How to Revive Wilted Flowers.

Hydrangeas are one of the most impressive flowers in the world. They’re also evil, neurotic, easily offended and have an astonishing ability to play dead.  They’re the opossum of the flower world. Here’s how to revive a wilted hydrangea.

Wilted pink hydrangea in an ironstone pitcher on rough wood table.

This is how it usually goes when I buy hydrangeas:

I’m at the grocery store for the sole purpose of buying 1% milk.  I need this milk because I can’t go to bed unless I’ve had my glass of milk and exactly 2 ginger snap cookies, whether I’m hungry or not.  This is because I’m probably crazy. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure.  

I make my way through the flower department without incident until I see the huge bucket of hydrangeas.  A great, big, huge bucket overflowing with huge soft heads of hydrangea petals.  So of course I buy a couple of bunches.

I do this even though I know within 2 hours of bringing them home, anywhere from one to all of them will  wilt and die.

I will then curse my stupidity  and throw them out vowing to never, EVER buy hydrangeas again.  Never, will I ever buy another hydrangea.

This scenario happened to me about once a month for 10 years.

Then I discovered a solution that actually works.   It’s a tip I’ve used over and over for the past decade without one single failure.  So if you too have an issue with a wilted, sorry-ass hydrangea follow this advice:

Just cut the stem and stick it in a cup of boiling water. This tip has saved many, many white wedding hydrangeas. 

How to Revive Flowers

1.  Get the kettle boiling.

2. Fill a very clean heat resistant container with boiling water. (any dirt in the container can make its way into the stem clogging it even more.

Hot water being poured from a kettle into an ironstone jug with a hydrangea laid to the side.


3. Wrap paper around the stem of the hydrangea to protect the flower from the hot steam. This only needs to be done if the stem isn’t long enough to keep the flower tipped to the side and away from the steam and heat of the water.

A piece of white paper wrapped in a cone around a pink hydrangea bloom to protect it from a hot water treatment.


4. Cut about an inch off the end of the stem and immediately plunge the stem into the hot water.

Cutting an inch off the bottom of a flower stem to help it take up more water.


5.Let it sit for as long as it takes for the flower to refresh. Usually around 3 hours but I tend to do this overnight.  See that last set of leaves touching the jug? I forgot to remove those immediately and did so right after I took the photo.

** remove extra leaves so they don’t hog all the water**

A wilted pink hydrangea in an ironstone jug just barely starting to show signs of improving.


6. When the flower is revived quickly put it into fresh, cool water.

Below is my hydrangea after 3 hours in hot water and then 1/2 hour in cool water.

A fully hydrated, revived hydrangea after a hot water treament.


What Causes Flowers to Wilt?

If a newly cut flower wilts within a day or two or even by the time you bring it home, it’s because it was out of water and air has made its way into the stem.  Those air bubbles prevent the stem from sucking up water to the bloom.

THIS is why you always read that you should cut stems under water. So no air gets in the stems.

Roses are prime candidates for this treatment to get rid of their drooping heads. You know; when you bring your roses home and within a day their blooms look like they’re on the tail end of a bender and are nodding off?  This will help that.

The hot water treatment does a great job of getting rid of air that’s made its way into the stem.

What’s in Flower Food

Yep. Flower food actually works so don’t throw those packets out when you get them.

Flower food normally contains sugar, acid and bleach.

Sugar feeds the flower.

Acid maintains the proper pH balance that the flower likes

Bleach keeps everything clean and helps slow down bacterial growth.

DIY Floral Food

You can make your own floral preservative if you happen to be human with human type things in your cupboards.

Add these ingredients to 4 cups of water and your flowers will be ready to rumble.


1 tsp sugar

1 tsp bleach 

2 tsps lime (or lemon) juice

(add to 4 cups of water)

How to Revive a Hydrangea

Active Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $0

This hot water treatment will revive a wilted hydrangea in a few hours and if you treat your cutting garden flowers with a 5 second hot water treatment, it will help to prevent them from wilting in the first place.

Works with: anything that has wilted prematurely because they were left out of water, grocery store bouquets etc.


