Why Do Lilacs Wilt When Cut? What You Need To Know

If only it’s possible to preserve beautiful lilacs forever! These flowers are undoubtedly gorgeous and can add a bit of summer and a delicious, sweet scent to every room. Unfortunately, they begin to wilt relatively quickly after they’re cut, and you may want to know why that happens. 

Lilacs wilt when cut because the large blooms become dehydrated and do not get enough nutrients or water from their stems. When lilacs cannot get what they need from their roots in the soil, they wilt. If they have only begun to wilt, they can still be saved.

In this article, I’ll explain more thoroughly why lilacs wilt so quickly after they’ve been cut. I’ll also offer suggestions for how to make cut lilacs last longer and what to do with wilted lilac blooms. Keep reading if you have a lilac plant you’re planning on harvesting soon! 

Why Lilacs Wilt After Cutting 

Lilacs are large flowers that require a lot of nutrients and water, and they quickly become dehydrated when their stems are cut. Cutting deprives flowers of nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus since they cannot absorb them from the soil.

The roots of lilacs actively take in water and nutrients when they’re in the soil and distribute them to the blooms through tiny tubes called the xylem. When you cut a lilac, you also disconnect the roots from the xylem and take them away from the soil, so they aren’t able to get all the nutrients they need. 

Stems can absorb water and nutrients for a while, so lilac blooms can look healthy in vases for some time. However, stems cannot provide water and nutrients at the same pace or in the same quantity as roots in the soil. As a result, the lilac blooms eventually wilt and die. 

How to Prevent Lilacs From Wilting

There’s no way to keep lilacs from wilting forever, but there are things you can do to keep the lilacs healthier for longer. 

Here are some suggestions for how to prevent lilacs from wilting too quickly: 

Cut Lilacs in the Morning

Lilacs are most hydrated in the morning, so that’s the best time to cut them. You can also cut later in the day after the sun has set if you prefer. However, avoid cutting the flowers at midday because they’re likely already a little dehydrated when it’s warmer, and it’ll be difficult to return them to a hydrated state.

For more about cutting lilacs, check out my article: If You Cut Lilacs Will They Grow Back?

Cut the Stems Properly

For cut flowers, the longer the stem, the better. So when you initially cut your lilacs, ensure you keep the stem as long as possible.

You should also cut the stem at a 45-degree angle because this helps with water absorption. If any leaves are underwater when you put the lilacs in a vase, remove these to prevent the leaves from pulling water from the blooms. 

When you cut your flowers, make sure you take a bucket of cold water so you can immerse the stems as soon as you cut them. Lilacs require a lot of water, so they can begin to wilt even in just the short amount of time it takes to cut them. 

You should also use sharp pruning shears to cut the lilacs. A sharp blade allows for a cleaner cut, making it easier for the flowers to get water.

Before putting the stems in water, smash the ends to open up the surface area of the cut part of the stem to help the lilac draw up more water. 

Stick the End of the Stem Into Alum Before Putting the Flower in a Vase

Lilacs secrete a substance covering the cut part of their stems to protect the plant. However, this also prevents the stems from getting water, which is the only way lilacs can get any nutrients after being cut.

Sticking the cut end of the stem into alum allows the lilac to continue getting water even after the substance has been secreted. 

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, alum is a natural food preservative typically used to help maintain the crispiness of vegetables, so you may already have some in your home.

Clean Your Vase Before Putting Your Flowers in It

Bacteria can quickly kill flowers, so if there are any bacteria in your vase when you put your lilacs in them, the flowers will quickly wilt and die.

Therefore, it’s essential to thoroughly clean your vase with hot water, dish soap, and vinegar. After cleaning, make sure you rinse the vase well and remove all traces of soap before you add the lilacs. 

Add Floral Preservative to the Water

Adding a gentle formula to the water before placing your lilacs in it can help prevent wilting. You can also crush up some aspirin and add that to your floral water because the salicylic acid in the aspirin prevents bacteria. 

I like this Fresh Cut Flower Food available on Amazon. This gentle formula is created specifically for fresh-cut flowers and is designed to keep them looking healthy for longer. The formula comes in a pump bottle that helps you easily measure how much of the solution to put into your vase. 

Alternatively, you can make your own preservative with the following: 

  • 1 teaspoon (4.9 ml) of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (4.9 ml) of bleach
  • 2 teaspoons (9.86 ml) of lemon juice 
  • 1 quart (0.95 L) of lukewarm water

Do Daily Maintenance

If you want to keep your lilacs from wilting, you’ll need to give them daily attention. You should top up the water every day and completely change it every couple of days. In addition, you should re-trim the stems every time you change the water. 

Re-trimming the stems helps lilacs that have already begun to wilt perk up, so don’t lose hope if you see your lilacs start to droop. With a little bit of care and attention, you can probably get a few more days out of them. 

What to Do With Wilted Lilac Blooms 

Unfortunately, cut lilacs will wilt beyond repair after around 5 days, no matter what you do. Lilacs simply can’t look healthy for too long when they don’t have their roots or the soil to support them. 

Here are some suggestions for what to do with your wilted blooms: 

  • Press the blooms and use them for decoration. You can use pressed flowers in frames, candles, paperweights, postcards, bookmarks, stationery, and more! 
  • Use the lilacs in food and drink recipes. Lilacs are edible, so you can use them in various ways in many different recipes. 
  • Make lilac oil. Lilac oil smells incredible and has many health benefits. So, after you’re done enjoying your lilacs in a vase, you can enjoy them in an oil diffuser. 

It can be sad when your beautiful flowers wilt, but with these tips, you can preserve the life of your lilacs for even longer. 


Lilac blooms are large and need enough water and nutrients to keep them healthy. It’s difficult for them to meet their needs when their stems have been cut and removed from the soil. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make lilacs last longer in vases. 

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com and its lead content writer. He created the website in 2022 as a resource for horticulture lovers and beginners alike, compiling all the gardening tips he discovered over the years. Alex has a passion for caring for plants, turning backyards into feel-good places, and sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world.

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