Get perfectly-dried hydrangea blooms every time with this easy step-by-step guide on how to dry hydrangeas. It’s easier than you think.
Chances are that if you love hydrangeas, then you really love hydrangeas. Of all flowers, hydrangea blooms definitely seem to have the most die-hard fans, and I count myself as one of them. From the time the flower buds start to show up in the spring, the anticipation for those showy summer blooms seems to captivate horticulture enthusiasts and casual gardeners alike. If you love these easy-to-grow flowering shrubs too, then maybe at one point you came to the realization that you could just cut and dry your blooms from your favorite hydrangea flowers outside, and then you’d be able to enjoy them inside for as long as you like. Today I’m going to share my process for how to dry hydrangeas so they turn out perfectly every time and look as beautiful in your home as you hope they will. Just say no to wilting flowers.
Challenges You May Face
Dried hydrangeas look amazing inside any home in everlasting fall displays and can even be used in Christmas decorating too. And then, after Christmas, when you’re ready to start dreaming of summer cut flowers again, they’re perfect in a vase on your table and so much more natural looking than most silk flower arrangements. And they never need watering or any special care after they’ve gone through the drying process.
The problem comes when you try air-drying hydrangeas of your own, and you realize that it’s not quite as easy as it seems. The delicate petals have a tendency to wilt and curl and flop and just generally turn to unusable mush. I know mine did for a long time, and I could never figure out what in the world I was doing wrong.
I actually had an extra frustrating time because I had dried some hydrangeas perfectly once a few years ago, and I could never figure out why those worked so well while others totally failed. Photos circulating online of hydrangeas hung upside down with string certainly didn’t help either and made it look like that was the “right” way to go about drying blooms.
It’s a small victory, but I’m so glad to have solved this decoration mystery, and it doesn’t involve any precarious twine hanging situations in a dark corner of your house. So here’s what you have to do!
How to Dry Hydrangeas
First, look at your calendar. Is it before August? Then I’m sorry, but drying your hydrangeas is just going to be more trouble than it’s worth.
It turns out that drying hydrangeas successfully depends more on when the hydrangeas are ready to be dried rather than when you’re ready to dry them. It’s so zen, isn’t it? I used to think that if the plant was blooming, I should be able to dry a few flowers, but that’s just not the case.
Timing is Everything
The best thing to do is to wait for the flowers to start to dry naturally on the plant before you start trying to force them to dry. Depending on your growing season, this will happen in the late-summer or early fall, somewhere between August and October. I picked these at the end of August, and the whole thing couldn’t have been easier. Once the flowers started to dry naturally and I saw a few flowers starting to fade and turning just a bit brown, I clipped them with sharp scissors, put them in a container, watered them, and put them up on a shelf to dry for a few days.
Then they were dried and I stuck them in a pretty vase.
And that’s it!
If you’re looking to add the elegance of dried blooms to your home but don’t have any hydrangeas of your own, I wouldn’t suggest trying to dry the hydrangeas that you’ll find at your local florist because those will probably still be too fresh and perfectly in-season. You might consider asking your local flower farm if you can buy a few of the remaining blooms on their hydrangeas at the end of the season instead, so you can follow these steps exactly. As a bonus, they may even have some other types of flowers available that will go nicely in your floral grouping.
A Few Other Notes
After your hydrangeas have dried, remove any remaining foliage because the greenery will probably be a bit shriveled up and won’t look so nice. The dry-air conditions of your house in winter will be enough to keep your blooms in perfect condition for all ornamental uses, but if you decide to store them away during the spring and summer, place a few packets of silica gel in with them to prevent mildew.
These drying instructions will work well for all types of hydrangeas, such as cone shaped panicle, the white hydrangea snowball lookalike “Incrediball”, oak leaf, or endless summer mophead. For hydrangeas with bright colors that you want to preserve, try to harvest them a little earlier during the drying window to keep their colors their brightest. You may need to experiment a bit to get the exact right drying time for your variety and USDA hardiness zone.
If you’ve ever been frustrated by wilted flowers like I have, you’re probably as stunned as I was that this process could be so easy, but it really is when you’re armed with a little information.
Ideas for Using the Dried Flowers
Once you realize how easy drying flowers from your hydrangea shrubs really is, you’ll probably be tempted to make it an annual tradition to harvest a few of your best blooms of the season. Since properly dried stems tend to last pretty much forever, you might end up with quite a few on your hands that you just can’t bear to throw away, so here are a few ideas.
Of course, you can always place dried flower arrangements in vases around your house. A bouquet of dried hydrangeas is a classic centerpiece in a dining room or on the coffee table for fall or winter.
I always love the look of a hydrangea wreath hanging on a front door during the autumn. These wreaths always look so full and fancy to me, but it’s easy to make a wreath that’s forever in bloom yourself by tucking a few of your best blossoms into a grapevine wreath.
One year I tucked quite a few of these floral masterpieces into a Christmas tree on our porch and the effect was so lovely and I’m considering adding them to my festive porch again this year, along with some classic black lanterns for a traditional look.
I’m sure you can come up with a million different ideas for how to use a dried flower arrangement around your home now that you know the best way to dry your hydrangeas. Definitely let me know if you have a clever idea we all need to know about!
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.