Cutting Lilacs and Making Them Last Longer

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They look beautiful and smell amazing, but cut lilacs tend to droop quickly in a vase. Here are some tricks to cutting lilacs and making them look fresher longer.

I love lilacs; they are right up there with peonies, ranunculus and garden roses. I also remember pulling the flowers off when I was a kid to play with in our outside kitchen (don’t tell MeMe). Now I love to bring them indoors to enjoy their amazing smells and beautiful blooms. But I was often disappointed at the end of the day when they ended up looking wilted and dead. Until I learned a couple of tricks to make my cut lilacs last longer.

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Here are some tips I have and some other tips I found while researching how to make cut lilacs last longer.

cutting lilacs

Harvest Blooms in the Morning

Cut your stems in the early morning or late evening – never in the heat of the day! This is a rule that goes for all cut blooms. Harvesting in the heat of the day will put extra stress on the flower and could send them into shock/decrease their post-harvest life. It’s best to cut in the morning when temps are coolest!

1/3 of the Flower Head Should Be in Bud

Harvest long stems and partially closed flowers are best! Lilacs should be harvested when 1/3-2/3 of the flower head is still in bud ( as pictured just above), this will help them last longer in water after being harvested. Long stems are best for arranging so I always cut at least 12-18″ stems!

Remove Leaves Immediately

De-leaf stems immediately after cutting them from the tree. Removing most, if not all, of the leaves is something I recommend doing with pretty much every cut flower. The goal is to get that prize-winning bloom to last as long as possible so they can be enjoyed to the fullest extent, right? So by removing unnecessary leaves from the stem you are helping allow most of the water and nutrients to get to the flower instead of being wasted on foliage.

Use Clean and Sharp Pruners

Use clean and sharp pruning shears to cut your stems! They should be sanitized with rubbing alcohol before use and sharp so that the cut is clean and does not damage the tree or stem.

Bring a Bucket of Water With You

Fill a bucket half way with clean, warm water and bring it outside to the tree with you. This way you can give these water-guzzling stems an immediate drink. They will greatly appreciate this as it helps prevent wilting.

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Number One Tip For Woody Stems

Woody stems are notoriously hard to make last once cut so here’s the biggest tip – make one to two 2-3″ cuts vertically up each stem. Then with your fingers kind of rough up the fibers to separate them a bit. Breaking up the tight fibers of the woody stems helps dramatically with water absorption and therefore vase life of your lilac blooms!

Add Flower Food & Change Water Daily

Add a packet of flower preservative to your vase (I prefer Chrysal Flower Food) and some fresh, clean, untreated water then submerge your stems. Remember to change water daily, remember when it comes to cut flowers cleanliness is king and bacteria is your worst enemy!

With these easy tips for cutting lilacs your vases of those beautiful purple flowers will be looking beautiful and lasting longer! Want to learn more? Check out Caring for Your Lilacs.