If you grow hydrangeas and find yourself wishing their beauty could stick around long after they bloom, you'll be happy to hear how easy it is to dry the flowers. Hydrangeas are one of those florals that take almost no effort to preserve—they dry in about two weeks' time and can last for up to a year. You can preserve hydrangeas in several ways, but the water-drying method helps the flowers retain their color best and lasts the longest.
When to Dry Hydrangeas
The ideal time to cut hydrangea blooms to dry is toward the end of their growing season (August through October), when the larger petals are starting to change color and develop a papery feel and the tiny flowers are just beginning to open. If you can't really see the tiny flowers on your hydrangea variety, you can rely on the changing color alone—just keep in mind that it can be a difficult way to judge readiness in some varieties where the shade change is more nuanced, such as 'Annabelle', which only transitions from bright white to pale green.
The biggest challenge when it comes to drying hydrangeas is knowing the right time to cut the blossoms. If you snip the stems at peak bloom, they'll have too much moisture and won’t dry quickly enough to retain their beauty—but cut them too late and they’ll just turn brown. Depending on the year, it can be nearly impossible to find ready-to-cut flowers that have absolutely zero brown spots on them, so remember you can always remove any individual brown flowers either before or after drying.
Equipment / Tools
- Pruning shears
- Hydrangea flowers
Prepare the Flowers
It might sound counterintuitive to dry flowers using water, but allowing hydrangeas to desiccate slowly helps them hold their color and shape (even the stems end up sturdier when dried this way).
To prepare your hydrangeas, cut each flower on an angle using a pair of pruning shears, leaving a length of stem between 12 and 18 inches attached. Remove all leaves from the stem.
Place the Cut Flowers in Water
Next, put your fresh-cut flowers in a vase; fill it up about halfway with water and place it in a cool spot out of direct sunlight. Be mindful not to overstuff your vase with stems, as hydrangea dry best when given room to "breathe."
As the days pass, allow the water to evaporate completely from the vase. This process will usually take about two or three weeks—at the end, your hydrangeas should feel dry to the touch and the stems should be able to snap off easily. At this point, they are ready to use.
Use Your Dried Hydrangeas
There are many decorative ways to display your dried hydrangeas. They're beautiful by themselves in a vase, but you can also mix them into seasonal wreaths or add them to window boxes alongside other dried flowers. Getting married in the fall? You can even use them in your wedding floral arrangements.
Other Methods for Drying Hydrangeas
There are several other ways you can preserve your hydrangeas. If you prefer, you can air-dry your blooms by hanging the individual stems upside down in a cool, dry location. Air-dried hydrangeas tend to be a bit more brittle than their water-dried counterparts, but they still turn out beautiful.
Another option is to let the flowers dry on the plant until they feel papery. However, you may not get the most vibrant color this way, and they won’t last as long as they would using the water-dried method. A word of caution regarding this hands-off approach: if you live in an area that experiences a lot of rain, there's a chance that your flowers may turn brown before successfully drying out.
Whichever method you choose, plan to replace your dried flowers every year or so—just in time for the next fresh batch to be snipped from the branch.