How to Bring Lilacs Inside

The sweet smell of Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) is one of the great pleasures of spring. There’s a Lilac planted right outside our window so we could enjoy the scent when it bloomed. Which was a great plan, except that I had forgotten this particular window had been painted shut.

So for us to enjoy the Lilac blooms inside, they must be brought inside.

Our Lilac on the east side of the house. Gets less sun than it should, but still blooms nicely.

Problem is, this never worked – the cut Lilac always wilted in less than an hour. I had given up hope, but then I read a timely post by Stephanie Lindemann on the Chicago Botanic Garden blog. Ms. Lindemann is CBG’s Manager of Horticultural Events.

Here’s my summary of Ms. Lindemann’s advice for bringing Lilacs indoors.

First, wait until the Lilac panicles are mostly in bloom. This is not a plant that can be forced like Forsythia.

Second, cut the stems when the weather is cool and immediately put the cut stems into water.

dsc_0770.jpgThird, remove all the leaves from the cut stem.

Fourth, keep the container with cut stems and water in a cool, dark place for at least an hour.

Finally, cut the stems a second time, and put your stems in a vase with clean water. I have to admit Ms. Lindemann lost me at this stage a bit. She writes about cutting down the middle of the stem and some other stuff, which I tried but couldn’t get right. Read her post, maybe you can do it.

Then she says we should put the vase in a cool dark place for another couple of hours. I didn’t do this because I’m terrible at following directions.

DSC_0767And here are our cut Lilac blooms on the back porch. We could have removed the various other items on the shelf, but that would give a highly misleading impression of our house, where clutter has been raised to a high art. Oh, and please ignore the AC unit outside the window.

Anyhow, even though I followed directions imperfectly, these cut Lilacs have been inside and droopless (a new word I invented to celebrate the occasion) for the last two days. Ms. Lindemann says her method will keep cut Lilacs fresh for 3-4 days, but I’m just happy they’ve lasted more than a couple of hours.

Do you try to bring cut Lilacs inside your home?

57 Comments on “How to Bring Lilacs Inside

  1. What a good post–lilacs are quite wonderful! I enjoyed the information. We do not have lilacs about our place so will have to go in search-they are all about the neighborhood (no, I won’t snag any–maybe they can be offered to me?l) but also at an historic lilac farm in WA where we can purchase a few if we want to take a chance on the “droopability” on the drive home….

    • I am of the hammer smashing school of thought. I pick them when it’s coolish out, smash the stem ends against a rough rock outside, then keep them in a cool dark place for a few hours when I bring them inside. It generally works pretty well. My lilacs are loaded with buds this year.

  2. I usually get a couple of days out of mine until all the little flowers fall off in a puddle around the vase. You are way ahead of me. Mine are nowhere near blooming yet.

  3. My lilac has come and gone this year. I have cut them for indoors in the past and don’t remember them suffering from droop. I usually smash the cut end with a hammer and remove the lower leaves and somehow that has served me well. Yours is a very pretty arrangement and the surrounding clutter is familiar and reassuring!!

    • I’m curious about the smashed ends. Not sure how that would keep the Lilacs fresh – they don’t lose water through the cut end, do they?

  4. I brought a stem inside two days ago, and it wilted today. But since Rob & Emma have pollen allergies, I can’t bring many sweet-smelling flowers in anyway 🙂

  5. Wish I HAD lilacs to bring inside. (I’ve smelled them and they do smell wonderful.) Few lilac varieties will grow here. Too hot! Your “misleading impression of your house” had me laughing.

  6. Wow, your licacs look tall and beautiful. I love the way you cut the stems, so elegant! We are going to share this knowledge with clients 🙂 #yourgardenguides

  7. I don’t have lilacs either, but I often have droopy cut flowers, and it seems very complicated keeping them from dropping, so I’ll try anything. Sweet peas are the only flowers that don’t mind being in our vases for a few days. Your lilacs look very nice inside, very springy!

  8. We do bring them inside, we always place then in an extra large vase with water, after a day or two some drooping….but the smell of them wafting through the room, worth the splurge and the droop. Here in Maine, lilacs won’t be blooming til the end of the month.

  9. I cut the ends vertically and remove the leaves that might touch the water. They seem to last as fair amount of time. I love that fragrance. I am glad you didn’t move all your junk. Makes you seem normal. 😉

  10. Beautiful. Had to laugh when I read this because I attended a pre-flower show meeting for out garden club yesterday where the woman in charge of horticulture expounded the virtue and importance of conditioning materials in water overnight.

  11. Yes, no lilacs in Maine until around Memorial Day. But how sweet they are. Thanks for the tips!

  12. What a timely post! I cut some of our lilac last year to put in a vase and it looked good for, oh, about half a day. Our lilac is almost at peak bloom so I will do what you’ve done (I’m not good at following instructions either) and see what happens. Thank you.

  13. My big lilac is finished blooming, but I cut a few sprigs for a table arrangement for Easter Sunday. By the next morning, they were all drooping. Let’s hope I remember these tips next spring:)

  14. I’ve never managed to keep them alive more than an hour or two so I am going to try this. Thanks for the info.

  15. Haven’t tried it yet, but with your advice and access to a neighbour’s lilac I will give it a go as soon as they open fully! 🙂

      • They still aren’t open – just beginning to open and slightly frost damaged, so I hope they haven’t lost their scent! I will try it though and will let you know!

      • Hi Jason. I tried it at last and today was day and they still look and smell good! I couldn’t manage to cut them on a cool day, but we had the blinds down so it was cool and dark for several hours. I also just cut the stems at a slant instead of trying to be clever with a knife… Thanks for the tips and link!

  16. Yes, she kind of lost me at the end, too. LOL. I think I’ve had more luck with the Syringa vulgaris cuttings than with S. pubescens (the dwarf Korean species). The latter blooms a little later, but gosh the scent is incredible. Thanks for the tips, though–I’ll give it another try.

  17. Very nice. I’m just happy my lilacs are finally blooming enough that I can see them this year. I’ve had them for a while and they never really got going. Maybe I’ll be brave enough to try cutting next year. Although we certainly have enough cool weather this year for me to try it. 🙂

  18. How wonderful! Enjoying the lilacs both indoors and out is such a treat, especially with their heavenly scent. I’m hoping to incorporate a lilac into a new border so am scouting out varieties that don’t sucker…or at least don’t sucker very much. I have enough suckering issues with other shrubs (just pulled a ton of wayward false spirea shoots today) to last me a lifetime.

  19. Indeed, I tried. But with the same poor results you used to have. For all the cleaning up, a bouquet of lilacs requires, once cut, I now prefer to leave them on the bush.

  20. I split the stems while they’re immersed in water, the blooms usually last a few days. I transplanted a lilac sucker a few days ago, hoping it will take.

  21. I shall endeavor to follow this advice to the letter next time I pick lilacs….sadly, I’m a little too impatient, like your good self to follow through completely. I always like to see a house that’s lived in, gives it character!!!xxx

  22. We have one lilac bush on the north border, an ancient planting that was probably planted by the old owner’s parents. I’ve never tried to bring the blooms inside.

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