The Secret to Long-Lasting Hydrangeas


I love hydrangeas.  Seriously, LOVE them.  The first thing I did last year when we moved in our house was plant five hydrangea bushes so I could have my own.  They haven’t bloomed yet this year but I was super excited to see cut hydrangeas in my grocery store last week and snapped some up for my kitchen table.

dining table

Keeping cut hydrangeas used to be hit or miss for me-they’d either do great or wilt almost immediately in the vase.  I didn’t know what was causing it or how to prevent it until I was given a helpful tip from the flower vendor at our local farmer’s market last year.  She told me that sometimes when you cut hydrangeas they form a sticky substance over the cut that prevents the flower from sucking water up through the stem (that’s scientific terminology by the way, “sticky stuff” and “sucking water up,” can’t tell I was a Bio major can you?)

To prevent that “sticky stuff” from forming you need the secret ingredient-alum! (Find it in the spice aisle.)  When you are arranging your flowers re-cut the stem and immediately stick the bottom 1/2″ of the stem in the alum, then arrange as usual.  It’s easy and works! No more wilted blooms!

hydrangeas in pitcher

Do you love hydrangeas as much as I do? What are your favorite flowers?

hydrangeas secret


previous post: The Bathroom is Finished: Replacing Builder-Grade Lights
next post: The Look on a Budget: Hollywood Regency

Manage your shopping list and search for recipes from across the web at


  1. says

    No way!!!!! Just added alum to the grocery list for this week. I’ve always wondered why sometimes they stay poofy and dry out nicely and other times they just flop. Now I know! I think you just changed my life!

    • Suzi M. says

      I have another tip that I found online. If your hydrangeas start to droop, boil 3-4 inches of water, recut the flower stem and put the flower into the hot water-they rehydrate and I’ve even had it work on the same flower multiple times!

      • Claudia Jacobson says

        OH MY GOODNESS… I am a 67 year old grandma and have never known how to keep cut hydrangeas! And 90% of the time they just wilt! GOD BLESS YOU MELISSA…. My 36 year old daughter is getting married the end of June…. we might just have to use this to help us decorate! WOW….. I hope to stumble upon more suggestions like yours!! Have a wonderufl and very beautiful summer…. a lot more of us will because of you!
        This is one ole Norwegian MorMor that is happier! Claudia Jacobson

        • Melissa Riker says

          Yay!!! I’m so so glad it helped Claudia! Sometimes if it doesn’t work the first time you can do it again also so don’t give up if they try to wilt anyways, usually you can recover them!

  2. Terri J says

    I love them too, but unfortunately mine got run over w/ the mower when my neighbor mowed for me. First he forgot to water my bamboo and it died, now it’s the hydrangeas. I can’t say anything though, as he was doing me a favor and forgot that is where we planted a couple last year. Oh well….

    • Melissa Riker says

      Oh fun! I’m resisting buying any more this year but hoping the ones I put in last year get a lot bigger, I’m so excited for them to start blooming!

  3. says

    I’m smitten with hydrangeas! They are such a gorgeous flower…

    Thanks for the tip, girlie! I will so have to remember this one.

  4. Dianne says

    They are my very favorite flower, I grew up with beauties on Tybee Island GA. Thanks for this info, I never knew, I do remember my Grandmother poured beer on them and they turned the most beautiful colors.

    • Melissa Riker says

      I’m not sure Marie, if you try it let me know how it goes! I’m totally jealous of your peonies!

      • Carmel Naismith says

        As a apprentice florist many many years ago we always did the hot water treatment after we bashed the hydrangeas and also put the dahlias in hot water for 30 sec. I think we did it for scabioas as well love all the other hints

  5. says

    hydrangeas like to be well watered, kept cool (hence they wilt VERY easily in the hot summer months when cut), with partial sun (usually do well in semi shady places when planting)…. i usually stick mine in the fridge if they start to wilt and check the stems. Alum is something that is used in the pickling process so it would make sense that they help preserve flowers :) thanks for the tip!
    also, changing the acidity/pH levels of the soil can also change the colors you have…my grandma always used her leftover coffee grounds to do this.

  6. Jen says

    I just did this. I cut a flower off my hrdrangea plant, stuck the end of the stem into alum, stuck it in the vase and saw the alum fall off to the bottom of the water. Is that supposed to happen?

    • Melissa Riker says

      Yes! That’s okay, it’s just that initial coating immediately after you cut it that does the trick!

