How to Harvest, Dry, and Store Flowers
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)
Click Play to Learn 3 Methods for Drying Flowers
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- String or hooks for hanging flowers
- Paper clips
- Airtight plastic or glass container
- Flower presses or ceramic tiles
- Cut flowers
- Rubber bands
- Silica gel
- Laundry borax (optional)
- Paper towels
Choose the Right Time to Harvest
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. The flower will continue to open once it is 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.
Hang Flowers for 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 1/2 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.
Ensure the Proper Conditions
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 important factors in drying flowers. Make sure there is space for air to flow between the bunches.
Allow Plenty of Drying Time
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 and 20 days. You will know they are dry when they feel stiff and the stems snap easily.
Try 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 is reusable. You can readily find silica gel in any craft store.
Use a shallow, airtight plastic or glass container. Spread a 1-inch 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 rest 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.
Dry the Flowers in the 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 them.
Press the Flowers
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 60 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, daisies, and violets.
Keep 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.
Store the Flowers Properly
If you are going to store your dried flowers, wrap them in 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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