Martha Stewart reveals a genius hydrangea cutting trick to make them last longer in a vase

Plus more expert tips to care for cut hydrangeas and rescue wilting blooms so they stay looking fresh

Martha Stewart and cut hydrangeas in a vase
(Image credit: Alamy)

Martha Stewart recently shared her cut hydrangea care tips with her 4.1 million Instagram followers (below), and we took notice because they are amongst our favorite summer blooms to display in vases – they do tend to wilt quickly if not cared for properly.

'Growing hydrangeas in your garden isn't just a way to enhance your home's curb appeal – the perennial flower looks great inside your house, too. Despite their beauty, hydrangeas can wilt quickly if they're cut incorrectly. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make these flowers last longer – and it all starts with knowing how and when to snip them from your garden.'

If you want to prolong the life of hydrangeas in a vase, Martha's right: how you cut them is key to their longevity. However, there are other tricks, say gardening experts, that can keep cut hydrangeas alive for longer. 

How to prolong the life of cut hydrangeas

Hydrangea being cut

(Image credit: Alamy)

Although hydrangeas can live for 50 years when growing in your garden, when cut, they only last a short but sweet five to nine days. Luckily there are a few ways to maintain these flowers to extend their blooms' life. Here, we list them.

1. Cut hydrangeas at the right time

'Of course, you can prune hydrangeas any time after the flower heads begin to turn brown in fall, though I tend to leave the majority of the flower heads on my plants until the spring so that I can enjoy them through winter, even though they are brown,' says Lucy Searle, Editor in Chief of Homes & Gardens and keen hydrangea-grower.

'However, timing the cutting of them for vases is important: you'll need to wait until mid-summer, perhaps July, before you cut them. Do so too early and the flowers won't be strongly formed enough to enjoy life in a vase for long.

'I would also suggest cutting your hydrangeas blooms in the morning or evening when it is when it is cooler. This too will help them to last longer in a vase.

'Only cut healthy hydrangea heads: the flowers should look bright and happy; if you cut hydrangeas that are unhealthy (look for clues such as brown spots on the hydrangea leaves) or cut hydrangeas that are not blooming, you won't get good results in a vase.'

2. Cut hydrangea stems correctly

As Martha inferred, there's a right way and a wrong way to cut hydrangea if you want them to last in a vase. First, it's important to have sharp, clean secateurs or scissors. Using dirty ones can transfer disease to your plant. We're big fans of the gonicc pruning sheers, at Amazon.

Then, choose the right place on the stem: this should be above a node (where leaves and the stem connect), far enough down from the flowers that they will can comfortably stand in your vase, and including at least two leaf groups (more on the leaves, below). 

Cut from the plant straight across the stem but then immediately cut the flower stem at a sharp angle; this will allow the plant to maximize the water it can take up in the vase. Martha's technique also involves cutting vertically through the middle of the stem to a length of a couple of inches to further increase water takeup.

Katie Couric  also recommends taking this a step further: you can hammer down the ends of the stem, essentially opening up the passage for water to get to the flowers even more.

That done, Martha recommends dipping hydrangea stem ends into alum powder, at Amazon, which will help the plant to hydrate even more efficiently. This isn't just for hydrangeas; most cut flowers can benefit from alum powder. 

3. Boost your cut hydrangeas' flower heads

Although keeping leaves on your flowers when keeping them in a vase certainly can add to the fullness of your floral arrangement, this will steal some water away from the flowers, so pruning the leaves off the stems will keep hydrangea flowers blooming for longer. 

A little-known fact about hydrangeas is that they can absorb water through their petals much more efficiently than through their stems, something that most plants can't do. So what does this mean? Well, when your hydrangeas are starting to turn, place them upside down in a bowl of water to allow the petals to drink up the water. If left overnight, hydrangeas can appear completely revived by the morning. This trick can drastically change their appearance.

You can also mist your cut hydrangeas flowers regularly, which is particularly important on hotter days when water is more quickly evaporated.


How often should you replace the water in the hydrangea vase?

Replace the water your hydrangeas are sitting in every couple of days with tepid tap water to avoid bacterial build up and to ensure they have a fresh supply.

The tips above aren't exhaustive but it is worth knowing that if you have tried all of the above and your hydrangeas still wilt after a week or so, you can repeat the angled cut, the cut up the length of the stem and the application of alum powder, plus the overnight soaking or misting, and you should find you can further extend your hydrangea blooms in a vase for still more days.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past six years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including practical household advice, recipe articles, and product reviews, working closely with experts in their fields to cover everything from heating to home organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.