Category Archives: Hydrangeas

Drying Hydrangeas: An Experiment

It had rained in the night, so the flowers I sought, all dappled with raindrops, seemed to laugh at the purpose I had in mind for them. How would they fare as dried flowers?

On that morning in early August, I approached as many different Hydrangea shrubs as I could find in the White Flower Farm gardens – and there were plenty! I wondered if different species and cultivars would dry better than others. There were three relatively simple drying methods I wanted to try, but I still had questions about the best Hydrangeas for drying, when to harvest them, and which of the methods would be most effective.

Cutting the Blooms

With boots drenched from the wet grass and pruners in hand, I clipped stems from seven varieties of Hydrangea that were exhibiting the most interesting blossoms at the time. My selections included three different flower forms: Mophead (the classic rounded form), Lacecap (flatter and more delicate with their hem of sterile florets), and Panicle (shaped like ice cream cones). I gathered blooms at varying stages of maturity, and because I would be trying three different drying methods, I cut at least three stems from each of the shrubs, one for each trial. Scroll below to see the players.

From left to right: Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth Hydrangea) Invincibelle Mini Mauvette®, ‘Haas’ Halo,’ and Incrediball® Blush.
From left to right: Hydrangea paniculata (Panicle Hydrangea) ‘Little Lamb,’ Little Quick Fire®, and Vanilla Strawberry™.
A single plant of Hydrangea macrophylla (Bigleaf Hydrangea) Endless Summer® Summer Crush® demonstrating color variation due to different stages of bloom.

Cutting flowers is a bit of a science. I timed my cutting for early morning when blooms are freshest, and I made sure my pruners were clean and also sharp so they would not crush the stems. I angled my cuts to create the largest surface area for water absorption. I transferred the cut stems immediately to a bucket of water as this helps prevent air bubbles from going up the stems, which can cause the blossoms to shrivel prematurely.

There is an additional consideration when cutting flowers for a vase, basket, or other vessel. It may be important to leave a certain amount of stem. This is particularly true when cutting for dried blooms. I chose to leave stems about 12-18” in length, allowing plenty of stem for different drying methods and for display in medium-sized vases or baskets.

Fresh cuttings of Hydrangea arborescens Incrediball® Blush showing color variation among young and old blossoms.

Preparing for the Drying Process

After trundling buckets of cuttings between the gardens and home, I selected an underlit interior hallway for the drying. The low light would help keep flower colors from fading. The blooms could linger there for as long as the process would take, and that was yet to be discovered. With my drying spot ready, I took the first steps in each of three drying methods.

One by one, I removed the Hydrangea blossoms from their buckets and stripped the stems of leaves. This step reserves whatever moisture is in the stems for the flowers only. It also removes foliage that will shrivel, become unsightly, and break once the stems are dry.

Next, I followed the three different methods for drying:

Hang-Drying Method

I hung one batch of stems upside down on a string I had suspended between two doorframes. I angled the string slightly away from the wall to allow for better air circulation around the blossoms.

Dry Vase Method

I inserted other stems into old canning jars with no water in them. I tried not to cram in too many blooms, again to permit air to circulate among them.

Wet Vase Method

For the final batch of stems, I made fresh angled cuts as well as vertical cuts about 1” long up the center of the stems to encourage water absorption. I placed these in jars with 1-2” of water. The idea was to allow these stems to dry more gradually as the level of water diminished over time.

Ready for drying to begin.

End Results & 3 Takeaways

Over the course of one week, I suffered a few losses but also gained an assortment of dried blooms! More importantly, the mixed results helped me come away with three insights for drying Hydrangeas.

1. Drying can happen relatively quickly. After one week, all the blossoms had totally dried except one (a particularly blue Macrophylla). Those that were in vases without water or hanging upside down dried the fastest, even in the first couple of days. It took a little longer for the stems in vases with water, but once the water was gone after 6-7 days, they were all dry except the one. It should be noted that it was an exceptionally hot week, which may have quickened the pace.

Hydrangeas in vases without water dried within days. For those that had water, the process took a little longer but no more than a week (except for the bright blue Mac).

