The art of drying flowers has captivated hearts and homes for centuries, offering a delightful array of colors, textures, and scents that evoke memories and bring nature’s charm indoors.
These precious floral treasures can then be used to enhance craft projects (such as scented sachets) or arranged in beautiful home decor pieces, but they’re especially popular for making homemade potpourri.
From air drying to desiccants to easy microwave techniques and more, the possibilities for preserving flowers are as diverse as the blooms themselves.
The good news: You’ll find a handy reference sheet below with all the instructions needed to help you get started. For easier browsing, I’ve organized the page as follows:
- Prepping Tips
- How To Tell When They’re Fully Dried
- Assorted Methods For Drying Flowers
- Air / Hanging / Paper Bag
- Water Vase
Quick note: I have the instructions for rose hips on a separate page found here (includes recipes): Harvesting Rose Hips For An Assortment Of Uses. You’ll also find the tip sheet for drying herbs on this page: 10 Methods For Preserving A Bounty Of Herbs.
You’ll also discover tips sprinkled throughout (a preservative recipe, a trick for working with individual petals and leaves, getting the best from hydrangeas, and more). Plenty of info here; enjoy!
First A Few Tips To Get The Best Results Possible
- Collect flowers first thing in the morning (after the dew is gone) and at least two days after 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 quickly during the process.
- Also, select those that have had no chemicals or pesticides applied to them.
- If you’ve gathered the blooms but cannot immediately proceed with the method of choice (see below), you can arrange them in a vase with lukewarm water for up to 24 hours until ready to proceed.
- You might find it helpful to “condition” some varieties of flowers beforehand by arranging small numbers in loose bundles and hanging them in a cool, dry place overnight.
- Especially useful when working with oven or dehydrator methods since conditioning will help to remove excess moisture.
- Remove the stems and leaves (unless otherwise noted) since they retain moisture and prolong the process.
- A few inches of the stem can be left on for ease of handling & to provide stability.
- If you prefer keeping the leaves on, you can do so but allow for extra time.
- Watch during the process since foliage retains moisture and can promote mold and rot.
How To Know When Flowers Are Fully Dried
Properly drying flowers and foliage goes beyond preserving their beauty; it’s also about safeguarding their longevity and ensuring a mold-free outcome. When moisture lingers in dried specimens, it creates an ideal breeding ground for mold and mildew, leading to unappealing discoloration, unpleasant odors, and potential health risks.
Here are some key indicators to look for:
|Petals feel papery & crisp|
|Petals will crumble when pinched or folded|
|Petals & foliage have no “stickiness” or “gummy” texture|
|Leaves & stems are stiff, snap easily when bent (not flexible)|
|Look for signs of shrinkage & dehydration|
|In most cases, the color will be muted & less vibrant|
Patience is key! Let the drying process take its time. Rushing may result in bundles that still hold some moisture and will be susceptible to decay. Most varieties will take a few weeks to dry completely.
Assorted Techniques For Drying Fresh Garden Flowers
There may be notes below that include the amount of time required to fully dry the flowers. Keep in mind these times are approximate since each variety will process differently, and the environment in which they are prepared also plays a role.
Unless directed otherwise, choose a warm, dark place for the flowers to process
Air Drying Method
One of the simplest and most natural techniques, this relies on the power of evaporation to effectively remove the moisture from the blossoms. When flowers are cut and left exposed, the air can draw out the water from the petals and foliage gradually.
- Use a window screen, a wood frame with thin mesh stretched across, or a baking sheet with a wire rack laid on top. These will provide excellent air circulation.
- Cardboard flats or wicker baskets can also be used, just lay a sheet of paper towel across the bottom to help absorb moisture.
- Remove stems about 1″ from the base of each bloom. Lay them in a single layer across the screen, ensuring they aren’t stacked on each other and no petals touching.
- The process can take 10 to 20 days; you want them to be completely dry and hold no moisture.
- If you want to preserve loose petals, use one of the methods above or line a baking sheet with paper towels (newspaper works, too) and arrange the petals in a single layer.
