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How to Use Lilies as Cut Flowers in Vase Arrangements

Lilies are beautiful cut flowers and can make an arrangement look elegant. A single stem, in fact, can be a striking arrangement all by it self, providing a long bloom time as the buds unfold. An everyday bouquet of garden flowers can be made to look elegant with the addition of lilies, and a vase full of lilies has a terrific WOW factor. A few tips on using lilies in vase arrangements can make a big difference in the effect and life of the bouquet.

The tips that follow are for Oriental, Asiatic, and similar lilies, that is, the true lily. They do not apply to such “lilies” as lilies of the valley or daylilies. Even though daylilies look a lot like other lilies, they are not. Their name tells the story…”day” lilies bloom for one day only. Each bud opens for just 24 hours or less. Other buds on the stem may open in future days but you can’t count on having flowers on any given day.

Many lilies are very fragrant and a large mass of flowers blooming together in a confined area can be overpowering. If strong fragrance is not to your liking, consider Asiatic hybrid lilies as they have the least scent.

When selecting lilies for the vase, look for stems that have at least a couple of buds that are just about to open, that is, they have a little bit of flower color showing. If one or two flowers are already open, look for a number of buds on the same stem so that you have flowers for an extended amount of time.

If you are cutting the lilies from your own garden realize that cutting a long stem weakens the bulb and lessens the floral display for the following year. The shorter the stem you take for the vase the better for the bulb so make sure that you leave at least 50% of the stem.

To condition the lily (either from garden or store), cut off the lower 1” of the stem with a diagonal cut. Put the stem in clean water in a cool place out of the sun so it can suck up plenty of water.

Before putting the lily stems in an arrangement, strip off the leaves that will be underwater to reduce bacterial contamination that can shorten vase life.

Use floral preservative in the water at about half strength since lilies are not big feeders.

As the flowers open, remove and dispose of the pollen bearing anthers (long brown structures on the ends of the stamens). The pollen is oily and can stain napkins, tablecloths and other fabrics. If pollen does get on an object, never rub it; put the object with the pollen in the sun for a while and the pollen will usually ball up.

The buds of a lily stems open in succession and can be cut off close to the stem as they fade.

Lilies bruise easily, so handle them with care.

Place the vase arrangement in a cool place out of the sun to encourage long vase life.

Change the water every 3-4 days, earlier if the water become cloudy.

Lilies can give a bouquet beauty, elegance, and fragrance. It’s long bloom time makes it especially valuable in an arrangement and you need only one stem to achieve significant results. If you have to buy a stem of lilies you will find that they are more expensive than many other flowers but considering their pluses, they are well worth considering.

Floristry pointer

Recommended Reading:

Flowers: The Book of Floral Design
Tussie-Mussies: The Language of Flowers
The Complete Flower Arranging Book
Infinite Succulents