Knowing how to care for hydrangeas in a vase can make a room come alive. These dreamy, cloud-like blooms may be hated by Madonna, but we think they bring a bucolic beauty to even the most urban and modern homes. And while an elegant choice is a bountiful bouquet of hydrangeas, it doesn’t even have to be a bouquet. A few single stems of this blooming plant are enough to create a fabulous floral display.
“Hydrangeas are one of my favorite flowers,” says florist Judith Blacklock of the Judith Blacklock Flower School. ‘I am satisfied with a single one in a slender cylindrical vase; cut so that it is about twice the height of the vase.’
We often like to see them in bedrooms as a bouquet next to the bed – a welcoming and soft flower that sets the right mood. But while this popular flower looks lovely, many of us have learned — the hard way — that stems do require a little maintenance. Whether you cut them from the garden or bought them from a florist, hydrangeas can be prone to premature wilting — and no one wants that.
Luckily, our favorite floristry experts are on hand with simple ways to keep their petals looking vibrant.
HOW TO CARE FOR HYDRANGEAS IN A VASE
1. Do the stress test when choosing your rods
Like fruits and vegetables, flowers are often grown out of season. This makes them available all year round but they are much less hardy than those allowed to flower by nature.
“Cut hydrangeas are at their best from July through October,” says florist Judith Blacklock. “Later in the season before the first hard frosts, the stronger the flowers. This means they last longer and dry easier.
Buying earlier in the year, especially those in pale colors, can be a recipe for disaster, but there are tricks to finding the best of what’s available at any given time. To test if the flower is strong, gently place a hand on the head of the hydrangea. If it is firm and sturdy, it will last well.
2. CUT THE STEMS AND DIVE IN TEPID WATER
“Hydrangeas are one of the most requested flowers to bring indoors,” says floral designer Hazel Gardiner. “With their huge heads, they can lift a piece with a single rod. Like all flowers, they have specific needs. Hydrangeas have very woody stems, which means they need extra help drinking water. Use shaped scissors to cut the stems at an angle and down the middle about 1 to 2 inches. This will allow water to move much more freely to the flower head. This tip can be used on all varieties with thick stems including foliage.’
Florist Philippa Craddock of Philippa Craddock Design Studio & Flower School adds, “Hydrangeas have superb longevity when in season. Once you’ve pruned the stems, soak them in warm water and let them sit in a cool place for a few hours or overnight, before bringing them indoors.
3. GIVE THEM A SPRITZ AND FEED THEM
Hydrangeas have a reputation for being delicate cut flowers due to their faded florets. Although, once you understand the origin of the name – derived from the Greek hydor (meaning water) and angeion (meaning ship), it all makes sense.
“They absorb water from their heads and stems, which is why they can be affected by the atmosphere,” says floral designer Hazel Gardiner. “To keep them from falling off, mist the flower heads gently with water once a day, especially if your home is particularly hot.”
The longevity of hydrangeas is also greatly increased by using cut flower food. “Look for foods specifically made for the woody stems,” says Hazel.
We especially love this cut flower food here.
4. RELIVE THE HORGENAISE WITH A SNIP AND A DUNK
Florists have a number of tricks for keeping flowers fresh, but here are a few you may not have tried.
“If your stems are wilting prematurely, there’s a trick to reviving them,” says florist Philippa Craddock. ‘Turn the stem upside down and carefully using a knife or scissors, scoop out an inch or as much as you can, of the inner pith of the stem and put the stem back in fresh water for a few hours. This helps the stem attract more water to the flower head.
“To revive faded blooms, submerge the entire head in a sink of room temperature water for a few hours,” says floral designer Hazel Gardiner. “Like a sponge, the head will soak in water and regain its original roundness.”
5. DRY THEM
The allure of hydrangeas isn’t just their beauty; it’s their versatility too. Whether you’ve grown them or bought them already cut, they don’t need to be fresh to enjoy them longer. Dried flowers are back in fashion, with new ideas on color and style, so now is a great time to experiment.
“Hydrangeas are as fantastic as a dried flower,” says Hazel Gardiner. “For this, we use the darker autumn varieties, eggplant, which retain a greater amount of water than their more delicate lighter-colored counterparts. Just cut them off when they are at their strongest and place them in a small amount of water. Then just leave them, they will absorb the remaining water and dry out naturally.
Hazel suggests enhancing their bold presence by grouping hydrangeas in larger vases and urns. “Or add a stem to a wild, natural display to create a focal point for the eye,” she says. “We also use them in intimate tablescapes, shortening them and displaying them in low vessels brings their delicate beauty to the eyes of diners.”