Drying Hydrangea: A Florist’s Insights & Tips | 5 min read

Hydrangea is one of the most coveted summer blooms. In design, hydrangea effortlessly creates abundance and volume, while still appearing delicate and light; a balance that’s not easily achieved with large, impactful blooms. At Bracken & Berry, the drying process is one of trial and error, experimenting with seasonal, locally grown flowers and foliage. With hydrangea season winding down, I thought it was now or never to attempt drying hydrangea. To follow, I will share the two methods I attempted and my main takeaways that I intend to use in my future hydrangea drying efforts.

Goal: In a perfect world, we want hydrangea to dry in a way that is like its fresh form with a full, voluminous shape and open petals.

Hydrangea Varieties Used:

Hydrangea macrophylla in deep blue and soft pink hues.

#1: Hydrangea macrophylla (Round Large Leaf)

Hydrangea paniculata in soft dreamy whites.

#2: Hydrangea paniculata (Elongated Cone Shape)

Drying Methods:

#1: Hang Drying

For this method, I began by stripping leaves and hanging each flower individually by the stem. For my system, I have a small cupboard space to experiment with drying; so, I find using coat hangers expedient for my needs. If you were to dry on a large scale, I would recommend sourcing a stand or structure more built for purpose; for example, a portable clothesline or ceiling hanging system. The key is to leave stems hanging in a dark space that maintains a regular moderate temperature. The main feature that I love about this method of hang drying is that it ensures maximum air flow, allowing each bloom to dry evenly.

Preparing Hydrangea macrophylla for drying by stripping leaves.   Hang drying Hydrangea macrophylla individually by the stem.

#2: Vase Drying

For this method, I also began by stripping leaves. I then filled a series of vases with roughly two inches of water and gave each hydrangea stem a fresh cut before placing in the vessel. In my own research, this method was often suggested for drying hydrangea. Although there was insufficient explanation for this method’s effectiveness, I assumed that providing the hydrangea with a water source was a means of easing the flower into the drying phase. I endeavoured to give the hydrangea flowers as much space as possible in the vase and positioned them away from direct sunlight.

Hydrangea macrophylla drying using the vase drying method.   Hydrangea paniculata in the process of drying by the hanging and vase method.

Results:

Overall, from my experiment, I found the hang drying method to be the most effective. On the whole, Hydrangea macrophylla dried using the hang drying method dried evenly, maintaining its shape and volume. As far as the vase drying method was concerned, two days into the process I observed that the flowers were showing signs of natural decay; specifically, the petals were beginning to turn and brown. I predicted that perhaps as the water gradually evaporated, the flower would reciprocally begin to dry out; however, from my observations, it appeared that the flower was experiencing its natural vase life decline. I want to acknowledge that there is every likelihood that I did not perform the vase drying method correctly; nevertheless, from my initial experiment, I would prioritise the hang drying method for its ease and reliability. While I encountered varying degrees of success with Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea paniculata remains somewhat enigmatic. Both methods applied to Hydrangea paniculata led to the same outcome: loss of volume with shrunken petals. Although on this occasion, Hydrangea paniculata eluded me, the results confirmed the most important consideration when drying hydrangea.

Hydrangea macrophylla and Hydrangea paniculata drying results.   Hydrangea macrophylla successfully dried using the hang drying method.

Florist Top Two Takeaways:

#1 – Timing is Everything

The most important consideration when drying hydrangea is timing. Ideally, you want to attempt the drying process when the hydrangea flowers are more resilient and hardier. New season hydrangea or young blooms on the plant are at their most delicate stage. Hydrangea petals at this early stage are the equivalent of tissue paper and attempting to dry flowers too soon could lead to disappointment. Ideally, the flowers need to harden off a little on the plant until their petals have more weight and rigidity. If you grow hydrangea, you have ample opportunity to experiment finding the sweet spot for drying; however, if you are selecting stems from suppliers, then be attentive to the weight and texture of petals.

#2 – Choose the Path of Least Resistance

The process of drying flowers is one of trial and error that requires both time and energy. Acknowledge that your time is valuable and accept ‘pretty good’ over perfection. Overall, from my experience, the hang drying method was mostly successful; so, I intend to take the win and continue with the hang drying method, tweaking my timing as I repeat the process.

The art of drying flowers is filled with delights, surprises, and sometimes frustrations. Nature regularly reminds us that we can’t control everything. Dried flowers are no different, but if we embrace the spirit of possibility there’s so much to discover and enjoy in the process. Good luck in your drying efforts and let me know your insights in the comments.

 

Tess xx

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