The Syringa, or Lilac Bush, as it is more commonly known, is widely recognized for its amazingly strong fragrance and its ornamental qualities, with its signature flower panacles one of the first to bloom in spring. The blossoms are normally of a blue or purple hue, but are also available in white, pink and even yellow.
Lilacs prefer full sun, but will also grow in spotty shade, though their blossoms will not be as abundant. Their fragrance also seems to intensify in the sun. Highly adaptable, they can grow in almost any type of soil, though their preference will be soil with a neutral pH (7.0) and one that is rich in organic matter. The roots on lilacs grow horizontally and close to the surface, so they benefit from mulching and from mixing organic materials into the topsoil prior to covering the roots. As plants mature and age, also add manure or compost mixed with the soil if it appears the roots are becoming too shallow due to water drainage or soil erosion. Spent flowers should be removed so as to encourage an increased output for the following year. You may want to cut older plants almost back to the ground once the leaves have fallen. This tends to regenerate them when they’ve gotten a little tired. Also be aware that some cultivars only produce good quality flowers every other year, seeming to rest in the off years.
When cutting lilacs you do not want to sacrifice future blossoms, so use a bypass shear as opposed to an anvil shear, so that the stems are not crushed. Your shears should be sharp and it is also best to cut them early in the morning when they are well hydrated. Flowers dehydrate during the day and the mid-day heat tends to wilt them. Flowers cut at the end of the day may not recuperate well from the cutting and will have a shorter vase life and choosing stems on which the panacles are still at least one-third in the bud stage will also insure a longer vase life. If you prefer to have foliage displayed with your flower stems, then cut leaf-only stems to use for this purpose. Cut stems approximately 1-inch from the bottom of the main stem at a 45-degree angle, providing a larger area for water absorption. You should actually carry a water-filled bucket or container with you, so you can immediately put the stems in water as you cut.
Once you are back inside, strip the leaves that will be below the water line on both flower and foliage stems and cut a 1-inch split in the bottom of the stem with a sharp knife, placing it back in the water. In fact, if you are able to do this while the stems are under water, all the better. Some people will run lukewarm water or fill their sink to bathe the stems, but don’t submerge the whole flower head. Then use fresh lukewarm water with a commercial or homemade floral preservative (see recipe below) to extend their life. As soon as the water starts to get cloudy, change it, including the addition of new preservative, and rinse the stems well, cutting the bottom of the stem off and re-splitting the end so as to provide a new cut for the best water absorption. To further extend their beauty, keep your cut lilacs out of direct sunlight and avoid putting them next to fresh fruit. The same gases that cause fruit to ripen can shorten the life of your lilac blossoms. Lilacs, when cared for properly, can last up to 2 weeks in a vase. Place a vase in every room, inhale deeply and enjoy!
Homemade Flower Preservative
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon household bleach
2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
1 quart lukewarm water