2. Each method works, yet with some discrepancies among varieties. No method stood out as particularly superior to another. However, a couple of Hydrangea varieties responded to specific methods better than others. For ‘Haas’ Halo,’ a lovely Lacecap type, one blossom that was hang-drying lost its flat silhouette due to gravity while stems upright in vases held their shape. In the case of Invincibelle Mini Mauvette®, the bloom that retained its beautiful rose coloring best was the one in the vase with water, perhaps due to its more gradual rate of drying.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haas’ Halo’ performed well in vases without water (left). Hang-drying was less successful, however (right).
Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® kept its pretty mauve-pink when dried more slowly in a vase with water.

3. Older blossoms perform best. For all the varieties tested, one rule (or lesson) proved true: The more mature the blooms, the better they dried. Older blossoms had few if any unopened flower buds, and very often their colors had begun to fade or transition from one color to another. This was especially evident with the varieties for which I had a range of flower stages, especially Incrediball® Blush and Summer Crush®. Of the three Panicle Hydrangeas, Little Quick Fire® had the most mature flowers and outperformed the others.

A young, pink bloom of Hydrangea arborescens Incrediball® Blush shriveled (left) while a more mature flower from the same plant held its shape and color (right). This pattern was evident for all three methods.
Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer® Summer Crush® responded similarly. Younger blossoms collapsed (right), yet older ones kept much of their coloring and shape (left).
Not quite fully matured heads of Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Strawberry™ (far left) and ‘Little Lamb’ (center) could not compete with Little Quick Fire®, whose pink-tinged flowers were showing greater age at the time of cutting (right).

This was a fun experiment. Not everything turned out perfectly, but then that wasn’t the goal. I can’t wait to try another round as the season progresses. In the meantime, I am enjoying my first basket of dried Hydrangeas.

A colorful collection of the best-drying Hydrangeas.
Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer® BloomStruck®

Learning About Hydrangeas With our Video Series

It’s easy to gush about Hydrangeas. Grown for their large and spectacular flower heads, these classic shrubs are vigorous, of easy care, and attractive at virtually every stage of growth. Best of all, they dazzle in summer and fall, a time when many woody plants are resting. Whether you are a novice with growing Hydrangeas or an expert, our video series mentioned below can help you learn more about these beautiful shrubs.

Most Hydrangeas are not fussy as long as they receive their preferred amount of sunlight (generally full sun to part shade) and are planted in moist, well-drained soil. They will even thrive in coastal areas, since they tolerated high winds and salt. Most Hydrangeas do need water if it doesn’t rain, but are otherwise undemanding. Mulching Hydrangeas will conserve moisture and buffer soil temperatures.

There are many different types of Hydrangeas, from mophead (macrophylla) varieties, vining Hydrangeas (anomala petiolaris), native Oakleaf Hydrangeas and many more. Some are shade-loving types such as Hydrangea serrata ‘Blue Billow’,  which also offers a sensational display of colorful fall foliage. To learn more about the different offerings of Hydrangea, watch our video “What are the Various Types of Hydrangeas” below.

Flowers come in shades of white, cream, chartreuse, pink, blue, and red. Blooms of many hydrangea Varieties change color over time, so they show is continually intriguing. Some varieties of Hydrangea change flower color depending on the pH of the soil, generally blue on acid soils and pink on alkaline. For help on getting your hydrangeas to bloom, watch our video, “Why Didn’t My Hydrangea Bloom?” below.

The biggest breakthrough in Hydrangea breeding has been the introduction of varieties that bloom on both old and new wood. Endless Summer®, Blushing Bride®, Let’s Dance® Moonlight, and Twist-N-Shout™ are among these exceptional long bloomers. They flower on old wood starting in late spring and then on new wood in midsummer. In warm climates, the bloom period can last up to six months. These newcomers also make good choices for colder climates, since bloom on new wood is reliable ensured, even after a severe winter. Regular deadheading of these varieties helps to encourage rebloom. For tips on pruning all varieties of Hydrangea, watch our video, “Pruning Hydrangeas” below.

