Making potpourri  is a great way to enjoy flowers from your garden year round but you need to dry them first, here are several ways you can do that.
You’ll also find several tips added to the bottom of the page (a preservative recipe, working with petals and leaves, hydrangeas and more). Lots of info here!
First a few tips…
- Collect flowers first thing in the morning (after the dew is gone) and at least two days after a rain. Handle them carefully so they don’t get bruised.
- Choose blossoms that have reached near peak and haven’t started to fade or turn brown around the edges. If they are too mature, they can drop their petals easily during the process. Also select those that have had no chemicals used on them.
- If you cannot proceed with the method of choice as soon as you’ve gathered the blossoms, you can arrange them in a vase with lukewarm water for up to 24 hours.
- Details below that list the amount of time needed are approximates only since each will process differently and the environment in which they are prepared also plays a role.
- Remove the stems and leaves (unless otherwise noted) since they retain moisture and prolong the process. If you prefer keeping the leaves on, you can do so but allow for extra time.
- They are done when the petals feel papery, stiff and the stem snaps easily when you bend it, not flexible.
- Use a window screen, wood frame with thin mesh stretched across or a cookie sheet with a wire rack laid on top. These will provide excellent air circulation.
- Remove the stems about an 1″ from the base of each blossom. Lay them in a single layer across the screen, making sure they aren’t stacked on top of each other and no petals are touching. Set aside in a warm, dark place.
- The process can take 10 to 20 days, you want them to be completely dry and hold no moisture at all.
- If you want to preserve loose petals, you can use one of the methods above or line a cookie sheet with paper towels (newspaper works too) and arrange the petals in a single layer. Leave in a warm, dark place until done.
- Leave the stems on but remove the leaves. Take 5 to 7 flowers together and align the bottom of the stems evenly. Tie the bunch 2″ from the bottom of the stems with a string or bind together with a rubber band. Have the stems at different lengths so the blossoms aren’t crowded together at the top and rest at different lengths.
- Hang the bunches upside down in a warm, dark place and leave them for anywhere from two to four weeks.
- You can also place the bunch in a paper bag and tie the top closed around the stems, this will help keep the environment dark as well as keep dust from accumulating on the blossoms. Make a few holes on the sides of the bag for better air circulation. Do one bundle per bag (about 5 to 7 per bundle).
- Use the instructions that came with your dehydrator, or make your own .
- You want to place them in a single layer, petals not touching each other and normally set on low.
- It’s preferable to dehydrate them by themselves so they don’t absorb the odors from other food items in the dehydrator (and vice versa). If you plan on making potpourri, feel free to include some slices of citrus fruit peel and apple slices on the trays to include in the mix.
- Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet with a rack and place in a slow oven (180° F).
- Heat for several hours, keeping the oven door open the entire time (to let moisture escape).
- Remove tray from oven and allow to sit overnight to complete the process and ensure there is no more moisture.
- This method holds the shape and color of the blossoms best. Be careful when removing them from the desiccants once they are done as they are brittle and can crumble easily. Either tap the mixture off or use a soft craft paintbrush to remove the granules.
- Do not leave them overlong in the mixture as small holes in the petals could develop.
- These are crystals that you can purchase bulk in craft stores or online. Layer items inside an airtight container, the first bottom layer being about 1″ of Silica and the top layer completely covering the blooms with another 1/2″ of Silica.
- Be careful when covering that you don’t squish all the petals together.
- Depending on the flowers used, leave for approximately two to seven days. Store the used Silica Gel in an airtight container, it can be used over and over again.
Borax & Sand:
- Same layering process used above. Sift the Borax first to remove all lumps.
- Use a 2 to 1 mixture of Borax and fine sand (make sure it’s clean).
- Leave for 14 to 17 days with the container uncovered. Can also be used for the microwave method (listed below).
Borax & White Cornmeal:
- Same layering process used above, use a 50/50 ratio. Can add a few tablespoons of Kosher salt to help preserve petal color. Leave the container uncovered.
- Same procedure as the Silica Gel. Can also be used for the microwave method below. Use a plain, dust-free brand and clean kitty litter (of course).
This can be tricky, but once you get the hang of it the process is very fast. Do a few trial runs to determine how much heat and length of time to use for the type of flower you are working with.
- In a microwave-proof dish that you use only for crafts (not cooking), pour a 1″ to 2″ thick layer of silica gel.
- Remove all but 1″ of the the stem.
- Insert the stem first into the silica so they’ll be sticking up.
- Lightly sprinkle Silica into the petals to hold the petal position and carefully cover the blossoms completely.
- Do only a couple at a time and make sure they’re not touching each other.
- Place a small cup of water in the back corner of the microwave (place a wooden toothpick in the water so there’s no danger of superheating ).
- Next place the container in the microwave, uncovered, and heat on the defrost setting in one minute increments. Repeat until they are dried.
- Once all moisture is removed and they are completely dried, cover the container and remove it from the appliance. Position the lid so there’s about 1/4″ to 1/2″ air flow into the container and let sit for 24 hours.
- Remove them and gently shake off all the silica gel (you can also brush off with a soft craft paintbrush).
Denser blossoms will take longer, those with thick petals don’t dry well with this method and those with more delicate petals (like a pansy) will process quickly so be careful to watch. Each microwave heats differently, experiment–you may find that you need to up the heating level.
