Autumn Flowers – Preserving Cattails for arrangements

When thinking about autumn flowers, most people think of mums, asters and daisies. Adding interest to those typical autumn flower choices are cattails. Put some of these spunky punks into your arrangements for fall. Treated right, they’ll last all year long. Here’s how to preserve cattails for your autumn flower arrangements.

You’ll find cattails growing along roads in areas where there is moisture. You don’t need any special equipment for harvesting them, I cut ours with a standard pair of gardening shears but a sturdy pair of scissors should do just as well. The best part is that as they are often found in ditches, you won’t need any special permission for cutting them down if they are in public areas. Wear your gumboots and get harvesting! Look for well formed, fuzzy cattails that have not started to split or lose seed. Gather in late summer and early fall depending on the weather where you are. I picked mine in early September.

Once you’ve hauled your autumn bounty home, you’ll need a place to put them for spraying before adding them to your floral arrangements. Spraying will keep them from creating a mess in your home. Un-sprayed cattails can burst, exploding into a handful of fluffy seed.  You won’t want that to happen and it’s easy to prevent. I stood mine up in this wire gate but you could put yours into a cardboard box just as well. You’ll want them to stand upright so you can spray evenly and allow them to dry without having to turn them.

I chose to use this product, a matte, clear spray, and it worked really well. I’ve also heard that you can use hairspray but I haven’t tried that myself. You just want something that is going to help prevent those fibres from expanding. Spray your cattails evenly and allow to dry between coats. Apply three light coats, being sure to get all areas of the brown ‘tails.’ You do not need to spray the leaves. Be sure to spray only in a well ventilated area. Also, even though this spray is clear, you’ll want to tape off your area to prevent over spray from getting where you don’t want it. Treat it as you would a coloured spray paint.

I left these out in the garage for about three days before I brought them indoors. They’ve been inside for a year now and while the leaves faded in colour, they’ve held up very well. No puffy seed explosions! As fun as that sounds 😉 You can see how I displayed these autumn florals HERE.


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