Since Hydrangea varieties range from compact to sprawling, check your plant’s size at maturity and give it room to grow. Many Hydrangea varieties look superb when grown as a hedge. When Selecting companion plants, be sure that their light requirements match those of your Hydrangea and the planting site.

Hydrangea paniculata Limelight

Hydrangeas – Colorful, Easy-Care and Versatile

Hydrangea is a valuable genus of some 100 species of shrubs and vines grown for their large and spectacular flower heads. Beloved for centuries, they’re vigorous, of easy care, and attractive at virtually every stage of growth. In addition, they are at their showy best in summer and fall – a time when many woody plants are resting.

Hydrangea macrophylla Color Fantasy®
Hydrangea macrophylla Color Fantasy®

Most Hydrangeas are not fussy as long as they receive their preferred amount of sunlight (generally full sun to part shade) and are planted in moist, well-drained loamy soil. They will thrive in coastal areas since they can tolerate high winds and salt. Hydrangeas do need water if it doesn’t rain but are otherwise undemanding. Click here for the complete guide on growing Hydrangeas.

In recent years breakthroughs in breeding have produced exciting new varieties that bloom on old and new wood. ‘Blushing Bride’ and Endless Summer® are among these exceptional long bloomers. They flower on old wood starting late spring and then on new growth in midsummer. In warm climates, such as Zones 4-5, since bloom on new wood is reliable, even after a severe winter. Regular deadheading of these varieties helps encourage rebloom. For tips on pruning all varieties of Hydrangea, click here.

Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Strawberry™
Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Strawberry™

In addition to extended blooming periods, some of the newer varieties also display amazing color combinations. Vanilla Strawberry™ has red stems with large, creamy white flower heads that turn strawberry red to burgundy. As new flower heads keep coming, all three color stages appear together. Unlike varieties of Hydrangea macrophylla that produce blue flowers in acid soils or pink in alkaline soils, this beauty — voted Top Plant for 2010 by the American Nursery and Landscape Association — will remain pink and white regardless of pH.

The blooms of Everlasting Revolution create fascinating combinations of light and dark pinks (or blues with a more acid pH) and pale green.

In addition to creating a beautiful garden display, Hydrangea blooms make exceptional dried flowers. Mopheads and Lacecaps are the most widely grown varieties, and of these, is is the mophead that makes the best candidate for drying.

Monterey Hydrangea Wreath
Monterey Hydrangea Wreath

Both mature blooms and freshly opened flowers can be dried, each with a different technique. Late in the season (August to October, depending on the variety) cut blossoms that are starting to fade a bit, but before they turn brown, and include about 12in of the stem with them. Just strip off the leaves and dry the stems in a vase, either with or without water, away from direct sun. If you dry them in water, only use a few inches in the vase and let the water evaporated without replenishing. The stems can also be hung upside down in a cool, dry place out of direct sun.

Fresh, newly opened blooms can be dried in silica gel. Place about an inch of the gel in the bottom of a large container. Hold the blossoms upside down on the gel (make sure they have no moisture on them), and carefully sift gel over them until they are covered. Place a cover on the container. After four days, gently pour all the silica onto newspaper (you can save the gel for future use). The blooms are now ready to use in an arrangement.

Our Top 5 Garden Questions

Year after year, our customer service staff members spend as much time taking orders as they do answering questions and offering garden advice. They love to do this, especially because many are avid gardeners. Compiled below are the 5 most common questions they hear at this time of year. From advice on watering plants to pruning Hydrangeas, we hope you’ll find information you can use in your own garden.

The questions and answers here were supplied by Cathy Hughes, the Senior Horticulturist of the Customer Support Center and manager of the staff gardens at our facility in Torrington, CT.

Overwatering can be detrimental to plants. Water only when the soil is dry to a depth of 1″. Always check the soil before you turn on the tap.

Why aren’t the perennial plants I received this spring doing well despite being watered diligently (or religiously)?

Perennial plant material, which includes perennials, trees, shrubs and Roses, needs to be watered well after planting and then watered when the soil is dry to a depth of 1”. If rain is scarce, this generally means one deep watering per week, even in the hotter areas of the country. This is especially true of bareroot plant material. If plants are overwatered while establishing new roots, the quality of the roots will be compromised and the plants will not survive.

