protect your lei from touching the ice directly — cover the ice with cloth or paper before adding your lei.
You can also help the lei maintain moisture by keeping it wrapped in damp paper towels. Mist your lei with water each day so it stays fresh as long as possible.
To preserve your lei in the long term, you’ll want to dry it instead. You can start this process right away, or after storing your lei as described above.
In fact, you should always dry out your lei, even if you plan to get rid of it. These special flowers don’t belong in the regular trash. Traditionally, they get dried and are either kept, burned, or scattered somewhere natural.
To dry your lei, just hang it up in a dry, dark area with plenty of airflow. Leis dry best by hanging up with the flowers upside-down, just like bouquets do. If your home has high humidity, run a dehumidifier or air conditioner in the room while your lei dries.
Your lei should be dry in a matter of weeks — sometimes as little as one week. You can then spray it with a floral sealer or a coat of hairspray so the dried flowers won’t break.
Ready to Go Get Your Lei?
Now that you know how to preserve a lei, the only thing left to do is to book your trip to get one!
Once you get to the islands, make sure you plan to see us for your real flower leis. High-quality leis last longer and hold up to preservation better. Check out our Hawaiian lei flower selection here!
10 of the Rarest Orchids in the World
Orchids are some of the most elegant and diverse flowers in the world. Here are 10 of the rarest orchids from around the globe!
Did you know that the orchid family (a.k.a. Orchidaceae) contains approximately 25,000 species? Or that many orchids remain critically endangered and are rarely found in nature? In fact, the rarest orchids in the world are protected by law and occupy fragile habitats.
Interested in learning more about some rare orchid species? Read on to discover the ten rarest members of the Orchidaceae family.
1. Western Underground Orchid
The Western Underground Orchid is so rare that scientists believe there are fewer than 50 plants in the world. Its habitat is the broom bush scrubland of Western Australia, and it spends its entire life below ground. It flowers from late May through early June, you guessed it, underground!
With more than a hundred reddish and cream-colored flowers, the orchid features a strong fragrance. Since the orchid can’t draw on energy from the sun, it contains no chlorophyll. Instead, it parasitizes the roots of the broom honey myrtle bush.
How? It draws nutrients from this shrub through a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungus.
Because of its subterranean existence, the orchid relies on termites and gnats to pollinate it. They are drawn to it by the flower’s strong fragrance.
2. Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
The Western Prairie Fringed Orchid only exists in five states in the American midwest. Only 172 populations of the species are left in the world, and of these, only four contain more than 1,000 plants.
A wetland plant, the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid flourishes in “prairie potholes.” Major threats to this plan include fires, overgrazing, and development.
3. Ghost Orchid
Native to Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas, the Ghost Orchid grows on the main branches of living trees. It tends to favor pond-apple trees. It blossoms between June and August, producing between one and 10 fragrant flowers that open one at a time.
Ghost Orchid flowers appear white. They are displayed on spikes rising out of the plant’s root network. The lower petal of each flower has two long, lateral tendrils giving the Ghost Orchid’s flowers their distinctive look.
Endangered in the wild, Ghost Orchids have also proven very tricky to cultivate in captivity. Almost all attempts at growing the plant have failed although a handful of botanists have found success.
4. Rothschild’s Orchid
Rothschild’s Orchid is also known as the Gold of Kinabalu Orchid. It is a large, clear-leafed member of the Orchidaceae family. When it blooms, it produces up to six vibrant, tiger-striped flowers.
It was originally discovered in Northern Borneo in the rainforests of Mount Kinabalu. The flower has green and red striped petals and is only found between the elevations of 1,640 and 4,000 feet above sea level.
5. Shenzhen Nongke Orchid
The Shenzhen Nongke Orchid is unlike any other flower on this list. How? It was engineered in a Chinese laboratory by agricultural scientists. In fact, its name comes from the Shenzhen Nongke University where the experiment took place.
It took eight years to craft the blossom, and it, in turn, requires four to five years to produce each flower. It remains a rare bloom that sells for upwards of $220,000 per flower.
6. Hawaii Bog Orchid
One of three species found in Hawaii, this fringed orchid only lives in bogs protected from wild pigs by fences. It features greenish-yellow flowers on erect skies complemented by pale green, egg-shaped leaves. Grown from a tuber, not much else is known about the plant including how it reproduces or its lifespan.
What are some of the biggest threats facing the Hawaii Bog Orchid? Apart from pigs, threats include cattle grazing, hurricanes, and invasive plant species. As of 2009, three populations of the plant remained numbering less than 50 total.
7. Coleman’s Coral Root
Only three populations of Coleman’s Coral Root exist. They are all located in the Sky Islands of Arizona.
Like the Western Underground Orchid, Coleman’s Coral Root spends much of its life below ground. As a result, it doesn’t use photosynthesis to generate fuel from the sun.
A symbiotic relationship with fungus allows it to colonize the roots of shrubs and trees. Because of this interdependent relationship, disturbances of the soil can kill whole colonies. For example, accidental trampling by hikers renders the plant incapable of reproducing.
Unlike the Western Underground Orchid, Coleman’s Coral Root flower above ground when optimal environmental conditions exist. Fewer than 200 of these flowers grow above ground at any given time.
These flowers represent the plant’s only means of reproduction. Threats to this flower include cattle grazing, humans who accidentally trample the fragile blooms, and mining activity.
8. Dragon’s Mouth
Dragon’s Mouth grows in the bogs, swamps, and wet lowlands of Eastern North America, from Manitoba to Virginia. It is a leafless orchid. It flowers in the spring producing a single bright pink blossom. This blossom features a pale pink labellum with a yellow center and magenta spots.
While Dragon’s Mouth is listed as globally secure, it remains threatened in North America. Although the flower puts off a lovely aroma, it offers little nectar to pollinators. As a result, it relies on inexperienced bees to pollinate it.
9. Hochstetter’s Butterfly Orchid
In 2013, scientists rediscovered an extremely rare species of butterfly orchid on the Azorean island of Sao Jorge. The Azores are a group of islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean. Researchers believe the species is so rare that its habitat may be limited to one mountaintop forest.
Hochstetter’s Butterfly Orchid is one of three species of butterfly orchid native to the island. Its rediscovery has placed new emphasis on the need for better conservation efforts.
The unique orchid has dwindled to near extinction. The combined threats of agricultural expansion, deforestation, and non-native flowers have decimated local populations.
10. Sky-Blue Sun Orchid
The Sky-Blue Sun Orchid is critically endangered. These rare orchid plants have recorded populations in Tasmania, South Australia, and Victoria.
The Sky-Blue Sun orchids’ area of occupation is estimated at less than 0.01 km squared. The plant grows in two distinct locations, Mason Point and Pirates Road. But its numbers continue to dwindle.
At the turn of the 21st century, the plant’s total population was estimated at less than 60 individuals. The Pirates Road colony numbered 32 plants and the Mason Point population between 5 to 20 individuals. The main threat to the Sky-Blue Sun Orchid remains loss of habitat.
The Rarest Orchids in the World
The ten orchids listed above face threats from invasive species, development, and more. Most hover near extinction. Learning more about the rarest orchids in the world highlights the importance of conservation.
Some species, such as Coleman’s Coal Root and the Hawaii Bog Orchid, face virtual extinction. They remind us of how fragile Earth’s ecosystems truly are and why very rare orchids need to be protected.
Fascinated by rare orchids? Check out our blog to learn more about these fragile beauties. Or, contact us today with your orchid-related questions. From cultivation to maintenance, we’re here to help your plants bloom.