- Remove the leaves from the stem and place them stem first in a vase that has 1″ to 2″ of water on the bottom.
- Place in a dark, warm room.
- When all the water is gone from the vase, the flower is dried.
The Hydrangea is one type that works well with this method (see more details below).
Preservative Recipes & Instructions
*First published October 28, 2006 and moved to this page for better organization
Here are two different recipes & methods you can try.
Works well with: daisies, mums, pansies, roses, sweet peas
- Remove the stems with wire by running it through the throat of the flower and twisting it.
- Take the plastic bag and line the container with it (open side up).
- Pour the borax into the bag, cover the bottom about 1 inch deep.
- Place the blossom face down in the borax; add as many as the container can hold–do not crowd.
- Cover with another layer of borax.
- Twist the plastic bag closed as tightly as possible.
- Seal the container and let sit for at least 5 weeks.
- Remove the blossoms and carefully brush away the borax.
You can now use these for crafts.
2 parts cornmeal
1 part borax (powdered)
Cardboard box with lid or tin with lid
- Start with combining the cornmeal/borax mix to fill half the box or tin you will be using.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Take the freshly cut flowers and place face down in the mix. Partly cover them with the mixture.
- Keep the lid on the container. Let sit for approximately 3 weeks.
After use save the mixture as it can be reused over and over again.
Flat Petals & Leaves
First published March 31, 2009 and moved to this page for better organization
Here’s a goody that was sent in from Sherri Hanley:
I’m a certified craft junkie and love to do many different kinds of crafts, but my favorite projects are those working with dried flowers. Here’s a trick I picked up along the way to dry rose petals and leaves flat (otherwise, as you know, they shrivel and curl up):
- Lay fresh petals and leaves on a terry cotton towel placing them in a way that they will stay flat. Lay them in a single layer. For those petals with a bit of a curl to the edges, lay them the curling side down but pull out the curl as best you can and sort of pat them into place.
- Cover the petals with another terry cotton towel and gently pat down (don’t run your hand over the towels to smooth in place but pat instead). You should use thicker towels so they will weight the petals down somewhat.
- Leave them alone for a few days and they will dry mostly flat and without much shrinkage.
I use the dried petals in a variety of projects and one of the most frequent questions I get is “where did you find those flat petals”. Well this is my secret and now everyone on tipnut can know how to do it!
Nice info, thanks very much Sherri for sharing!
You can make beautiful arrangements and wreaths with dried hydrangeas and if you’re lucky enough to have them in your garden, preserving them by drying is super easy to do. Here are three easy ways to do it:
This method works well for hydrangeas and those varieties with long stems.
- Remove the leaves from the stem and place the blossoms stem first in a vase that has 1″ to 2″ of water on the bottom.
- Place in a dark, warm room.
- When all the water is gone from the vase, the flower is dried.
This retains much of the color of the blossoms, but the stems are snipped short–not a problem if you’re using them in wreaths, but if you want long stems here’s an easy fix: use floral tape to attach stems to blossoms once dried.
- Fill a plastic ice cream pail or other large container with about a 1/2″ inch of silica gel.
- Snip short the stem of a freshly cut hydrangea and place it gently into the pail (blossoms up).
- Carefully sprinkle silica gel all around, making sure to get underneath the petals and into the center of the blossoms.
- Add more as you have room, covering each with silica gel as noted.
- Seal pail with a lid and leave for four days. Remove from pail and gently tap off and shake out all traces of the silica gel.
- Strip all leaves from the stems then tie bundles of up to six hydrangeas together (you can use rubber bands).
- Hang them upside down in a warm, dark place that is not humid.
- It will take about three weeks until they are ready, the blossoms will be crisp and the stems quite hard.
A few tips:
- Snip fresh hydrangeas when there has been no rain or humidity in the air.
- For best results wait until the blossom heads feel a bit papery and have just begun to fade before snipping them.
- Once done, display in vases or store away sealed in plastic bags until needed.
- Handle very gingerly as they are quite delicate.
- To preserve as much color as possible, dry them in a dark location since the sun or light can quicken the fading.
- They can last for about a year, just long enough to get a fresh batch from next season’s garden.
Listed in the catalogs as Helichrysum, it flourishes outdoors in the garden until cold weather comes, and then when it is properly cured, it makes attractive winter bouquets for the house.
Pick when they first open from the bud to keep them from spreading wide and showing brown at the base. Strip off the leaves and hang the stems upside down in small bunches fastened together with rubber bands. Let them hang in a dry place–in the house is all right–until every trace of moisture is gone from the stems and they are stiff. Then arrange in bouquets.
Since it is impossible to bend the stems after they are dried, it will help the appearance of your arrangements if you prepare some in a curved form. Do this by hanging the fresh stems singly over a rounded surface–tack a piece of heavy paper to the edge of a shelf, round it out full and tack the lower edge to the underneath of the shelf. Then lay the tops of the stems down over this curve.
In arranging, stick the stems into sand, shredded paper, or sphagnum moss. Many grasses and seed pods can be added for variety in winter bouquets.
The clover-like blossoms of globe-amaranth are also often seen in winter bouquets. These are done the same way, but they should not be picked until they are full and mature.
Source: The WorkBasket (1952)