When growing a garden, it's important to remember to stop and smell the roses, because flowers are ephemeral and may be enjoyed for only so long. Put down those pruners, pull out a lawn chair, and soak in the beauty of the flowers. But wait! There are methods to preserve flowers, prolonging enjoyment beyond the lifespan of the bloom. With minimal effort and a perfectly timed snip, an ephemeral flower may be transformed into an eternal flower.
Pro-Tip: Timing is everything when it comes to drying flowers. Clip the blooms just before they fully open; otherwise the petals are more likely to fall off during the preservation process.
Here are 3 common methods for drying flowers. Choose the one that works best for the flowers in your garden and go for it.
Use this method for grasses and flowers with a less-flat natural form, for example: roses, hydrangea, baby's breath, strawflower, yarrow, and lavender.
- Remove the leaves and cut the stem to no shorter than 6".
- The stems may be hung individually or grouped in a small bouquet with rubber bands or twine.
- Hang the flowers away from sunlight, to better preserve the color, and in a warm, dark, dry area with good air circulation, to keep the flowers from rotting. Hanging the flower upside-down is important because the stems will develop a crick in their neck or a distinct nod if dried upright or at an angle.
- Allow the flowers to hang for 2-3 weeks, checking them occasionally to determine when they are completely dry to the touch.
Use this method for delicate and naturally flat flowers, such as viola, lily-of-the-valley, leaves, geranium, and lilac.
- Place the flowers on dry, non-glossy paper and arrange them in the exact pattern to be pressed. Take care not to overlap any flowers. Place a second sheet of dry paper on top of the arranged flowers. Please note that multiple layers may be stacked, so long as a layer of cardboard is placed between each paper/flower layer.
- Put a heavy, evenly smooth object on top of the flowers. Large books, boxes or pieces of wood are ideal for this purpose.
- Keep the layers weighted this way for 2-3 weeks. Replace the paper with fresh dry sheets after 1 week. Remove the weights and carefully take the flowers off the paper.
Use silica gel or a 1:1 borax-cornmeal mixture to retain truer color and form than pressing or hang drying flowers. Good flowers to dry using this method are cosmos, dahlia, camellia, roses, and zinnia.
- Pour 1" of the desiccant in the bottom of a container with a lid.
- Carefully place the flower top up in the container, and then gently pour more of the desiccant over the flower until it is covered by an extra inch of desiccant. The more carefully the flower is covered, the more true-to-from the flower will dry.
- Allow the flower to set in the lidded container for 2-5 days with silica gel or 10 days with borax-cornmeal. When using the borax-cornmeal mix, do not over dry the flowers or they may burn. A brush may be used to gently remove residual desiccant sticking to the flower once removed.
Pro-Tip: Use dried flowers as stand-alone decorations or incorporate them into craft projects, but keep in mind dried flowers will retain their color and form best when displayed in a cool location that is away from sunlight.