There are two types of people in this world that I am suspicious of. People who wearing black hoodies while breaking into cars and people who don’t like flowers.

People who like the taste of Tonic Water are also on my watch list.

There aren’t many rooms that don’t look better with some sort of flower or at least plant in them.  It adds life to a room. A living and breathing thing.  Like a decorating pet.



One of my favourite flowers has always been the hydrangea because a) it’s really great looking and b) just a few flowers fill up a LOT of space.  Roses are great and all but you need about three billion of them to make a vase look full even if you add in filler.

Hydrangeas are just charming.

They’re also evil, neurotic, easily offended and have an astonishing ability to play dead.  They’re the opossum of the flower world.

You know it. You’ve been there.  You’re in the grocery store or florist and you see the hydrangeas all big, and white and huge and bouncy like a rare albino afro.  You know you shouldn’t go for the afro. It’s too much work.  It’ll be a mess within a day.

But you give in.  You relent.  You buy the big white afro flower.




And within one day it’s a goner.

For years I avoided buying my favourite flower because of this but about a decade ago I learned a trick that will bring back even the most wilted of hydrangeas.

Boiling.  Hot. Water.

Just recut the end of the hydrangea, stick it in a cup of boiling water, and let it sit in that cup overnight (or until the water cools).  Within a few hours you’ll notice it starting to perk up and within 5 hours it’ll be back to its old bouncy self.

This method always works.  100% of the time this method works.  Always.  The only time it wouldn’t work is if your hydrangea has already lived out its full life and isn’t just playing dead, but actually is dead.

So when  reader emailed me and told me she had the same luck with using Alum to revive her hydrangeas I had to try it out.

One sure fire remedy is good.  Two is even better.

So when the spring flowers I bought started to keel over I whipped out the Alum and gave it a shot.




Just recut the hydrangea stem (preferably under water) and dip it in about 1/2″ of alum.  Then stick the flower straight back in the vase.  No waiting, no screwing around, no nothin’.

Take a look at the difference.  This is what my hydrangea looked 3 hours after using the Alum treatment.


Yes indeed, it was twice as wilted as it was before.

I’ve read that other people have really good luck using this Alum method too, but I tried it three times and it didn’t work for me.

I’m sure it does work for some people some of the time, but the boiling hot water method works always.  Always.




So I took my double wilted hydrangeas and did what I always do.

  1. Recut the stems.
  2. Put them in a glass filled with boiling (not just hot) water.
  3. Protected the blooms from the steam by wrapping them in a paper towel.
  4. Leave them alone for several hours.




And back they came, as perfect as they were before the wilting.

You can see a couple of areas on the leaves and stem where it got scorched by the steam but it’s just cosmetic, the flower was protected and the flower did just fine.



I first wrote about this tip years ago, but with wedding season coming up I thought it was a good idea to mention it again.  I’ve had more than a dozen emails over the years from brides, wedding planners and frantic family members thanking me for saving their wedding with this tip.

The hot water method will only save a wedding.  Not a marriage.  But you can decrease your chances of a bad marriage by asking 3 important questions before you get hitched.

  1. Do you drink Tonic Water?
  2. Do you like flowers?
  3. Do you own a black hoodie?




  1. Paula says:

    Love your arrangement on your island.

  2. Martina says:

    She has an island? Woohoo…I’m coming for a visit!

  3. Michelle says:

    Love hydrangeas but hated being disappointed! Thank you! I can enjoy one of my favorites again.

  4. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    That is so cool…I love Hydrangeas too…they are so fluffy…

  5. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Also..that arrangement is gorgeous!

  6. Mike says:

    I think your trouble with the world is that you’ve never had good tonic water. If you make it yourself, you can adjust the flavors to get the right notes of citrus and spice and not the nasty medicinal taste of the store bought stuff. It’s not likely to save a wedding or anything, but give it a try.

  7. Nancy says:

    Tell me about the teakettle. Do you like it? Do you know how hard it is to buy a great teakettle? I love hydrangeas but that’s where I throw the coffee grounds. I never noticed that they sold the blooms?

  8. Karen says:

    Mike. I am suspicious of you. ~ karen!

  9. Mike says:

    Fine. Then I’ll just pull this hoodie over my face and go back to drinking this G&T.

  10. Karen says:

    LOL!! ~ karen

  11. catt says:

    The method that works for me is to cut the end of the hydrangea, put the stem into just boiled water for about 30 seconds, remove from water and then immediately dip the end into the alum, then it goes back into room temp water. It will revive completely in a few hours. The alum keeps the cut stem from sealing and ensures that the stem will continue to draw moisture. This has worked every time for me.

  12. Jan says:

    Holy Cow! Even the ones I pick in the yard sometimes wilt. Weird that it’s just sometimes. But I’d really like to understand what’s going on physiologically to chase the wilt away.

