How to Cut the Hydrangeas in Your Garden for Fresh Floral Arrangements

Plus, how to extend the life of this popular bloom once you put it in a vase.

Adding hydrangeas to your home's landscaping provides a burst of color, an eye-catching textural complement to other blooms on your property, and easy access to a flower that elevates all your DIY bouquets. "Hydrangeas make wonderful cut flowers for the home," says AIFD floral designer Jane Godshalk, an instructor at Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "They come in many sizes, shapes, and colors; most are hardy and easy to grow. When harvested for arranging, hydrangeas combine well with other flowers or make a stunning display with a single variety in a vase or bowl." Ahead, how to snip your favorite plant for optimal arranging.

hydrangea bouquet arrangement in pink vase
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Don't snip until mid-summer.

Regardless of the type of hydrangea you have—and whether it blooms on old or new wood—the cutting process is the same. "First and foremost, flower heads are not ready for harvesting until mid-summer," says Godshalk. "Check to make sure your flower head is open and the color is developed." The Longwood Gardens Introduction to Floral Design class teaches its students to trim flowers following a few key rules that apply to hydrangeas, too: use sharp, clean tools; avoid cutting during the hottest part of the day, harvest in the morning or evening; and always "cut stems above a node, and include at least two leaf groups on the cut stem."

How you trim and arrange your hydrangeas will impact their longevity in a vase.

After cutting your blooms, Godshalk recommends adhering to these four best arranging practices, which are specific to hydrangeas. "Once indoors, recut the stem above a leaf node at a sharp angle and split the stem up the middle about one to two inches to allow for maximum hydration," she says. "Remove most of the leaves, which are thirsty and take water from the flower." Dipping the cut stem into half an inch of potassium aluminum sulfate, or alum powder—a pickling ingredient often available at the grocery store—can increase the stem's ability to absorb water. "Place them into fresh, cool water in a cool, dark place for at least a few hours," says Godshalk, "[and] recut the stems and change the water every two to four days." If you need to support your flowers in situ, Godshalk recommends using chicken wire—to keep the stems submerged in water—instead of floral foam, or tying the stems in a bunch: "Hydrangeas like to be in fresh water," she says.

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