Hydrangeas are easily some of the prettiest blooms in any summer garden. And despite how long their flowering season can be, you may be wondering how you can enjoy their beauty and benefits year-round. Rather than trying to prolong their growing season, you might just consider trying something else: Drying and preserving your fresh-cut hydrangea flowers.
When dried properly, hydrangeas make for gorgeous bouquets throughout the autumn and into the winter months. They can also be used in wreaths and other crafting projects. So how exactly can you go about drying your hydrangeas for year-round enjoyment? We’ll dive into all the details here.
Timing is everything
Before you pick any hydrangeas to dry, it’s important to time your harvest just right. The reason? Hydrangeas picked too early in the season contain lots of moisture and often don’t dry as well as those picked later in the season.
You’ll want to pick your hydrangeas towards the end of the growing season (usually late August through early October) for the best results (also a good time to consider transplanting your hydrangeas if needed). For this, it also helps to know what type of hydrangea you have growing in your garden.
If you’re not sure of the timing, look for blooms that have started fading in color. Blooms that are ready to be snipped also tend to have a more papery feel to them (another sign of less moisture). They look more fragile, and fall off the stem easier. Once you start to notice changes in hydrangea color and texture, it’s time to snip off the best blooms for drying and crafting.
Choosing the best hydrangea flowers
Since you’ll be preserving flowers in the condition in which you cut them, it’s important to be picky when choosing which ones to use. Look for flowers with little to no imperfections or brown spots, and focus on finding ones with uniquely colored gradients.
It’s good to set out a few vases in advance for storing your freshly-cut hydrangea blooms since gathering them in bunches or leaving them lying in a pile might damage the paper-thin flowers.
Cutting your hydrangeas
Hydrangeas are expansive growers spreading tall and wide during the flowering season. When cutting your hydrangeas, use a pair of sharp, clean pruning shears or scissors. Aim to cut your stems in the morning after the dew has dried, and cut 12-18” below the flower.
If you live in a humid climate, consider cutting your stems at slightly different lengths to allow for better air circulation between the blossoms as they dry. Pull all the leaves off your stems, and you’ll be ready to continue the drying process!
For end of season care, see our in-depth guide to when and how to cut back hydrangeas.
How to Dry Hydrangeas
There are several ways to dry hydrangeas for later use in bouquets or other crafts. Here are some of the top drying methods to consider, depending on how you plan to use your blooms.
One of the best ways to dry hydrangeas for long-term use and enjoyment is actually by using a vase filled with water. This sounds counterintuitive, but by drying your blooms in water you’ll actually help them preserve their color.
To dry hydrangeas using this method, fill a vase halfway with water and place several of your cut, leafless stems into the vase, being careful not to overcrowd it. If you live in a very wet or humid climate, be sure there’s plenty of space between blooms so they can dry fully (without any mold growth).
Store the drying flowers away from direct sunlight, and let the water fully evaporate from the vase. This may take several weeks. Once it’s evaporated, your hydrangeas should feel dry to the touch. If they don’t, you may want to add water and repeat the process until your blooms pass the “snap test”, which is when the stem can be easily snapped— a true indicator that they are fully dried.
If you find yourself short on vases for drying flowers, then you can opt instead to dry your blooms using the hanging method. This involves making bundles of 2-3 leafless stems, tying them with a rubber band, and hanging them from a hook or string to dry.
While you might not preserve the color as well as you would using the vase method, this is a more space-savvy way of drying large amounts of blooms, especially if you lack the surface area (or vases) to dry them in water. Use the snap test to determine when your blooms are fully dry.
On a wreath
While drying in a vase or hanging your blooms is a great way to go if you plan on using your hydrangeas in a standing display, you may want to dry them differently if you intend to bend the stems and use them in something like a wreath.
When drying on a wreath, the same basic rules apply: Keep your flowers out of direct sunlight and allow for ample airflow between each one. The benefit of drying on a wreath is that your stems will still be malleable enough to bend and form into the shape of your wreath more easily than when they’re fully dry. Wait until flowers feel crisp before adding more blooms to your wreath arrangement.
How to Press Hydrangeas
Depending on the project you have in mind, you may want to preserve individual hydrangea flowers (rather than entire clusters). If this is the case, consider pressing your flowers rather than drying them on stems.
To do this, you’ll want to gently detach individual blooms and press them between two clean sheets of plain paper, and then weigh the pressing down with a book. You can also do this by pressing your flowers between individual pages of a book (as long as you don’t mind some discoloration on your book or flowers). Store the pressing in a cool, dry spot away from sunlight. Wait a few weeks before checking on them to ensure they have ample (undisturbed) time to fully dry.
Besides these drying methods, there are other things you can do to preserve your hydrangea blooms for even longer. One of the best hacks I’ve personally used to keep hydrangeas looking fresh? Hairspray.
It’s unclear if this helps preserve the aesthetic and color, but one thing it does help to keep intact is the overall shape of your flower clusters. If you plan to place your dried blooms in a high-traffic space where they might get jostled or bumped on the regular, consider spritzing them with a bit of hairspray once they’re fully dry. This will help them from completely falling apart as they get moved around.
It’s worth noting that dried hydrangeas (like fresh hydrangeas) contain some toxic compounds, so it’s prudent to keep the dried flowers out of reach of eager pets.
Preserving Hydrangea FAQs:
How do you dry hydrangea flowers and keep their color?
One of the best ways to dry hydrangeas and preserve their color for long-term use and enjoyment is actually by using a vase filled with water. This sounds counterintuitive, but by drying your blooms in water you’ll actually help them preserve their color.
How do you keep dried hydrangeas from falling apart?
Consider spritzing dried hydrangeas with a bit of hairspray once they’re fully dry. This will help them from completely falling apart as they get moved around.
Can I cut my hydrangea flowers for vase?
When cutting your hydrangeas, use a pair of sharp, clean pruning shears or scissors. Aim to cut your stems in the morning after the dew has dried, and cut 12-18” below the flower.
How long do preserved hydrangeas last?
From experience, dried and preserved hydrangeas can last for up to 3 years or more.
Drying and Preserving Hydrangea Flowers: The Final Word
If you want to enjoy the beauty of your hydrangea garden year-round, there’s no better way to do this than by drying and preserving the flowers. Whether it’s for a dry bouquet, or an autumn wreath, there’s an endless number of ways to enjoy your blooms even after gardening season is over.
Want to learn even more about hydrangeas? Check out our essential guide to Growing Hydrangeas for Beginners, Propagating Hydrangeas From Cuttings, or this roundup of Hydrangea Symbolism and Flower Meaning.
Larissa is a writer, gardener, and herbalist living in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. Her writing has been widely published in lifestyle and personal finance publications all over the country, and she's also the creator of the weekly newsletter @rootedintribe.