How To Achieve 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 them in place, but pat instead).
- You should use thicker towels so they will weigh 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!
This classic, timeless method offers numerous benefits and is remarkably easy. Hanging allows you to preserve the natural beauty of the flowers while maintaining their shape and color.
The simplicity of this method makes it accessible to everyone, requiring minimal tools or equipment.
- Keep 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 them 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 and leave them for anywhere from two to four weeks.
Paper Bag Technique
- 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 and dust from accumulating on the blooms.
- 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).
Here’s a secret weapon that comes in handy when wanting to speed things up, a dehydrator is a quick and efficient way to dry botanicals.
It offers precise temperature control and gentle air circulation, creating a perfect environment for flowers to lose their moisture while retaining their features gradually.
- Use the instructions that came with your dehydrator, or make your own.
- You want to place them in a single layer, with petals not touching each other, and the machine 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 baking 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 the tray from the oven and allow it to sit overnight to complete the process and ensure no more moisture.
- Remove the leaves from the stem and arrange them stem first in a vase that has 1″ to 2″ of water on the bottom.
- Place in a dark, warm room.
- The flower is dried when all the water is gone from the vase.
The Hydrangea is one type that works well with this method (see more details below).
This can be tricky, but once you get the hang of it, the process is very fast. Do a few trials 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 stem.
- Insert the stem first into the silica so they’ll stick 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 it sit for 24 hours.
- Remove them and gently shake off all the silica gel (you can also brush it 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 watch carefully. Each microwave heats differently; experiment–you may find that you need to up the heating level.
Drying flowers with desiccants is a method of preserving flowers that can produce lifelike results.
Desiccants absorb moisture, such as silica gel, sand, or Borax. They can help retain the color and shape of the blooms by preventing them from wilting or shrinking.
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.
Please do not leave them overlong in the mixture, as small holes in the petals could develop.
You can purchase these crystals in 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 so 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
- The same layering process as 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.
- It can also be used for the microwave method.
Borax & White Cornmeal
- The same layering process as used above with a 50/50 ratio.
- You can add a few tablespoons of Kosher salt to help preserve petal color.
- Leave the container uncovered.
- Same procedure as the Silica Gel.
- It can also be used for the microwave method.
- Use a plain, dust-free brand and clean kitty litter (of course).
Flower 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 flower’s throat and twisting it.
- Take the plastic bag and line the container with it (open side up).
- Pour the Borax into the bag, and cover the bottom about 1 inch deep.
- Place the blossom face down into 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 it sit for at least five 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
- Combine the cornmeal/Borax mix to fill half the box or container you will be using.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Take the freshly cut flowers and place them face down in the mix. Partly cover them with the mixture.
- Keep the lid on the container. Let sit for approximately three weeks.
After use, save the mixture, as it can be reused over and over again.
Best Ways To Dry Hydrangeas
One of the most popular uses for dried hydrangeas is in floral arrangements and bouquets. Their soft, muted tones and unique shape make them a perfect addition to both modern and vintage-inspired displays.
Dried hydrangeas are mixed with other dried botanicals or used as standalone blooms, bringing a touch of romance and nostalgia to any floral design.
If you’re lucky enough to have them in your garden, preserving them is a super easy endeavor.
Here are three easy ways to do this:
This 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.
- The flower is dried when all the water is gone from the vase.
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 another large container with about a 1/2″ inch of silica gel.
- Snip short a freshly cut hydrangea’s stem and gently place it into the pail (blossoms up).
- Carefully sprinkle silica gel all around, getting underneath the petals and into the center of the blossoms.
- Add more as you have room, covering each with silica gel as noted.
- Seal the pail with a lid and leave for four days. Remove from the bucket, 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.
Here are 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 them very gingerly, as they are pretty delicate.
- Dry them in a dark location to preserve as much color as possible 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.
Tips For Drying Strawflowers
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 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 should not be picked until they are full and mature.
Source: The WorkBasket (1952)