Enjoy your Fresh Cut Lilacs Longer

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A sure sign that summer is one its way in Upstate New York is the smell of lilacs wafting in the breeze. The lilac festival is this weekend in Rochester at Highland Park!  This is an incredibly busy time of the year for us, between the planting of field crops and calves being born, it is almost impossible to sneak off the farm. I would love to go and see all the different varieties of lilacs at Highland park (over 500 different varieties!) but not this year.

Fresh Cut Lilacs: How to enjoy your blooms indoors for as long as possible- Home in the Finger Lakes
Fresh Cut Lilacs: How to enjoy your blooms indoors for as long as possible

Luckily we do have 3 lilac bushes in our yard so I do get the enjoy the lilacs for the very brief time they bloom. I almost always cut lilacs and arrange a few containers to scatter around the house.  But these prettily scented flowers don’t last long; the average lilac bush only blooms a few weeks each year. And once cut, the typical blooms only last around five days.

Fresh Cut Lilacs: How to enjoy your blooms indoors for as long as possible
White Lilacs arranged in teacup

Keep your Fresh Cut Lilacs Longer

  • Choose lilac stems in the morning when they are filled with moisture from the morning dew. Warm days dehydrate flowers. Flowers cut at the end of the day will fade quickly.
  • Look for stems with firm leaves and strong colors. To maximize vase life, choose stems before they are in full bloom; with at least one-third of the flowers still in bud.
  • Use a sharp knife or pruning shears, and cut each lilac stem approximately 1 inch from the bottom of the main stem at a 45-degree angle. Cutting at an angle will help ensure a larger area is exposed to water for maximum water uptake.
  • Smash the bottoms of the lilac stems so they can draw water up through the woody stem to the blossoms. Use the back of your garden clippers like I did in the video or use a small hammer,  and give the stem a whack so that the stem splits.
  • Remove any leaves, this will reduce the loss of water due to transpiration.
  • Immediately place the lilac stems into a container of warm water with Floral Preservative or crushed aspirin. The salicylic acid in the aspirin will help keep the water clean and free of flower-damaging bacteria.

More useful reading:
Rochester NY, Lilac Festival
Cut Flowers Lifehacker
How to Keep Cut Lilacs Fresh



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  1. Thank you, Thank you. I had lilacs at my wedding 50 years ago in Toronto. Now out in Calgary, the lilacs are not nearly out so I am having to order them in for quite a price…. I really want them to look good for just a couple of days. I will have a couple of big bunches and a small centerpiece on each of about 6 tables

  2. I had a lovely vase of cut lilacs from my bush. I found little black sprinkles on the table beneath them after a few days. I thought they were seeds, but it turns out seed pods grow on the bush after the blooms die back. What are these little black seed-like things? I hope not bugs…..!!! 😮

    1. Hi Rick,
      No, Tylenol is acetaminophen, while aspirin is salicylic acid; two very different medicines/drugs.

      Also, as a side note a dog or cat can be given aspirin (but ONLY when presdrbed by a veterinarian), but NEVER give a dog or a cat Tylenol as it is poisonous to them and will very likely cause them to die.

      I know that isn’t on the same topic as lilacs, but so many people don’t know the dangers of medicating their animals witbout consulting a veterinarian.

  3. Followed your instructions and your advise is perfect. Lilas still perfect after three days but the water is murky. Do I change the water crushing additional aspirin?
    Thanks again for your advise