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The Best Way to Dry Hydrangeas
If you grow hydrangeas and have wished that the beauty of their flowers 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. Once dry, they can last and look beautiful for many months. You can dry hydrangeas several ways, but the water-drying method helps hydrangea 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 season, August through October, when the larger petals (which are really sepals) are starting to fade or change color and the tiny flowers on top of the colorful sepals 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.
Don’t worry too much about being exact. Hydrangeas are forgiving flowers; you can simply let them dry on the plant until the sepals feel papery. You might not get the best color and they won’t last as long as the water-dried method, but it is very easy to do. The only time drying hydrangeas on the plant is a bad idea is during a rainy season; the flowers will turn brown before you get a chance to dry them.
The biggest challenge in drying hydrangeas is timing when to cut the blossoms. If you cut them in peak bloom, they have too much moisture and don’t dry quickly enough to retain their beauty. Too late, and they’ll just turn brown. Some years it's impossible to find flowers that are ready to cut that don't have any spots of brown on them. If that's the case, you can always remove the individual brown flowers, either before or after drying. It can be even harder to judge readiness with hydrangeas like 'Annabelle,' which only go from bright white to pale green.
Drying hydrangeas costs nothing (assuming you have the plants from which to cut the flowers). The flowers will take two weeks or so to dry out, and they can last in dried form for as long as one year.
What You'll Need
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- Pruning shears
- Vase with water
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Prepare the Flowers
The water-drying method helps hydrangeas retain their color while drying, and flowers dried this way will stay attractive for months. It sounds counter-intuitive to dry flowers with water, but allowing the hydrangea flowers to desiccate slowly helps them hold both their color and their shape. Even the stems seem sturdier when the flowers are dried this way.
The first step is to 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.Continue to 3 of 5 below.
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Place Flowers in Water
Place the freshly cut flowers in a vase with fresh water. Make sure the stems are at least half covered with water. 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 the water in the vase evaporates. It’s just there to allow your hydrangeas to dry naturally, rather than simply dry out. Once the water is totally evaporated (it usually takes two to three weeks), your hydrangeas should feel dry to the touch and the stems will be snap off easily; and at this point, they are ready to use.Continue to 4 of 5 below.
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Using Dried HydrangeasContinue to 5 of 5 below.
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Tips for Drying Hydrangeas
- If you prefer to air-dry your flowers, 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, this is best done with individual flowers, 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 that is shifted down over the flower.
- 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, but you'll get interesting tones and the flowers will keep for quite a while.
- However you dry your hydrangeas, expect the color to last for about 1 year. After that, it will start to fade out.