How to Preserve Cattails for Flower Arrangements

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Cattails are ready to preserve in late summer or early fall.
Cattails are ready to preserve in late summer or early fall. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Cattails grow near ponds, creeks and other wetland areas. They produce tall flower spikes in late summer that later turn brown, giving the plant the appearance of a cat's tail. Once dried and preserved, these plants provide interest to dried flower arrangements. Their height works best in large arrangements of dried flowers and grasses. If not preserved properly, the cattail will begin to fall apart as it releases the fluffy seed heads that make up its bulk.

Things You'll Need

  • Shears
  • Vases
  • Hairspray or lacquer

Cut down the cattails when most of the head has turned brown but when some flowers are still visible at the top. Leave at least 6 inches of stem attached.

Place each cattail in a vase or tall glass to hold it upright. Arrange the cattails so the heads aren't touching each other or anything else.

Spray the cattail heads with aerosol hairspray or a lacquer. Coat the head thoroughly with a thin coat, let it dry for 30 minutes and add another thin coat.

Leave the cattails to dry for 24 hours after spraying. Once dried, place the preserved cattails in your flower arrangements.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a matte lacquer, as glossy lacquers camouflage the soft texture of the cattails.
  • Display cattails and other dried plants in an area away from bright sunlight and air vents. Bright light fades the cattails while dry air can cause them to fall apart.
  • Cattails add vertical interest to a display of dried wildflowers.

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