Cut flowers are a perishable product. Once flowers are cut from the plant, their source of water and nutrients is removed. You must therefore provide water and nutrients to the flowers and create an environment where bacteria and fungal problems are kept to a minimum. The optimal temperature also must be provided for storage. Research and testing is done by manufacturers of cut flower preservative solutions as well as growers to find the best way to process cut flowers.
Clean a 5-gallon bucket or container large enough to hold the cut flowers upright without allowing them to slip below the water line or become crowded. Wash the bucket with dishwashing liquid in hot water, scrubbing well with a clean scrub brush. Rinse very well with hot water. Let drain.
Fill the container one-third full of cleanest clear water available. If the water is chlorinated, let it sit for 24 hours so the chlorine dissipates. The level should be high enough so approximately one-third of the flower stems are submerged in water. Keep track of how much water you are adding to the container so you can add the correct amount of cut flower preservative.
Add the appropriate level of cut flower preservative solution to the clean water. Various solutions are available in the craft section of major department stores or from a professional florist.
Cut at least 1 inch off the bottom of the stems of the cut flowers when they are ready for processing. If they are cut from a field, they may arrive in buckets. The stems need to be cut and the flowers placed in clean buckets. If the flowers are from a wholesaler or retailer and arrive in wrapped bunches, do not remove the sleeves until the flowers have hydrated in the floral solution for at least 12 hours. This allows the stems to become rigid as they fill with water before the sleeves are removed. Remove all leaves from the stems that will be submerged below the water level.
Don't crowd flowers in the bucket. Crowded flowers can quickly mildew because of lack of circulation between stems. If it looks like the bunches will be crowded, fill another clean bucket with water mixed with the appropriate level of floral solution.
Remove any sleeves from the flowers after 12 hours. Carefully cut the sleeves off with a pair of sharp scissors while the flower stems are still submerged. This prevents the cut end of the stems from being exposed to the drying air. Leaving the sleeves on the flowers can result in mildew or bacteria buildup. Place the flowers in a floral cooler with a temperature between 34 and 40 degrees F.