Preserving Wild Cattails for Bouquets

© Stephie McCarthy


Welcome to a virtual walk in the country to gather cattails in late summer.

We've seen lots of fanciful shapes in this cattail stand. We've seen Dove Ice Cream Bars (a); hotdogs (b); tawny whites (c); still green (d); doubles (e); and in the center image — velvety, copper-brown catkins with the classic tubular shape.

We've not seen the cool pencil-shaped catkins (f) … yet! We're still hoping!

The search for the perfect cattail means sorting through the exploded, fluffy catkins.

If you find some especially sweet shapes like these above that look like Dove Ice Cream Bars, save the fluffy seeds to grow in containers. Remember, they like wet feet and can be invasive. You can always cut the catkins early to keep them from going to seed.

If a cattail can survive high winds and rain, most likely it will make it home in your car without exploding.

Cattails grow in boggy areas, so it's a good idea to wear boots (cute boots, we like to say!)

You'll find cattails stems are easy to cut. We cut them extra long.

These are also known as bulrush, or reedmace. Whatever you call them, cattails will last years in a vase indoors sprayed with a fixative.

Before spraying, we pushed the stems into floral foam stabilized on two sides with bricks. The bricks are important because cattails are very top heavy and will tip over otherwise.

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Any good fixative will work. We used AquaNet hairspray when we were kids. Now we use ModPodge Clear Acrylic Sealer.


First, brush the cattails very gently to remove any stray fluff.

A couple of coats of fixative is all you will need. You can make bouquets almost immediately.

A tall vase compliments their shape very well, but you may need to shorten the stems a bit more.


Look at that velvety texture — and the tawny white cattail on the left. We're going back for more of those we've decided.

Below is our bouquet of cattails in front of a Colonial fireplace. The florist bucket is weighted well at the bottom —remember, cattails are top heavy!

We supported the cattails with Hydrangea and yellow Alstroemeria. Behind the bouquet we hid a painting of a ginger cat.

The old fireplace is painted red inside and makes a cave like background for this Autumn bouquet.

We made the verdigris horse figurine in front from a toy and chalk paint!

See how we made the easy horse figurine here!

Even if your decor is cool shades of blue and teal, Autum colors make a rich, complimentary accent in late summer.

That's our shabby chic cottage in the background. Needs lots of TLC!

Just needs pumpkins!

Cattail stems are resistant to water. Combine them with living flowers and water, or arrange them with dried plant material with no water at all.

Cattails on a Porch

This bunch was sprayed with fixative and left outdoors on a covered porch. The fixative was no match for the humidity and many of the cattails are growing furry whiskers now, soon to explode their fluffy seeds over the land.

Cattail video


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