Hydrangeas are a summer garden staple, and their massive mop heads and array of color options stand out. While hydrangea flowers last forever on the shrub, they're prone to wilting once they're taken off the plant-which makes them a little tricky to use in your flower arrangements.
Fortunately, with a few smart hydrangea arranging ideas and tricks, you can create a show-stopping bouquet that'll look lovely for days.
How to Pick and Prep Hydrangea
If you're using homegrown hydrangea in your floral arrangement, pick them when the plant is well-hydrated. "Water your shrubs well a day or two before you pick the flowers," says Amy Gofton, floral designer at Studio Nectar in Montclair, N.J. "Pick your flowers early in morning, before moisture starts to evaporate in the heat of the day."
Look for the more mature flowers where the florets are opened, rather than the newest blooms. "They're more hardened off to the elements, so they won't wilt as easily," Gofton says.
RELATED: How to Care for Your Hydrangeas
Keeping your hydrangea looking good is all about the preparation. To start, cut the stems at a 45 degree angle, and then slice up into the stem in a cross pattern to open more of the stem to the water for hydration. "A couple of slits give you the access you need for a fuller drinking surface," Gofton says.
To superhydrate your blooms, submerge them completely, head first, into a tub or deep pail of water for at least 45 minutes, up to overnight.
As with other flowers, remove leaves-especially those that will be below the water line-and change out the water often to prevent bacteria growth that could shorten the longevity of your flowers.
Tips for Arranging Hydrangea at Home
Those bold hydrangea blooms are pretty top-heavy, which means they can easily flop out of a vase easily. Hydrangea are also prone to wilting, but there are some strategies you can use to keep your arrangements looking fresh-especially if you're displaying them outdoors in hot weather. Here are few florist tricks of the trade to tame your flowers and make a beautiful hydrangea arrangement that will last.
Use Tools to Keep Hydrangea in Place
"You need to have that structure and space between each flower head-it's nice when they don't look squished together," Gofton says. "When you're creating a mass arrangement, use tape to create a grid on the top of the vase, or create a chicken wire nest inside the vase. That'll allow you to create space and just a smidge of air around each flower head."
Opaque Containers Are Best
Clear vases won't hide any chicken wire or tape you use to corral your flowers, so opaque containers work best. You'll also want to consider how big your arrangement may become, especially if you have a large mass of hydrangea in your arrangement-look for wider containers that balance the size of your arrangement.
Pair Hydrangeas with Complementary Flowers
For a mixed-flower arrangement, look for bold blooms that can match the hydrangea in size and scale. "I like them with other summer flowers-they have a very synergistic, seasonal appeal to me," Gofton says. "If you normally find them growing together, it's comforting to see them paired together."
Flowers like roses, peonies, and dahlia have the dramatic presence to hold their own. "Lilac has the same kind of multi-floret, fluffy head, so even though it has dainty flowers like hydrangea, the overall impression is a larger bloom," Gofton says.
Delphinium, foxglove, and other spire-shaped blooms work beautifully, too. "They shoot tall out of the mass of the hydrangea, so they draw your eye up, as opposed to getting lost in the mass," Gofton says.
Jazz Up an All-Hydrangeas Bouquet
If you're sticking with just hydrangea in your arrangement, look for ways to add visual interest. One of the coolest hydrangea arranging ideas is to use different shades of hydrangea to create an ombre effect in the bouquet. "That way, you get the definition of different flower tufts and shade bands-white, pale green, pale blue, purple," Gofton says.
Minimize Wilting with Ice Cubes
"To help with wilting, put ice cubes into the water," Gofton says. "The ice cubes melt in and help keep flower stems cool." Misting your arrangements with a spray bottle of water will help rejuvenate them so they can last to the end of your party.
Dry Hydrangea Blooms to Last for Months
Drying hydrangea lets you have a more permanent (and still lovely) arrangement. Gofton dries her hydrangea by putting them in a vase with good air circulation and a half-inch of water at the bottom, then stashing them out of direct sunlight in a cooler part of the house and letting them slowly dry.
Some dried hydrangea-especially white hues-can brown a bit when dried, but they look gorgeous sprayed with metallic paint and used to adorn Christmas trees or wreaths.