While sola wood flowers are gaining in popularity, they are still largely unknown to the everyday person. Because of this, you may run into a wide range of questions about these flowers - what are they, how do I care for them, do you make them...and so on. Here is a list of some of the questions you may be asked frequently and a general guide* on how to respond to them!
What are sola wood flowers?
Sola wood flowers (or shola) are an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to cut flowers. Made from the renewable wood of a marshy plant (not tapioca or cassava as commonly misunderstood), sola wood flowers look like real flowers and last a lifetime.
Sola (or ‘shola’) wood flowers are made from a plant called Aeschynomene aspera (rolls off the tongue, right? No wonder they’re simply called ‘sola’!). It’s a plant that grows wild in marsh areas. Because it grows quickly, it is a renewable resource and one of the lightest known woods. If you’ve ever touched balsa wood before, it’s a very similar feeling.
The plant has a layer of bark that covers the internal, cork-like center of the plant (called the ‘cream’). In most flowers, the bark is stripped and the center is made into thin sheets. It is these sheets that are hand-cut to make sola wood flowers.
Sometimes, the bark is left on before the creation of sheets, creating a unique two-tone effect on the flower. These are called "bark" or "skin" flowers.
Do you make the flowers?
This is a question we get asked a LOT. And while it is a typical question for people buying from crafters or buying handmade items, it can sometimes make you feel like an imposter if you aren’t making every single flower by hand (trust me, I’ve seen the looks when my answer is “they are handmade but not by me”). After getting the “look” a few times when responding to this question, I asked myself the following questions and flipped my mindset:
- Are all fresh florists growing the flowers they use in their backyard?
- Do all chefs raise the animals and grow the produce they are cooking in tonight’s special?
- Are all painters hand grinding natural materials to create pigments needed to paint? Or even creating their own canvases from scratch?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. And if the answer is yes in any of those situations, that is something the florist/chef/painter will market the heck out of to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. All this to say, you don’t need to mislead your potential customers by alluding that the flowers are made by you or feel bad in any way. By purchasing these flowers pre-made, you are able to make arrangements quicker and more affordable for your clients. Just like most fresh florists do!
Not all of the wood flowers, no. While I do make some specialty wood flowers, I also work with a premium vendor who supplies me with raw, colorless flowers. My speciality is in turning those flowers into the arrangement of your dreams!
Can they be placed outside?
This is a tough question because it means two things. 1. You have to educate your client on the risks of mold, color fading and flowers just falling apart in the elements. And doing so could possibly lead to 2. Not making the sale. That said, it is much more important to be honest with your potential customers and make them aware of the risks of keeping an arrangement outside. Letting them know at the beginning of the transaction can save you the headache of a complaint and/or refund and the heartache of a bad business review.
Yes and no. While I do create and sell wreaths and memorial pieces, the flowers are organic and I would recommend not keeping these pieces outdoors without an awning or storm door protecting them. If you request an outdoor arrangement, I will spray it with a protective polycrylic sealant but this does not ensure the flowers will last forever. Direct sunlight, rain, humidity and other weather will eventually damage your piece.
How do they compare to fresh flowers?
AKA - why would I choose wood flowers over fresh cut flowers?
For this question, or any question where someone is asking you to compare yourself, your product or your art to another, you should be very mindful of tone. Using negative verbiage about another industry (or business) does not sit well with a lot of people. Example - instead of saying “these flowers don’t die like fresh flowers,” put the focus on the positives of what you offer: “the flowers I work with are made from natural products yet are also long lasting and can be forever keepsakes!”
Cost comparison - this one is tricky. We generally say that wood flowers are less expensive than fresh flowers but that is not always the case! For the DIY bride or crafter, yes. Sola wood flowers tend to be less expensive. But when you are running a sola business and are factoring in things like your time/labor, supplies costs, overhead, marketing/branding and everything else that goes into it...your pricing can be fairly similar to that of fresh flower arrangements.
We offer very competitive pricing in the floral industry. [Yes, honestly. I would keep it as simple as that!]
They aren’t scented (but can be!) - many people who are looking for fresh flower alternatives do so because of allergies or reactions to strong scents (eucalyptus gives me migraines so I can relate to this!). One big difference with sola wood flowers is that they are unscented to the average nose and only have a faint, earthy smell to the highly sensitive nose.
Wood flowers are naturally odorless. If a scent is desired, I can add essential oils to my pieces, but generally these flowers are very friendly to people who are sensitive to strong odors.
- They last forever - see the next question for more on this topic!
Do these flowers really last forever?
Other versions of this question: Do I have to water them? How do I care for them?
Getting asked by a customer or a potential customer if the flowers need to be watered is pretty much the greatest! It’s such a good feeling when they think your flowers are freshly cut. As for care, there are several recommendations on how they should care for their sola arrangement.
They can last forever, WITH the proper care. If kept in direct sunlight, they can fade and age. If kept outdoors, they are subject to weather. So while you don’t have to water these flowers, they are still vulnerable to the elements. Keep them in a dry place and you’ll get a lot of mileage out of my pieces.
For general upkeep, if you see they are gathering any dust, you can use a hair dryer (set to cool on a low setting) and run the air over the flowers.
These are some of the most common questions you may encounter while helping to educate others on sola wood flowers and their benefits. If there are any others that you are asked and need some guidance on how to answer, feel free to email Maggie #2 at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask them below in the comments!
*Some of the responses listed above are taken directly from my personal business page to show wording from an actual business FAQ page. As with all business ideas and suggestions, you should change and reword things to fit the vibe of your brand.