Why is the foliage of my perennials (or shrubs) wilting even though I’m watering diligently? Why don’t the plants recover after watering?

The foliage of plants often will wilt during the hottest part of the day as a response to the heat, but this does not mean the soil is dry, especially if conditions also have been humid. Always check the moisture level of the soil before watering. It should be dry to a depth of 1” before you water again. It’s important to remember that decorative mulch holds moisture in the soil. If the soil is staying too wet, it’s always best to temporarily remove the mulch from the base of the plants and gently cultivate the soil to aerate it. This should be done after every rain until the plant recovers.

The foliage of Phlox ‘Robert Poore’ is covered in powdery mildew. The plants need to be cut at the base and removed and discarded (not composted) or the mold will return in spring to re-infect the plants. Powdery mildew won’t inhibit the blossoms, but it’s not much to look at.

What’s the white coating on the leaves of my perennials (or vegetable plants)?

It’s the disease powdery mildew, and it can be controlled with neem oil, which is applied as a foliar spray. While the foliage looks unsightly, the overall vigor of the plant will not be affected. If possible, it’s also important there be good air circulation between plants and that all infected plant material be collected, bagged and discarded in the garbage in the fall. Do not compost this material.

What’s causing the holes in the leaves of my Roses?

If the damage results in a skeletonizing effect to the foliage (the leaf tissue between the large veins is eaten away), the damage could be caused by the larval stage of Rose sawfly (here in Zone 5 we begin scouting for this insect around Mother’s Day) or Rose chafers. Later in the season thrips may be the culprits. All of these insects can be controlled with a neem oil or Monterey Garden Insect Spray, or any insecticide recommended for Roses. While this damage is unsightly, it will only affect the overall health of the plant if the infestation is severe and is left untreated.

Hydrangea Endless Summer(R) blossoms on old and new wood. At the end of August, prune back some of the stems if the plant is growing too tall.  Remove some of the oldest stems at ground level to thin out the shrub as needed. In spring, prune out only dead wood once new growth emerges.

When do I prune my Hydrangeas?

The pruning of Hydrangeas depends upon whether they bloom on old wood, new wood, or both. Click here to visit our Grow Guide, which outlines how to prune different varieties.



A Hydrangea for Every Garden

Hydrangeas for Every Garden

In the high heat of summer, the large, showy blossoms of Hydrangeas fill gardens and vases with long-lasting color. These versatile shrubs also do a great deal to add structure to garden beds and foundation plantings, and they make superb hedges, too. With cultivars ranging in size from container pot specimens to 8-footers, and a broad spectrum of colors from pure white to reddish purple to classic blue, there is a Hydrangea for every garden.

As gardeners are plotting and planning what to add to their spring planting list, we thought it would be fun review the different types of Hydrangeas.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

Hydrangea arborescens
Hydrangea arborescens is a good choice for colder climates since it flowers on new wood and is not bothered by late spring frosts. Plants tolerate light shade as well.

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer® BloomStruck®
Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer® BloomStruck®

Hydrangea macrophylla
This species was originally cultivated in China and Japan. Many varieties tolerate wind and salt spray. Fortunately for gardeners in colder zones, recent Hydrangea introductions are more likely to flower on new growth as well as year-old stems, which means flowers are guaranteed even after a tough winter.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’

Hydrangea paniculata
Likely the most cold-hardy Hydrangea of all, H. paniculata flowers aren’t subject to frost damage since they bloom on new wood. Plants generally have large, cone-shaped blooms.

Hydrangea quercifolia Gatsby Pink®
Hydrangea quercifolia Gatsby Pink®

Hydrangea quercifolia
Oakleaf Hydrangea is native to the United States and has long, cone-shaped flowers. Its large, broadly lobed leaves are very attractive in fall.


Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Billow'
Hydrangea serrata ‘Blue Billow’

Hydrangea serrata
Native to the mountains of Japan and Korea, this species prefers cooler locations. The flower color in some varieties is affected by soil pH.