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How to determine when a hydrangea flower is ready to be dried 

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Drying hydrangeas is easy provided you harvest them at the right time. If you pick the flowers too soon, they are likely to shrivel up. Here are some pointers so you'll know when your beautiful hydrangeas are ready to be harvested for drying.

Timing is everything when it comes to successfully harvesting hydrangeas to preserve them as dried flowers.

Only mature flowers are good candidates for drying. How can you tell if a flower is mature or not? One easy way is to study its color. Immature flowers often show a mix of colors including pale yellow. Mature flowers are almost always all one color, the color that was only hinted at when it first started to bloom.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

The flower on the left in the above photo is still developing its color. If you picked it hoping to dry it, you would be disappointed. It would shrivel up quickly. The flower on the right, however, has achieved full color development and could be a good candidate for drying. Notice the words "could be" in the previous sentence. There are other conditions that must be met if drying is to be successful.

The time of year will also help you determine if the flowers are mature. Generally speaking, flowers should be harvested late in the growing season. This varies depending on what region of the country you're from but often means no earlier than August. It's unlikely that a flower picked in June or early July will dry well.

Your sense of touch can also help you decide if the flowers are ready to be harvested. They will feel more papery than they did earlier in the season. If you get in the habit of patting your hydrangeas with cupped hands at the early stage, to get familiar with their softness and flexibility early on, it will be more obvious to you when they become more mature.

Look closely at the tiny bud-like formations in the center of each flower. These remain tightly rounded when the flower is young. As the season progresses and the flower matures those formations eventually explode into star-like shapes. These starbursts are a good clue that the flower is mature enough to be harvested; the more starbursts you see, the more mature the flower.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

None of the "eyes" of the flower above have exploded. If it's late in the season it's possible that this flower could be harvested successfully, but seeing the starbursts adds another level of confidence that the time is right. Scroll up to the hydrangea picture at the top of this screen to see many starbursts on one flower.

Cut the mature stems one at a time, strip off all the leaves and place the stems into a bucket containing two inches of water. Many stems can be placed in the same bucket, but don't let flower heads rest against each other; that could distort their dried shape. Stagger the flowers so each flower is separate from the others.

Place the bucket in a warm, dark, and dry location. It will take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the flowers to dry depending on the warmth of the location, the maturity of the flowers and the relative humidity of the area where the bucket of flowers is placed.

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Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison