How to Dry and Preserve Flowers

Lynn Coulter
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Roses, daisies, dahlias, and many other flowers flourish during the long, warm days of summer. But the first frost brings an end to the beautiful show, ruining their buds and blooms. This year, stretch your garden by cutting your flowers and bringing them indoors to dry and preserve. Later, you can turn them into gifts or decor for your home, or simply enjoy them in long-lasting arrangements.

Harvest Your Flowers

Before the first frost in your area, cut a variety of fresh, blemish-free flowers and buds. (Some blooms will continue to open after you bring them indoors, but you’ll want to preserve some flowers in the bud stage, too,) Gather plenty, so you’ll have extras for all the projects we’ll tell you about in our stretch gardening series. Once the cold hits, the flowers will be gone.

The kind of flowers you have determines the best way to preserve them. If you’re not sure what they are, look for them on our plant search page.

frame with dried rose

“The Last Rose of Summer,” designed by M.E. Bowman. See instructions below.

Then decide how to preserve your blooms. Ellen Bowman, author of Dry Your Own Flowers, recommends using one of three simple methods:

Air Drying

Many flowers can be air-dried by gathering them into small bundles and wrapping a rubber band around their stems. To hang them to dry, bend a paperclip into S-shaped hook, and slide one end under the rubber band. Put the other end over a coat hanger, so the flowers hang upside down. Leave the hanger in a warm, dry place that gets good air circulation for a few weeks. Air drying may cause some flowers to shrink a bit, although their colors often become more intense.

Pressing

Pressing is the best way to handle leaves and ferns. Simply lay them flat on a page in a thick book. You can put several leaves or ferns on each page, as long as they don’t overlap. If you’re pressing ivy, take the leaves off the stems to press them individually; glue them back on later. When you’ve filled the book with all your green plant materials, close it carefully and set it aside. Check periodically for dryness.

 Sand and Silica

Sand and silica are desiccants, or materials that absorb moisture. They don’t usually cause much shrinkage, but they can make flowers fragile. If your blossoms break, don’t panic. You can glue them back together or use them in potpourri.

If you’re preserving large flowers, cut off the stems just below the receptacle (the green, bulbous base of the flower heads) before putting them in the sand or silica. If your blossoms don’t have receptacles, leave about 1/4″ of stem. Put the cut stems aside to air dry for later use.

To preserve in white play sand: put an inch of sand into an empty, flat box. Place the flower heads in the sand so they don’t overlap or touch the sides. Gently pour the sand over the flowers and between the petals, so the flowers keep their natural shapes.

When the flowers are ready (they may take several weeks to dry), carefully remove them from the box, turn them upside down, and tap lightly to remove the sand. You can also brush them gently, using a small paintbrush.

If you’re using silica gel (which isn’t really a gel, but a granular substance), follow the manufacturer’s directions. Drying with silica gel in a microwave is faster than preserving flowers with other methods; usually your blossoms will be ready in minutes, rather than weeks. Silica also leaves the colors much brighter. Use a microwave safe container, and let the silica cool completely before handling it.

Tips:

  • If flowers break during the drying process, glue them together or substitute silk or dried flowers from a craft store.
  • To adjust dried flowers for a project, lightly mist them with water from a spray bottle. They should become pliable in a few minutes.
  • Flowers to air dry: baby’s breath, celosia, dianthus, gladiola, goldenrod, hydrangea, mimosa, statice, stock, and yarrow. Roses, sunflowers, Queen Anne’s Lace, and stock can be air dried or preserved in sand or silica.
  • Plants recommended for pressing: foliage, ferns, pansy, Dusty miller.
  • Flowers to dry in sand or silica: alstromeria, aster, carnation, mum, dahlia, daisy, freesia, Gerbera daisy, orchid, lilac, peony, phlox, poppy, snapdragon, stephanotis, stock.
  • When your flowers are dry, store them in an airtight plastic container away from heat, sunlight, and moisture.

Instructions for “The Last Rose of Summer” Frame:

Materials:

Shadowbox frame
Dried rose
Poem (or part of poem)
Paper – off-white card stock for background and an oval or rectangle shape. Substitute cream-colored fabric for the card stock, if desired. You can also use a mini-frame, if you prefer.
Glue gun and glue sticks

                                                          
Cut out a piece of cream colored fabric or card stock to fit the back of a frame as a base for your rose and poem, and glue down. Print the poem on off-white card stock and place in a mini frame or on several layers of colored oval or rectangular shapes. Arrange the rose and poem as desired and glue firmly. Put the date on the bottom or back.

Special thanks to Ellen Bowman for her assistance with this project. Ellen has sold her dried arrangements at art shows and craft fairs all across New York and North Carolina. Visit her at Dry Your Own Flowers.

Image of hat and flowers: Shutterstock/KellyNelson

 

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