How to Cut, Condition and Arrange Lilies
A vase filled with lilies adds elegance, fragrance, and a touch of natural beauty to any space. To maximize the lifespan of these stunning blooms, follow these tips for using lilies as cut flowers.
How and When to Cut Lilies
When selecting lilies for cutting, choose flowers in the colored bud stage and allow them to open inside your home. This ensures that the petals won’t be damaged and will allow for easy transportation if necessary. A lily picked in colored bud stage and set in a room temperature location will open in 24 hours or less. As with all cut flowers, warm water and warm temperatures will hasten the opening process. Whereas cold water and cold temperatures will lengthen the opening process.
Lilies should be cut in the early morning or early evening when the flowers are well hydrated. Use sharp, clean snips when cutting to avoid crushing or contaminating the stems. If you want the lily to return next year, leave at least 1/3 of the stem behind to replenish the bulb.
After cutting, remove any leaves that will fall below the water line to prevent bacterial growth. Then, place the lilies into a clean plastic bucket filled with fresh water. Do not use galvanized buckets for harvesting any type of cut flower because the coating on the bucket creates an oily residue in the water that clogs the stems.
Allow the lilies to condition in a cool location for a few hours prior to arranging. After conditioning, maximize water uptake by giving the lilies a fresh cut at a 45-degree angle. Add floral preservative to the final vase water to further extend the beauty and longevity of the flowers.
Storing Lilies in a Cooler
If you plan to sell cut lilies, you'll need to store them in an upright cooler set to 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit. It's important to cool lilies down gradually to avoid cold damage to the buds. When a "hot" lily from the garden is immediately put into a cooler, it can cause permanent bruising on the buds. Therefore, when harvesting lilies on hot days, take care to cool the flowers down gradually before introducing them to the cooler. This can be accomplished by leaving your cooler door open for 15 minutes or allowing the flowers to rest in a cool room for an hour prior to cooler storage.
Cut lily stems can be held in water in a cooler for 7-10 days. Longer storage is not recommended because the leaves will yellow and younger buds may fail open.
Remove the Pollen Anthers
Once the flowers begin to open, it’s important to remove the pollen anthers. Lilies shed their pollen and it can stain the flower petals as well as nearby fabrics. To remove the pollen, grasp the pollen anthers with a tissue and gently pull them straight out and away from the lily. Take extra care when working with certain OT lilies such as ‘Scheherazade,’ because the force of pulling on the anthers may cause the entire bloom to pop off. To be safe, hold the back of lily flower where the bloom meets the stem with one hand while you pull the pollen off with your dominant hand. This will leave the stigma behind and preserve the look of the lily. Lily pollen is extremely toxic to cats and should be disposed of immediately.
Extend the Vase Life of Cut Lilies
For the longest vase life, display your cut lilies in a cool area away from direct sunlight. Change the water in the vase every two to three days and recut the stems at an angle to promote continued water absorption. Additionally, remove any wilted or spent flowers to maintain the arrangement's appearance.
Lastly, note that hybrid lilies are ethylene-sensitive and should be kept away from ripening fruits, vegetables, and other ethylene-producing flowers.
Choose the Right Lily Variety for Cutting
Not all lilies are created equal when it comes to cutting. Generally, Asiatic lilies are the most popular choice since their blooms are upward facing and carry no fragrance. An upward facing lily is much easier to work into a bouquet than an outward or downward facing lily.
Oriental lilies carry a strong fragrance and face outward. This fragrance is loved by some and loathed by others. In an arrangement, it’s possible to push an outward facing lily upward by positioning a strong stem of foliage under the bloom head.
Double Asiatic and Double Oriental lilies don't have pollen, face upward, and carry a light fragrance or no fragrance at all. This makes them a great choice for cutting, and the extra layers of petals lends to a richer and classier appearance.
OT lilies (also known as Orienpets) are a cross between Oriental and Trumpet lilies. Depending on the cultivar, they have a medium to strong fragrance.
LA lilies are a cross between Longiflorum and Asiatic lilies. Depending on the cultivar, they typically have little to no fragrance.
There are also Longiflorum, Trumpet, Species, and Martagon lilies. All of these are wonderful in a vase and at their best when displayed on their own.
Lilies are incredibly long-lasting cut flowers when harvested, conditioned, and cared for properly. By following these steps, you can enjoy cut lily flowers for up to two weeks.
Shop HERE for lilies by variety, type or color.
Learn more here: 8 Tips for Growing Better Lilies; How to Garden with Lilies; How to Control Red Lily Leaf Beetles; Bloom Times for Lilies; Bloom Time Planning Guide for Spring and Summer Flower Bulbs