  7. teresa says

    when I cut my hydrangeas, I make sure the bush has been watered very well the day before I cut. I cut them early in the morning before it gets hot. I go out with a bucket of clean icy water to put them in as soon as they are cut from the bush. If you cut your branch to a section of the stem that is brown and woody, instead of green, make a vertical cut up the center of the stem. Then I take them to my coolest darkest room and let them sit for a couple of hours or so before showing them off. I have put them in my fridge too. icy water works just as well. If I do have the occasional bloom to wilt, I just take those out, hang them upside down to dry for a wreath or arrangement. The old fashioned hydrangeas will be blue if your soil is acidic and pinkish if your soil is alkaline. add lime for pink, and Mir acid for the blue.

  8. says

    Wow! Who would have known?! I love these flowers too – so beautiful. I’ll have to pass this tip on to my sis-in-law who loves them too!

  9. says

    I LOVE hydrangeas… we have 2 bushes that I think my hubby killed. :( I have a black thumb, so I can’t pass judgment, although I know enough not to mess with the landscaping lol. I think he was trying to trim them to make them fuller or something, I have no idea. But its been 2 years and I don’t think they’re coming back, at least not to the full potential they could be. I am deeply saddened!

  10. says

    That is such a cool tip! Hydrangeas are some of my favorite flowers (love all the colors!) but my luck is about 50/50 with keeping them looking good for longer than a day or so. So I’m definitely trying this next time! Also, pinning this and sharing it on my Facebook page this week! Thanks so much for linking it up to my party!

  11. says

    Hydrangeas are definitely my favorite! My wedding bouquet was made of them. Thanks SO much for the tip!! Do you know how much extra life you get by using the alum? Thanks again.

  12. says

    I didn’t see this and have never had this flower before. Now that the flowers died what do I do ? Do I plant it outside and just keep watering it.?? The leaves are also have a gold tint to them. No clue. HELP

    • Melissa Riker says

      Is it cut flowers or a potted plant? If they are cut I don’t think you can bring them back.

  13. AmyLee says

    Thank You SO much for the info.! Will definitely share this tip! BTW I was a bio major too, & “sticky stuff” sounds right to me! ÷) Thanx Again, AmyLee

  14. Christina says

    I love hydrangeas, but I need translation. In Norway we don’t have anything called alum. Can you tell me what Alum is, so I can try to figure out what the Norwegian name for it is? :)
    Thanks a bunch!

    • Melissa Riker says

      I have no idea Christina but I do know it’s used in pickling sometimes…it’s short for aluminum something or other! Sorry not to be more help!

    • Mel Matthews says

      Alum is also found in baking powder (not baking soda) but I don’t know if it can substitute for the alum that is used on hydrangeas. Some of the other ingredients in baking powder might interfere but it could be worth a try if you don’t have alum by itself.

  15. says

    Love hydrangeas
    Tried everything from smashing ends to dipping ends in boiling water…..always hit or miss with me too…the only thing that worked for me was keeping them in the fridge and rotating two or three vases I
    also enjoy drying them and pressing the individual flowers for crafts …Im so trying the alum…hope all
    works out ….will let you know

    Thanx robin

  16. John says

    Thanks for the great tip about the Alum. Used coffee grounds makes good fertilizer for Hydrangeas helps promote blooming.

  17. says

    I just found this on Pinterest. I have never heard of Alum, and have never seen it in the spice aisle, but then again I’ve never looked specifically for it before. Thanks for this tip!

  18. Marisol says

    Hi thanks for the tip. I have 3 big plants but they don’t get many flowers. Do you know why? I would appreciate any advice.

    • Robin says

      I had the same issue with the first ones I planted…and it was because I was trimming/pruning them incorrectly. Never prune/trim them in the spring…because you will cut off all the buds. Hydrangeas bloom on old wood, which are stems that have been on the plant since the summer before the current season…not new wood, which are stems that developed on the plant during the current season. They set their buds in the fall…so, never prune/trim them after October…preferably not after August.

      • Lyndi says

        Some hydrangeas do not bloom on old wood. I have some right now that the growth is coming straight from the ground, while the bush looks very dead.

  19. Jacqui says

    Hi, we live in New Zealand, and I have a border of white hydrangeas in my all-white front garden. They grow great here, my MIL from Mississippi is always jealous! I find if I pick them with a long stalk they literally last months – last summer I had one that lasted honestly 6months, it started pure white then slowly turned green, but still pretty. We dont have Alum here – do you think you could check to see what the active ingredient is? Or perhaps the other secret is really long stalks (>4″)?