  13. Christy says:

    Now if only I could learn how to revive my actual hydrangea in the yard. It hasn’t bloomed like a normal one in a couple years 🙁

  14. Cynna says:

    Great tip! I’ve been growing and propagating hydrangeas for years–they’re my favorite. Question…where do you find them blooming in the winter? I’m in Zone 6a. They’re not even in stores (cut) until May.

  15. Kathleen says:

    I am wont to shove the hydrangea blooms under water in a vase and float candles on top. No need to worry about wilting. However, now that I know how to revive them, no need to drown them anymore! 🙂
    A beautiful post, Karen. The photos are stunning.

  16. Elaine says:

    Thanks a lot, Karen. I’ve always been nuts about hydrangeas and bought Alum a while back getting ready for this year’s blooms at the market. But now, I’ll definitely do your boiling water method instead. You’d think scalding water would kill a plant considering florists place their flowers in coolers to keep them fresh. Weird, isn’t it?

  17. Laurie says:

    Am I the only person who had to google Alum?
    Great tip on reviving hydrangeas!

  18. Cath says:

    My daughter in law wanted all hydrangeas at her wedding, from the bouquets to the table arrangements. I too was worried about the wilt factor. An elderly lady down the way gave me a fool proof tip and not one wilted. When you prepare the hydrangeas, take a hammer and smash the bottom of the woody stems and put them in water.( I used a brick as the smashing block) Works like a charm!

  19. Janet says:

    Does this boiling water trick apply to all varieties of hydrangeas? I hope so!!! I have a beautiful Annabelle Hydrangea, HUGE white heads with small petal blossoms. Gorgeous on the plant, hardly ever gorgeous in the vase. I can’t wait to try it out this summer. Thanks, Karen!

  20. shirley says:

    I know this will sound really weird but I don’t like cut flowers in my house. I think it had something to do with reading the “Little Prince” when I was a child and noting the concern the little prince had for the one and only flower on his planet.
    Flowers know this and they start dropping their beautiful petals the moment they enter my house.
    I feel I am living in a flower graveyard.
    Here are all these beautiful blooms cut off at the knees and left to die far away from the beautiful outdoors, birds, insects etc. Just seems very sad to me.
    I prefer flowers to live and die in their own land and in their own time.
    I was once told that a lemon tree can be revived and made to bear more fruit by hammering long nails into its trunk. The principal seems to be the tree feels it is dying and suddenly summons up enough energy for a last stab at life.
    All this cutting and plunging into boiling water or poison like Alum sounds very much the same to me.
    Silly I know but the fewer things dying in my house, the better.
    (I also liberate potplants and creepy crawlies back into my garden!)
    No I am not the earth mother type of person!
    I don’t wear black hoodies or drink tonic water – diluting any drink with water seems a sacrilege – haven’t the distillers spent weeks taking the water out of the drinks?
    Just asking……
    Besides you can fit way more gin in the glass if you omit the tonic water!
    Then you don’t notice the flowers dying around you – I do this at weddings – often. 🙂

  21. Rhonda says:

    I love the pussy willows in your arrangement. As a Ukrainian kid in Saskatchewan we always had them in our Easter floral arrangements.

  22. Lindsay H says:

    KAREN- avert your eyes…

    Could you share this magical tonic water recipe? I love regular tonic, but I’m sure my G&T would benefit from your homemade T. Do you just use regular tonic and steep stuff in it? Please, help me take my happy hour drink to the next level….

  23. Milton says:

    With my wife, I’ve grown and propagated Hydrangeas for years, we furnished all the flowers for my brother’s wedding 10 years ago. We apply sulfur and aluminum sulfate to the bed in the spring to turn the flowers deep blue. That is a wonderful trick on the boiling water, I had never heard of it before. Will try it in May when ours come in.

    As for tonic water, it is great for leg cramps. If you have that problem you will learn to love it or add a little gin to ameliorate it.

  24. Judy says:

    The very hot or boiling water works on roses too.

  25. DonzaMama says:

    This post wins the internet today! I have so enjoyed reading not only the post, but also the comments. Thank you, Karen, for the tips! I can’t wait to try them on my cut hydrangeas this spring and summer!

  26. Linda says:

    I’m 100% with Karen on the tonic water taste–yuck! Think the Brits used it in India against malaria and probably in Africa before that. To keep from getting really sick I guess I could hold my nose and chug it–otherwise, no way.

  27. MaggieB says:

    Yes, this! Word of the Day with Karen – Ameliorate. Hmmm now to think of a sentence to drop into everyday conversation! However, if I use unameliorable I can score more points in Scrabble and in order to practice pronounciation add more Gin (pref Botanicals from Islay) to my tonic. Love it when I have my day planned out! Cheers everyone.

