How to Dry Hydrangeas So You Can Enjoy Them All Fall Long

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It's easier than you think!

We’ve been enjoying all the pretty pinks, blues, pale greens and creamy whites of hydrangeas all summer long. Sure, there are some bumps, like your hydrangeas not blooming, but we’ll put in the effort for these gorgeous flowers. Come fall, however, we still want to enjoy their beauty, so we’ve started looking into how to dry hydrangeas. Turns out, it’s pretty simple!

There are many varieties of hydrangeas and you can dry their blooms with a method called “vase drying.” The dried arrangements can last for a year—or more.

When to Dry Hydrangeas

You’ve been precise in taking care of your hydrangeas all summer, so it’s important to be as careful while drying them. Take a look at the hydrangea blooms as they start their transition into the fall season. You’ll notice that the mophead blooms are in various stages of starting to dry out on the stems. There’s a difference between the older flowers, which have colors that are a bit faded, and more recent blooms.

The hydrangea flowers start a natural drying process at the end of the season. This cycle is what you want to take advantage of when drying flowers for indoor displays.

How to Dry Hydrangeas

Beautiful hydrangea blooms in vase indoors, closeupLiudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

Step 1: Cut the blooms

Cut the hydrangea flowers in the morning. This is a good general rule for cutting flowers for arrangements and it holds true for hydrangeas. Allow the morning dew to evaporate from the leaves and flowers before cutting. Fans of dried arrangements will tell you to be picky and choose the best blooms for drying, as you are preserving the flower in the state it is when it is cut.

Editors Tip: Make sure to make a clean cut. Use good sharp shears or pruners to cut the stems at an angle and leave about 12 to 18 inches of stem. Have a bucket of water with you as you move around the garden to immediately immerse the cut flowers in water and keep them hydrated until you are ready to work with them indoors.

Here’s how to prune hydrangeas in the garden.

Step 2: Prepare a vase with clean water

It may seem like preparing a vase is an odd way to dry hydrangeas. But the water in the vase will help capture the current color of the hydrangea blooms and start the preserving process. Select a glass vase that will be tall enough to support your blooms. Fill the vase with several inches of clean water.

Step 3: Arrange the blooms

Strip the leaves from the stems and place cuttings in the vase to submerge them in the water. Don’t overcrowd the vase. The hydrangeas need to have enough space around them to allow for good air circulation and keep the shape of the flower. You can vary the heights of the cuttings in the vase or limit the number of hydrangea blooms in the arrangement.

Step 4: Set the vase in a safe place

Select a location to dry the hydrangeas out of direct sunlight. A direct source of sun through a window will be too harsh for the blooms to cycle through their natural drying out process. Be sure and place the vase somewhere you will be able to enjoy them as they dry.

Step 5: Add water as needed

The water in the vase will begin to evaporate and help to dry the hydrangeas. As time passes, the flowers naturally dry and the colors take on muted hues. You can add more water to the vase if you notice that the water has evaporated but the flowers themselves haven’t completely dried out yet.

The arrangement can take a few weeks to complete the drying out process.

The dried hydrangeas can remain in the vase or you can move them to another container for display. Use the dried hydrangeas in decorations around the home mixed with other evergreen stems or in a wreath for the front door with dried sprigs of lavender and eucalyptus.

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Alice Knisley Matthias
Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, family, education, and garden. Her work appears in The New York Times, Washington Post, Food Network, Delish, The Kitchn and Parade. Her book about healthy kid snacks is published by Scholastic. Other work includes Woman's Day, Redbook, Highlights for Children, Boys' Life, Kids Discover and America's Test Kitchen Cook's Country Cookbook.