Tips for Harvesting, Drying and Storing Flowers

Flowers hanging upside down to be dried

The Spruce / Melina Hammer

Drying flowers allows you to keep them around to display for months, maybe even years, after the plant has stopped blooming. There are flowers, like the aptly named strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum), that seem to dry themselves, while others are just too succulent to dry fully. Here are some tips for choosing flowers to dry, methods for drying them, and storage suggestions.

Selecting Flowers to Dry

Some flowers just work better for drying than others. Flowers with high water content, like sedum, don't dry well. Below is a partial list of flowers, including roses, that are good choices for drying, but the best way to learn which flowers work is by experimenting. Always cut more flowers than you will need because you will probably lose some in the drying process.

  • African Marigold (Tagetes erecta)
  • Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
  • Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus
  • Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)
  • Globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)
  • Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
  • Larkspur (Consolida ambigua)
  • Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia)
  • Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea)
  • Love-in-a-mist - seed heads (Nigella damascena)
  • Marjoram (Origanum vulgare)
  • Pompom Dahlias (Dahlia hortensis)
  • Poppy - seed heads (Papaver somniferum)
  • Roses (Rosa)
  • Starflower (Scabiosa stellata)
  • Statice (Limonium sinuatum)
  • Strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
selecting which flowers to dry

Harvesting Flowers for Drying

The best time to harvest your flowers is late morning, just after the dew has evaporated from the leaves. In general, most flowers do best when cut slightly immature, with the bud not fully open, since the flower will continue to open once cut. Often fully open flowers will drop their petals as they dry. However, do some experimenting and see what stage of bloom works well for your flowers.

3 Ways to Dry or Preserve Flowers

What You’ll Need To Get Started

  • Cut flowers
  • Rubber bands
  • String or Hooks for hanging flowers
  • Paper clips
  • Newspaper
  • Silica gel
  • Airtight plastic or glass container
  • Microwave
the materials for flower drying

Air Drying

Air drying is the simplest way to preserve your cut flowers. Remove excess leaves and gather the flower stems into small bunches, about one-half inch in diameter. Wrap the stems tightly with a rubber band. The stems will shrink slightly, so make sure the band is tight. Hook a paper clip through the rubber band and hang the bunches, upside down, from a hook, rack, or clothesline. Keep the bunches upside down so that the stems don’t bend from being top-heavy.

If you are only drying the flower heads, not the stems, you can lay the flowers out individually on a screen. The other requirements remain the same.

The flower bunches will need to be hanging out of direct sunlight, preferably in darkness. The more sun the flowers are exposed to, the more their color will fade.

Don’t group the bunches too close to one another. Good air circulation and low humidity are also important factors in drying flowers. Make sure there is space for air to flow between the bunches.

Drying times will vary depending on the type of flower and conditions like humidity, temperature and air circulation. Most flowers will take somewhere between 10 to 20 days. You will know they are dry when they feel stiff and the stems snap easily.

flowers hanging upside down using the air drying method

Drying with Silica Gel

Fragile flowers and those with a lot of moisture may dry better if you speed the process with a drying agent like silica gel. Despite its name, silica gel is granular, like sea salt and it is reusable. You can readily find silica gel in any craft store. [Caution: It may look like salt, but silica gel is not edible.]

Use a shallow, airtight plastic or glass container. Spread a one-inch thick layer of the silica gel on the bottom of the container. On top of that, space your flower heads. Then gently cover the flowers with at least another inch of gel. Seal the container and let it be for three to five days.

Some flowers that benefit from silica gel drying include anemones, daisies, pansies, and zinnias. You can also use laundry borax as a drying agent.

rosebuds being dried using silica gel

Drying Flowers in a Microwave

If you’d like to speed the process even further, you can microwave the container of flowers and silica gel, for about three minutes. Let the container cool for 20 minutes before opening. Check that the flowers are fully dry before removing.

Or, you can use the microwave to speed the process of pressing flowers. There are microwave flower presses for sale or make your own with two non-metallic ceramic tiles and paper towels. Sandwich the blossoms in paper towels between the tiles and hold them in place with rubber bands. Heat for 30 to 69 seconds at a time on high. Allow the tiles to cool and check the flowers. Repeat if needed until the petals feel dry to the touch.

Place the flowers in a heavy book or traditional flower press to continue drying for one to two days. This technique works best on thin, flat blooms like pansies, daises, and violets.

Keeping Your Dried Flowers Looking Good

Once the drying process is complete, you can begin enjoying your flowers in arrangements, wreaths, and crafts. You will still need to give them minimal sun exposure, to retain their color. It would also be wise to keep them away from forced air heat, which can make the already dry flowers become brittle.

As with everything else on display in your house, dried flowers will become dusty. A delicate feather duster can usually be used on them, without causing any damage. You might also try a blow dryer on cool or low.

dried flowers being used as a coffee table centerpiece

Storing Dried Flowers

If you are going to be storing your dried flowers, wrap them in some newspaper, to prevent them from drawing in moisture from the air. Then place the wrapped flowers in a box, so they don’t get accidentally crushed. Keep them out of damp basements and overly dry spots, like attics.

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