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How to Keep Cut Lilacs Fresh

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017
Lilacs add color to spring arrangements.

The sweet fragrance of lilacs combined with the abundant blooms on each flower spike make these flowers a favorite for spring and early summer cut flower arrangements. Lilacs grow on woody shrubs. Each branch on the shrub has several cones of white, pink or lavender flowers attached to it. Whether you are cutting lilacs from your garden or purchasing fresh flowers from a florist, keeping the arrangement looking its best for as long as possible requires care both before and after placing them in the vase.

Cut the lilac stem from the shrub ¼ inch above where the stem joins the main branch, using sharp shears. Choose stems that have at least two flower cones where the buds have already begun opening on the cones.

Strip the leaves from the stem, otherwise these sit in the water and can lead to premature rot. Cut the bottom of the stem off at a 45-degree angle, then slit the bottom of the stem with a sharp knife. This allows the woody stem to take in water.

Fill a vase with lukewarm water and dissolve a floral preservative in it. Floral preservatives are available from florists.

Place the prepared lilacs in the water, and arrange them so that the flowers do not sit below the water level. Display the lilacs in a cool room away from direct sunlight.

Refill the vase with water daily as the level drops from evaporation. Replace the water and preservative every three to four days or if the water begins to discolor.

Cut the flower cones from the main stem as they complete their flowering cycle. Remove the entire stem from the arrangement once all the cones on the stem finish flowering.


Things You Will Need

  • Shears
  • Knife
  • Vase
  • Floral preservative


  • Cut lilacs in the morning. Flowers cut in the afternoon are often dehydrated from the sun and do not last as long in arrangements.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.