If you grow hydrangeas and wish their beauty could stick around long past when they are in bloom, you'll be glad to hear how easy it is to dry and preserve the flowers. Hydrangeas are one of those flowers that almost dry themselves. The flowers take around two weeks to dry, and they can last in dried form for up to a year. You can dry hydrangeas in several ways, but the water-drying method helps the flowers retain their color and last longer.
When to Dry Hydrangeas
The ideal time to cut hydrangea blossoms for drying is toward the end of the growing season (August through October) when the larger petals are starting to fade or change color and the tiny flowers are just beginning to open. If you can't really see the tiny flowers on your hydrangea variety, you can judge simply by the changing shades of color. However, it can be difficult to judge readiness based on color with some varieties, such as 'Annabelle,' which only transitions from bright white to pale green.
The biggest challenge in drying hydrangeas is timing when to cut the blossoms. If you cut them in peak bloom, they'll have too much moisture and won’t dry quickly enough to retain their beauty. But if you cut them too late, they’ll just turn brown. Some years it's nearly impossible to find flowers that are ready to cut that don't have any brown spots on them. If that's the case, you can always remove the individual brown flowers either before or after drying.
While it's not optimal, you can push the timing a bit and wait until your hydrangea blossoms have begun to pick up their autumn tones of burgundy, pink, green, or blue. It’s not the ideal way to dry hydrangea flowers because they typically won't last as long, but you'll get some interesting tones.
Equipment / Tools
- Pruning shears
- Hydrangea flowers
Prepare the Flowers
It might sound counterintuitive to dry flowers with water. But allowing the hydrangea flowers to desiccate slowly helps them hold their color and shape. Even the stems are usually sturdier when the flowers are dried this way.
To prepare your hydrangeas, cut each flower with a 12- to 18-inch stem attached. The length does not need to be precise; it's simply for ease of handling. After cutting the flowers, remove all leaves from the stems.
Place the Cut Flowers in Water
Place the freshly cut flowers in a vase with water. Make sure the stems are at least half covered with water. Then, move the vase to a cool spot out of direct sunlight. The flowers will still look attractive, so go ahead and display them.
Don’t add more water as it evaporates from the vase. Once the water is totally evaporated—it usually takes two to three weeks—your hydrangeas should feel dry to the touch. The stems will be able to snap off easily. At this point, they are ready to use.
Use Your Dried Hydrangeas
There are many ways to display dried hydrangeas. They are attractive in simple vases all by themselves. Or they can be mixed into wreaths or woven with other dried flowers in window boxes. Dried hydrangeas can even be used for wedding floral arrangements.
Tips for Drying Hydrangeas
There are several other drying methods in addition to water drying. If you prefer to air dry, you can simply hang your hydrangea blossoms upside down by their stems in a dry location, such as an attic. Because of their large size, it's best to hang individual stems, rather than bunching them together. Air-dried hydrangeas tend to be a bit more brittle than water-dried blossoms, but they are still beautiful.
You can also use other common flower-drying techniques, such as drying them in silica gel or microwaving them. The silica-gel method produces vivid colors. But it is somewhat tricky, as the flower needs to be suspended upside down in gel.
Another option is simply to let the flowers dry on the plant until they feel papery. However, you might not get the best color, and they won’t last as long as the water-dried method. The only time drying hydrangeas on the plant is really a bad idea is during a rainy season. The flowers will turn brown before successfully drying.
However you dry your hydrangeas, expect the color to last for several months. After that, it will start to fade. And once you hit the one-year mark, you'll probably want to replace your dried flowers.