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, drying them, and keeping them looking good.

Selecting Flowers to Dry

Some flowers just work better than others. Flowers with high water content, like sedum, don't air dry well. Below is a partial list of flowers, like roses, that are good choices, 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 (for storing)
  • Silica gel (Optional)
  • Airtight plastic or glass container (If using silica gel)
the materials for flower drying

Air Drying

Air drying is the simplest way to preserve your cut flowers. Gather the flower stems into small bunches, about a ½ inch in diameter, and wrap them 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 the ceiling, with a hook or string. Keep them 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.

rosebuds being dried using silica gel

Drying Flowers in a Microwave

If you’d like to speed the process even further, you could microwave the container with the 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.

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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