How to Keep Lilacs in Vases from Wilting Right Away

Cut lilacs tend to wilt quickly. Delay drooping with these simple strategies.

Clipping a few sprigs of something beautiful from your own garden to fill a vase is an easy way to brighten up a room. Most flowers don't require much special care as cut flowers, but freshly-trimmed lilacs are notoriously temperamental. These big, blowsy flowers that look so pretty on the plant often end up looking wilted (or dead) by the end of the day after you clip them off. Don't give up on these fragrant blooms, though. With the right techniques and care, you can cut lilacs with confidence when they appear in the spring. Here's how to enjoy these vibrant, sweet-smelling flowers for days in a vase.

detail of lilac cuttings in clear vase
Andy Lyons

Cut Lilacs Strategically

The best time for cutting lilacs is early in the morning when they're fully hydrated. Use sharp, clean pruning shears to sever the stems, then immediately plunge them into a bucket of cool water. Try to cut the stems long enough so you can re-trim them every day to help maximize their vase life. If it's a warm day, get your flowers indoors into cooler temperatures as soon as possible.

Use a Clean Vase

Residue from soap or past arrangements may harm cut flowers so make sure the vase you choose is clean. Run your glassware through a dishwasher cycle or wash it by hand with a solution of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water.

Prep Your Lilac Stems

Fill the vase with fresh water, and stir in a floral preservative (available at flower shops) to increase the longevity of your blossoms. Before adding your freshly cut lilac flowers to the vase, pluck off all the foliage that would be submerged. Leaves under or in the water will rot quickly and create conditions that will cause your lilac stems to wilt faster. You can leave the uppermost greenery on the stems for a fuller arrangement. Trim the bottom of the stems at a 45-degree angle to create more surface area for water to soak in.

Choose a Cool Location

Finally, arrange your lilacs in the vase and set them you'd like to display them. It's a good idea to place your cut lilacs in a spot with indirect light because the heat from direct sunlight will cause faster wilting. Similarly, avoid placing your flowers near other heat sources such as radiators or heating vents.

Freshen Things Up

Every day, recut the stems at the same 45-degree angle with a clean pair of shears. If you think of a flower stem as a straw, sometimes the end get clogged, so snipping off the end helps unclog things so the stem can keep taking up plenty of water for the flowers. Replenish the water in your vase each day, or as needed if it starts looking cloudy.

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