Tips and resources for farmers and gardeners
Some flowers are easy to preserve: baby's breath, celosia, yarrow, statice, globe amaranth, strawflower and artemesia. But every flower responds differently to drying and preserving. Experiment to get the results you want with the flowers you have.
Try to cut flowers before they have fully opened and always gather more than you think you will need as there will be losses and not all of the material will dry quite like you thought.
Air drying is the easiest and most popular way to dry a wide variety of flowers. It is usually the best method to use for baby's breath, globe amaranth, statice, celosia, yarrow, hydrangea, goldenrod, grasses and cattails.
After cutting the flowers, strip the foliage from the stem and tie them into small bundles with string or rubber bands. Hang them upside down in a warm, dry dimly lit area with good air circulation. Attics, outbuildings or even garages work well.
After several weeks they should be ready to use.
A note about hydrangea, yarrow: these dry best when placed upright in a jar filled with about one inch of water that is allowed to evaporate.
Cattails are another that needs special attention. Pick them when they are just slightly larger than the diameter of a pencil. At this stage they dry well and hold up much better than when they get large and are very prone to "shattering" or falling apart.
The same holds true for many grass that need to be picked before they open fully or they will also shatter.
When using a drying agent, spread a layer on the bottom of a air-tight re-sealable container. Select blooms and remove the foliage and cut the stems to about one to two inches long. Place the flowers on top of the layer of drying agent and carefully and slowly add agent so it gets between the petals and covers the blooms completely. Seal the container and place in a cool, dark place.
After about a week, check the flowers. They should be dry or on their way to being dry, depending on the size of the bloom. Gently pour off the drying agent and remove the flowers.
You will need to add a "stem" by using 20 or 22 gauge florist wire.
For those who want a little quicker result, a microwave can be used to speed up the drying process.
Place silica gel in an ovenproof or microwave safe container. Preheat the silica gel on high for one minute. Place the flowers on the warm silica gel and cover completely with additional silica get. Cook for one to three minutes and then let stand for 25 minutes to cool down. Times will vary depending on flower type and microwave.
Remove flowers and add the stem with florist wire.
Orange and yellow flowers tend to retain their colors as does white. Blue, purple and pink flowers tend to fade and red flowers may turn a muddy brown.
If the flowers or foliage you are drying tend to be fleshy you may have to change the paper after about the first 24 hours as a lot of moisture will be absorbed and changing the paper reduces the chance for mold.
Preserving Woody Stems with Leaves
Woody stems with leaves can also be preserved.
After cutting the stems, place them in containers holds about four to five inches of a glycerin/water solution. Glycerin can be found at most drug stores.
Use one part glycerin and two parts water.
As the material is taken up the stem to the leaves, the leaves will tend to get glossy looking and be very supply.
The glycerin/water solution can be reused by adding a few drops of bleach.
Greg Stack (708) 720-7520
University of Illinois Extension
Flower Press Kit
Flowers and Bouquets
The Dried-Flower Book
Home and Garden Center