  • Boiling hot water
  • Heat proof vessel
  • Wilted hydrangea
  • paper towel or paper (optional)


  • Kettle


  1. Bring a kettle of water to the boil.
  2. Fill a heat proof vase or vessel with the boiling water.
  3. Cut 1" off the bottom of the stem with a sharp knife or good snips.
  4. Plunge the stem immediately into the water.
  5. Let sit until revived. Typically 3 hours or so.


  • A sharp knife is better for cutting than kitchen scissors because it will slice through the stem instead of crushing it.
  • You'll notice bubbles coming out of the stem as soon as you put it in the water. This is a good thing. It's dispelling air that was preventing water from making it up the stem.
  • Remove all the excess leaves that you can. You don't want the leaves hogging the much needed water from the bloom.

It works EVERY time.  I mean, obviously if you’ve had the flowers for 2 weeks and they’ve lived a good long life you should just allow them to die a dignified death of natural causes.  But if you bring them home and they wilt within the first few days, try sitting them in hot water.  

You might just find they were only playing dead.  


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How to Revive Wilted Flowers.


  1. Marion says:

    You are my hero! I always bring in hydrangeas from the garden, knowing they will die within 24 hours, but I do it anyway! And this trick really worked!!! You made my day!
    Also with the easy mayonaise – but its your fault when i put on a few kilos during winter! Ha ha

  2. T king says:

    Your rock. Always have, always will.

  3. There is another way to revive hydrangea blooms without handling boiling water.
    To introduce myself, I am one of the authors of a guide to Fresh Cut Flowers called What Cut Flower is That? it is available as a PDF
    This book is recognized as the learning resource for Floristry colleges throughout Australia.
    we consulted with two leading Post harvest specialists in writing this book which was financed by the Australian Government to educate florists and the cut flower industry.

    The truth is, when you scald stems in this way it does cause a wonderful short term effect, however it also causes damage to the stems internally which in turn causes stem block followed by a break down of cells allowing them to rot. .
    A more simple method is to fully immerse the flower heads in water for up to 6 to 8 hours, they will absorb the moisture into the flower head and stand up beautifully with an excellent vase life of a week or much more.
    Hydrangea florets are the very tiny flowers in the centre of those big showy ‘petals’ which are really modified leaves. It is best to wait to pick the stems when at least 70% of the tiny florets are open, and even better when they mature and start to turn green or other stunning colours, this is why blooms picked in Autumn or late summer last so well without any fuss.

  4. Catherine Naulin says:

    BTW, I have a somewhat similar trick for reviving lettuce (romaine is what I tried it with) Fill your sink with very hot water, dunk your sorry looking lettuce leave in, and wait for the miracle to happen. Just like with the boiling water for the hydrangea, the tip for which I will forever be grateful.
    Karen rides again to the rescue!
    Thank you so much for all your tips, your how tos and your self deprecating humour. Love it all..

  5. Jan in Waterdown says:

    Wonder if this will work on lilacs? There used to be an old abandoned farm across the street from my house with lots of overgrown lilac bushes and every year I’d hike through the plowed mud fields to grab a bunch and every year they’d be all wilted within minutes. Now the farm is gone. And the lilacs. Replaced by hundreds of ugly houses…. sigh. But I still love free lilacs!

  6. catherine says:

    My daughter in law wanted all hydrangeas for her wedding day, after experimenting with several different methods, the best advice ever, right after cutting them from the garden , smash the stems with a hammer before putting in water, this allows for the most water absorption – worked like a charm, not one wilted flower on the table on a warm summer’s night!

  7. Siun says:

    Dear Karen – I’m making my own wedding centrepieces. I did a practice run and they looked fabulous, but in less than 24 hours the hydrangeas in floral foam had wilted. I found your post when researching how to make them last longer! Will this work when using foam/oasis? And how long will the last after revived? This amateur is trying to work out the ideal time to make the arrangements for the big day!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Siun. Hydrangeas are iffy at the best of times, so putting them in oasis is a bit of a risk. The oasis particles travel up the stem and can block water from flowing. :/ (you’re using wet oasis, right?) Hydrangeas that have been revived can last anywhere from 2-5 days. It’s kind of a crap shoot I’m afraid. ~ karen!

      • Siun says:

        Thanks for the advice and speedy response. Yep, I used wet oasis. Sounds like I should be leaving it to the last possible minute to do the arranging if using foam!

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