Hydrangea flowers have such striking foliage and stunning blooms that home gardeners want to extend the life of these showy specimens as long as possible. Here are some ways to help preserve hydrangea flowers after cutting.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin adds, "Keep your hydrangea blooms away from sunlight and humidity and they'll last for a long time."
Choose the Right Time to Cut
It isn’t the method of preservation that’s important, it’s choosing the right time to cut or harvest the hydrangea flowers. Don’t be tempted to snip the gorgeous blooms when they’re at their peak color. They simply won’t dry well in the open air. Instead, let them naturally dry on the stems and aim for harvesting from August through October, depending on climate zone.
When they’ve aged properly on the stems, hydrangea flowers will turn various shades of purple and blue, although in the South, some may turn green before they fade to pink and burgundy.
There are three basic methods of preserving hydrangeas: water drying, air drying and use of silica gel.
Water Drying Method
Perhaps the most popular method of preserving hydrangea flowers is water drying. First, cut the stems of the flowers so there’s 12 to 18 inches below the blooms. This is to allow easier handling. Then, cut off all the leaves. Put the cut flower in a deep vase filled with fresh water so that each stem is submerged half-way.
Next, place the vase in an area that’s cool and dry--keeping out of direct sunlight. Allow the water to completely evaporate. When the water’s all gone, the hydrangea flowers will be dry and ready for use in decorating or crafts.
Some gardeners swear by adding alum powder to water. Put 1 teaspoon of pickling alum into a vase of fresh water. Then dip the tips of the cut hydrangeas into alum powder and place the stems into the vase. When the water evaporates, the hydrangea flowers will be ready to use. Use on a couple of stems to see if this method works satisfactorily.
Air Drying Method
An easy method involves air drying. This process is best utilized for individual flower blooms. Cut as before and hang the hydrangea flowers by their stems upside down. Air drying results in blooms that are more brittle than those preserved by the water drying method, but they’re still beautiful.
Again, keep the hydrangeas out of the direct sunlight as they dry, because lengthy exposure to sunlight will cause the blooms to fade at a faster rate. Allow between 10 to 20 days for the flowers to be fully dried.
Silica Gel Drying Method
Available in craft stores, silica gel helps to speed the process of preserving hydrangea flowers. It’s granular, sort of like sea salt, and should only be used with good ventilation. Do not breathe the fumes.
Use a shallow airtight plastic or glass container and spread a 1-inch thick amount of gel on the bottom. Cut the stems of the hydrangea flowers short to fit in the container. Remove all leaves. Place the flower in the container and hold it while continuing to pour silica gel over and around the top of the flowers. Continue until the hydrangea flowers are covered with ½-inch of silica gel. Place a lid on the container and store for a 4-day period.
Whichever drying method is used, hydrangea flowers should last for about 1 year. After that, they’ll lose their color and should be replaced.
TIP: Kathy recommends, "Here's a good link to a video about preserving hydrangeas--http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S92y2Fmo66w"