    • Melissa Riker says

      That’s amazing Jacqui! We just moved into our home (new construction) last year and I planted 5 hydrangeas as soon as we moved in.. they didn’t flower that well this year though, they got some sort of fungus. Hoping next year is better!

    • Melissa Riker says

      Oops, forgot to answer you about the alum-there is no active ingredient listed on the container but it’s some form of aluminum I think and it’s used in pickling things if that helps.

  20. says

    I love them too. We recently moved into our new construction house and the first thing I planted were hydrangea bushes too. Ours also got fungus. Hopefully next year they will be less spotty! Thanks for the alum tip!

    • Melissa Riker says

      Ours had a fungus this year too, in the past mine have come back pretty nicely in years past after getting it so I have high hopes for next year!

  21. Noelle says

    I’m thinking the Alum is the same as aluminum sulfate – for those who can’t buy alum
    in the grocery store. It MIGHT also be sold with “canning” supplies.

    I appreciate this tip for I too love hydrangeas.

  22. linnA says

    I just bought some cut hydrangeas that looked great at the store stuck in their water containers. By next day they had the droop and wilt look. Thanks for the hint of using Alum. Can’t wait to have another bouquet of these beauties and have them stay perky.

    • Melissa Riker says

      You’re welcome! Sometimes you can bring them back when they first start to wilt be cutting them and adding the alum if they aren’t too far gone!

  23. Stefani says

    Just last month I learned that if you have droopy cut hydrangea you can fill the sink with water and put them in head first to soak. These were perked up over and over by resoaking. This may work because the stems are blocked.

  24. Angel says

    How much Alum should one use? Want to be careful they don’t over dose as not certain if any negative affects.

  25. Unhappy Homemaker says

    Why are you so happy? At about year 25…you won’t be…so suck up all the happy today…thanks for the tip…I too have those issues…do you think the alum would work on perking up an aging spouse?

    • Melissa Riker says

      I’m so happy because I decide to be. I have three little boys under 8 and a hubby that works a ton in the military, including year long deployments. I see so many fellow military wives in the same situation as me that focus on the negative-long days with young kids, being left to parent alone. The way I see it I can focus on the bad or I can focus and make more good, no matter how hard it can be at times. I hope you have some good come into your day when you read this, I’ll be thinking about you!

    • says

      Those are beautiful, and you are so foauntrte to have those in your possession! I don’t have good luck with growing roses – probably too much shade in my yard. My tomatoes suffer, as well. Thanks for sharing the color from your yard today.

  26. Gayla Voss says

    To add color naturally to your hydrangea’s you can spread evergreen clippings around the bottom and the next year they will turn from pink to blue or you can push rusty nails into the the ground. they both add that special PH that they need for the color combo. It works because I’ve done it and it is less expensive than pricey fertilizers. Makes them Beautiful.

  27. says

    I have hydrangeas and am wondering if they like full sun or shade. The one in the shade seem to do much better than the ones in half sun half shade…. Some get black spots on them . Do you know what that might be and how do I get rid of this. I fertilize them to change color. Love these plants and want to give them the correct care.

  28. Ina says

    Hi all, I also SERIOUSLY LOVE THEM! I have giant bushes at the back of my house, for the last 17 years. I found out the following, and it works: 1. At end of winter, I dont cut them down, only up to about hip height. 2. Pick flowers and put them in deep water IMMEDIATELY 3. I cut them again when I arrange them in the house in the proper vase – they don’t wilt. 4. Dont pick flowers where the petals are not mature. These wilt whatever you try. Happy gardening!

  29. tofi says

    yay… it works perfectly for balloon flowers too… the platycodon… it’s my favorite flowers… sure I love hydrangeas too… got lots of them in my garden… It flowers for me all year long in tropical Indonesia… thank you so much… now all my balloon flower can be happy in my vase for days….

  30. Jane S. says

    Thank you so much for this tip. I love Hydrangeas but they would always wilt when I put them in the vase. Can’t wait to try this :)

  31. Mil says

    I, too love hydrangeas. They grew in my grandmother’s backyard. Cable guys decimated my small purchased bush. A survivor, the bush now struggles for light among giant Hostas. But, I’m hard pressed to decide if my favorite flower is hydrangea or azalea or the understated elegance of tulips.

  32. Michele says

    I have loved these flowers for so many years and now I own my own home I would love to plant some. Are there any tips you can give me for the whole planting process, I want them to turn out as full and beautiful as my great grandmother had when I was a child.
    Thank you so much,


  1. […] last another week? I came across this article with a few tips on keeping cut flowers fresh and this post claiming Alum is the secret to a long and happy hydrangea life.  We’ll see if I my […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>