The Secret Lives of Hydrangeas


We all know the rose rules when it comes to weddings … don’t we? Sleek, fragrant and totally classic, it’s never steered brides wrong. So why is it that hydrangeas are so often stealing the show? What is it about this feminine flower?

“Hydrangeas are full and understated at the same time,” says Dani, a bride whose florist suggested green and white ones as a cornerstone for her floral arrangements. “They look simple without being simplistic.” The dreamy hues of periwinkle and lilac captured Haley, a garden theme bride. “They’re pale, but not pastel. I’m not a huge roses girl … and I loved the hydrangea accessories out there right now.”

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Wendy Rockcastle, owner of Rockcastle Florist, emphasizes that cost is playing a large part in the hydrangea’s growing role. “They’re becoming more available, usable and affordable,” she says. Haley agrees: “cost-wise, I think they’re great. Even one stem of hydrangea fills out an arrangement.” But what factors led to these lower costs and better looks?

The globalization of the floral market, says Rockcastle, which means that florists aren’t stuck relying on local products anymore. Instead, sourcing mostly from South America, they can buy gorgeous hydrangeas that cost less and look even better.

“The local ones are really big,” she explains, “about the size of the human head.” She laughs. “But the ones from South Africa are more compact. You don’t want your wedding flowers to be overwhelmingly huge.”

More: Shop Hydrangea Wedding FavorsBest Flowers For Outdoor Weddings | All About Wedding Flowers

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Uptown or Down?

Everyone knows that hydrangeas are a natural for garden and beach weddings. But what about more formal affairs? “We use them for everything,” says Rockcastle. “From a casual country wedding to a sophisticated black-tie event.” But for formal arrangements, they’ll often break up the blooms and give them a supporting role. “They’re not seasonal,” she adds. “We use them spring and summer, fall and winter — Christmas — all year round.”

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The Hottest Hues

We wondered what colors were trendy for this versatile flower that comes in periwinkle and pink, lime green and ivory, fuchsia and violet, and sometimes all those at once. Did pink head the list? “Actually, pink was really popular,” says Rockcastle. “It had a great run a few years ago. And periwinkle is probably third.

“But we usually go by the dress color [of bridesmaids], and right now that’s apple red and sage green, at least around here,” she says. “I know from colleagues that taupes and browns are hot in other parts of the country.”

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But All-Natural Beauty Never Is

Something as naturally lovely as the hydrangea hardly needs the artful touch of a florist, right? Well, not quite.

“You never quite know what color will show up,” says Rockcastle. “We order them pink and they come in green, or we order them green and they come in ivory. “So we ‘tip’ them with a floral-safe spray. Sometimes we have a bride that wants a strong lime green, and for that we definitely tip.”

And even if you’re more easy-going about the exact shade of your blooms, hydrangeas still need their share of TLC. “For a while, people were experimenting,” says Rockcastle, “trying to use them without water in a garden or a clutch bouquet. The hydrangeas were not holding up for that.

“These days, many florists go water-only. In fact, with most of the hydrangea bouquets you’ll see, the blooms are cut short, and placed in an Oasis bouquet holder. Then for that hand-tied look, we actually re-glue the natural stems to the handle and wrap it all up with ribbon. “That’s why we say ‘don’t try this at home,’” she laughs.

More: Shop Hydrangea Wedding FavorsBest Flowers For Outdoor Weddings | All About Wedding Flowers

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We asked Juan Rodriguez, owner of bulk wedding flowers retailer JR Roses, for his take on DIY flowers and this season’s most popular hydrangea buys.

Are “DIY flowers” for weddings growing as fast as they seem to be?

In the past five years, I’d say DIY flowers has doubled. We see brides doing more and more research online for all their wedding-related items: favors, and most definitely flowers.

Hydrangeas seem to be on a major upswing. Are you selling more this season?

Hydrangeas have always been popular flowers for us; they’re one of our best sellers. They’re perfect for weddings, and easy to care for and prep.

Any special tricks for brides to keep them fresh and help them last?

Well, our flowers come packed with water/cotton bags for shipping, but the rules for hydrangeas are the same for all fresh flowers: keep them cool, cut the stems and make sure they have plenty to drink.

What color hydrangeas are hot this year?

White is number one. It’s elegant and classy for just about any kind of wedding. Number two, I’d say, is antique green, which is a very beautiful, naturally-colored flower — woven into the green you see hints of burgundy and blue.

Light blues are also very popular with brides.

Are your brides ordering hydrangeas “straight,” or are they pairing them with other flowers?

90% of brides are buying hydrangeas as their main and only focal flowers. They do buy foliage, though: for example, it’s popular to get leather leaf greens as fillers when using them in vases or bouquets.