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How to Prolong the Life of Cut Hydrangeas

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Hydrangeas make such beautiful cut flowers you want them to stay fresh looking as long as possible. If you've ever had the experience of having your cut hydrangeas wilt after only a day or two, you will appreciate knowing what you can do to prolong their life as cut flowers in vases and other containers.

Things you'll need:
  • Hydrangeas
  • Pruning shears
  • Scissors
  • Floral preservative (optional)
  • Fresh clean water
  • Vase or other container

If you are cutting hydrangeas in your own garden, cut them in the morning or the evening; not during the heat of the day. If you are purchasing them, buy them from a reputable florist. Flowers purchased at a farmers market are usually freshly picked.

Put the cut hydrangeas in cool water immediately, whether you are in your own garden or driving home from the market. If you haven't brought a bucket of water in your car, at least make sure the hydrangeas are out of direct sunlight, then get them in water as soon as you get home.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Strip off all leaves immediately and place the cut flowers in a bucket of water. You'll want to condition the flowers as soon as you get them inside.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Condition the hydrangeas before placing them in arrangements. To condition hydrangeas remove all their leaves, cut the stem at an angle with the pruning shears then make a long vertical cut with scissors where you've made that angle cut and plunge the stems in lukewarm water up to their "necks" (i.e., just under the flower heads). A tall kitchen wastebasket works well for this purpose. Add a floral preservative to the water, if you have it available. Cover the flower heads with damp white paper towels. Place in a cool location for a few hours.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison
Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Another way of conditioning the flowers is to submerge them in water. You can place them upside down in a sink, bathtub, or similar container and leave them submerged for at least 20 minutes. It doesn't matter if the stems are sticking up in the air.

Select the container for the flower arrangement. Please note that the shorter the hydrangea stem, the longer it is likely to stay fresh.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

A Margarita glass makes a great container for a single hydrangea stem or in combination with other flowers. The arrangement above includes small hydrangea stems with Sweet William and Canterbury bells.

Make fresh cuts in the hydrangea stems just before placing them in the arrangement; first the angle cut with the pruning shears then the vertical cut with the scissors.

If you want to include some hydrangea leaves in the arrangement, cut a few stems just for the leaves. Since the leaves are big, they require a lot of water. Keeping leaves on the stems with the flowers will shorten the life of the flowers.

Place the finished arrangement out of direct sunlight and away from any heat source. Change the water and recut the stems every few days. If wilting occurs, remove the arrangement to a cool place and cover the flower heads with dampened white paper towels.

 Mature flowers last longer in arrangements than immature flowers. A mature flower has attained its color fully. Immature flowers, those that have just emerged on the plant, very often have a mix of other colors including soft shades of green and yellow.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Flowers on the same shrub can be at different levels of maturity. The flower on the left is newly emerging. If picked at this stage for an indoor arrangement it would quickly wilt away. The flower on the right has attained its full color and would make a good choice for a cut flower.

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