Hydrangeas fill the garden with color each summer, with blossoms of cotton-candy pink, sky blue, white, lavender and bluish-purple. By the time the season ends, the flowers turn muted shades of cream and pale green, as well as burgundy, brown and bronze.
It’s easy to keep the show going—not in your garden, but in dried arrangements in your home. Just follow these simple steps to dry your hydrangea blooms.
First, let the flowers dry naturally on the plants. This usually happens from August through October, You’ll know they’re ready when the petals take on a kind of vintage look, or when they mature to the color of parchment paper, often with tints of pink or green. The flowers may also feel papery.
Don’t cut hydrangeas when the blooms are at their peak, or during a rainy spell. The stems and leaves will hold too much water, and the flowers won’t dry fast enough to stay pretty. But don’t wait too long, either, when flowers are completely brown. (A few brown petals aren’t a problem. Just snip those off.)
Snip the flowers on a cool morning. Cut the stems at an angle, at lengths ranging from 12 to 18 inches. Strip off the leaves, and put the stems in a jar of water that covers the stems about halfway.
Don’t crowd the flowers. The different lengths of stems will help keep them at different heights, so they get good air circulation. Put the jar in a cool spot out of direct or bright light, and check periodically. The blooms should be ready in about two weeks, but if they’re not, add a little more water and give them more time. You can display them while you’re doing this.
If you’d rather, hang the stems upside down to dry, individually or in small bunches. Keep them in a cool, dry spot out of direct sun. Check them periodically for dryness.
Another way to dry the blooms is with glycerin, which you can purchase from most drugstores. Again, cut the stems at an angle and strip off the leaves. Then crush the ends of the stems with a hammer. Mix two parts water to one part glycerin in a jar and add the flowers. As the stems take up the mixture, the glycerin turns the petals golden brown. They’re ready when the water evaporates. If you like, you can add a drop of dye to the jar for a hint of color.
Finally, you can dry hydrangeas in silica or white sand. Simply put the flowers in a plastic container and completely cover them with the silica or sand. Remove them after two to four days and gently shake them clean.
Use your dried hydrangea flowers in vases, wreaths, bouquets and craft projects. As long as they’re kept out of direct light and humidity, they should last indefinitely.