  28. Mike says:

    Since Karen already thinks me a shiftless ne’er-do-well, I went and wrote it up…

  29. Marna says:

    Wonderful post! I have been afraid of cutting mine because they do seem to wilt right away. I love hydrangeas because my grandmother grew them, they make me think of her and her beautiful garden. Love your floral arrangement, gorgeous! 🙂

  30. Penny says:

    Botanicals from Islay is a new one for me, I had to scout around for that. But if you like a gin with LOADS of complex flavours, try Bulldog. It comes in a black bottle, same as Botanicals.

  31. Grammy says:

    Cool! I, too, love hydrangeas but had never heard of the boiling water thing. Actually, I don’t recall ever buying them, so maybe that’s why — I don’t recall having a wilt problem with the flowers grown at home. In fact, many times I’ve just allowed hydrangeas in a vase to sit there until all the water in the vase has evaporated, and they begin drying during that process and continue looking good while they dry further. They lose color and don’t look alive, but they are sturdy and beautiful in a dried arrangement, or just by themselves in a vase. But now I want to but some just to try this, and I can justify it because I took out all the hydrangeas in the yard several years ago.

    My question is, does the boiling water work for other flowers? If so, which ones?

  32. Kim says:

    Thanks so much Karen, this is such great info!!! My grandmother had 3 huge, beautiful hydrangea bushes in her yard; one white, one pink and one blue (She was constantly checking the pH of the soil to keep the colors pure). However, she never used them as cut flowers b/c of the wilting issue. I absolutely love them but I’ve never purchased one b/c I worried it would wilt and die before I even got it home. This is going to be the year of the Hydrangea! I’m going to buy one of my favorite flowers for a daily reminder of my Nana!! Also, your pics are stunning!! I love the flowers on your counter 🙂

  33. robert says:

    Karen, I wear a hoodie every single time I go out anywhere, a very dark blue one, almost black or a slightly discolored black one to the chagrin of every one who knows me, I’ m also known to drink the occasional gin and tonic, I love flowers and I wouldn’t mind to live in a set a la Raf Simons first collection for Dior if all those flowers were immortal and super easy to dust but I would never break into a car. So, where do I stand in your suspicions?

  34. gabrielle says:

    Tonic water? Really?? 36 years ago I toodled in my 1972 VW van 3,500 miles away from the California beaches to get here, and every time I take a pull on a tall, icy gin & tonic it’s like getting a smack in the face by 6 foot Pacific wave. You do not know what you are missing.

  35. Cindy says:

    I never would have believed it! But your pictures proved me wrong. I’m a convert 🙂

  36. J says:

    Amazing! I love these flowers as well and always avoided buying them since they go kaput the following day. I’ll definitely be using this method. Thanks Karen!

  37. Melissa says:

    Make your own tonic water? Mike, that sounds awesome. Is this a place where Google can help me, or do you have suggestions for neophytes? (Karen, I have never liked tonic by itself… but Mike here may change all that).

  38. Darlene says:

    Yep…. I am a tonic drinker….

  39. Monique says:

    I saw the cutest miniature hydrangeas at Home Depot hve to see them to believe them..adorb.
    In a tiny pots.
    I used to like Diet Tonic 15 yrs ago..I have black fact one is living at my young grandsons’ home..he went home with it one day and I never got it back..he has no idea a black hoodie can be cool in certain circles..especially thoe he has of has embossed flowers on it;)
    I love that age they don’t care.
    I think I cultivate hydrangeas..they are invasive for me..but I do love them.
    Great tips.

  40. Heather says:

    1. yes
    3. no
    The tonic water does taste better with gin & lime added, though.

  41. Allison says:

    Former florist here, and I did not know this trick. We usually just smashed the stems like someone mentioned above. Now I’m ready to go buy some hydrangeas for my desk!!!

  42. In Texas, where it’s generally 147 degrees in the shade from May to October, I can’t even begin to grow hydrangeas. Strange, considering how much the blooms seem to love hot water.

  43. Sarah says:

    Thank you Mike!! I LOVE a good tonic water.

  44. stefani says:

    I have seen them revived by soaking the whole flower in water over night.

  45. Brenda says:

    You guys realize Karen’s got you all on a list now – the rest of us benefit by your coming forward and asking Mike for that recipe though so thanks.

  46. Miriam Mc Nally says:

    I don’t like hydrangeas (prefer roses!) but thanks for the tip anyway, in case I ever need to save a wedding!

  47. Sakura Sushi says:

    1. Only with vodka and a twist of lime.
    2. Love, love, love them. Especially peonies.
    3. Nope, but I do have a lovely turquoise-colored one that I got on vacation. And I never wear it.

    At least you’ve the decency to take a break from knocking us tea lovers for a change (I expected that to be item number 4). The hydrangea thing I totally learned from you, and it has been successful. Every. Damn. Time. Which is a magical thing, leading me to believe that you are indeed, magical.

  48. Linda Weber says:


  49. Karen says:

    Do you trim it back? Try not trimming it back. ~ karen!

  50. Karen says:

    I got these in the floral department of my local grocery store. They have a big floral section. 🙂 ~ karen!

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