I’ve heard some people say they don’t enjoy receiving flowers as gifts because the blooms never last long. Not this girl! Bring me all the flowers! When you know how to dry flowers with silica gel, you might join my club, too.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with many methods to preserve flowers. Silica gel offers both quality and efficiency. Toward the end, I’ll share some examples of how this method comes in handy for a variety of crafts and decor projects.
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What is Silica Gel?
Silica gel consists of blue and white crystals that act as a desiccant absorbing nearby moisture. The blue crystals work as an indicator, turning pink when the mixture has reached maximum absorption. At that point, the gel needs replacing or recharging for reuse. (See FAQs below.)
Think of those little packets that come inside a box with a new pair of shoes. You could either save up tons of those doohickies or, more realistically, buy the product I used for this tutorial, which was made specifically to dry flowers.
Drying Flowers with Silica: Conventional Method
Silica gel works wonders to preserve the natural color and beauty of flowers. It’s the perfect choice for preserving a bridal bouquet or creating dried flowers for jewelry, wreaths, resin crafts, or potpourri.
- Fresh flowers
- Silica gel beads (not silica sand)
- Airtight plastic or metal container
- Pruners or scissors
- Microwave and glass of water (optional method)
- Gloves and mask (recommended)
Caution: Do not reuse your container for food preparation after drying flowers, as silica gel may absorb pesticides from flowers.
Step 1: Trim stems, and pat flowers dry
For the best quality, use fresh flowers. I love using flowers picked straight from my garden, but I opted to buy a seasonal bouquet from my local grocery store for this demo.
It included a mix of gerbera daisies, chrysanthemums, aster daisies, button poms (a.k.a. cushion pom mums), purple statice, and roses. I’ll admit, the finer petals on the aster daisies didn’t preserve as well as the roses or mums. We’ll get to that below.
Step 2: Pour gel into airtight container
Note: Though silica gel is non-toxic, I recommend wearing a mask and using gloves when handling the product. As you pour the gel into the container, it can create fine dust that you won’t want to inhale.
To begin, pour a layer of crystals about 1.5 inches thick into your container.
Then place the flowers in the container (face up) and add more crystals in and around the petals until fully covered but not submerged completely.
Seal the lid closed when done, and set the container in a dry place.
You can also experiment with placing the petals face down in your container, but you risk the petals getting bent or deformed when working with flowers like mums, zinnias or daisies.
Tip: For optimal results, dry flowers of the same type together.
Step 3: Allow to completely dry and remove from gel
After 2-4 days, most flowers will dehydrate enough to remove from the silica gel. Blooms with thicker centers, like rose buds or zinnias, may need closer to 7 days.
Once dry, remove the flowers from the container and brush off any excess silica with a soft brush. You can leave a little gel deep inside the petals if you want to help protect them from room humidity.
As you can see, flowers like roses and mums turn out really well when drying with silica gel, whereas very dainty blossoms like aster may shrivel more. (Truth be told, I still like the spidery wisps of the asters.)
How to Dry Flowers in the Microwave
Short on time? I feel ya! The microwave method for drying flowers with silica can get results in a matter of minutes!
As with the conventional technique, you’ll want to start by trimming and drying your flowers before placing them into a microwave-safe dish over 1.5 inches of silica gel. Then gently cover the petals and centers with more silica gel until covered.
Do not put a lid on your container.
Simply place the open container in the microwave with a glass of water and heat on medium power one minute at a time. It will usually take anywhere between 1-3 minutes total for your flowers to dry.
Regardless of which method you choose, I’m a big believer in using silica gel to retain the best color and shape of your flowers!
In my complete guide on how to dry flowers, I talk about how it compares to other drying methods.
How to Use Silica Gel for Drying Flowers
- Gloves and mask optional
- Soft bristle paint brush
- Trim stems, remove leaves and pat flowers dry
- Pour silica gel into an airtight container until it creates a layer about 1.5 inches thick
- Place flowers face-up on top of silica gel and pour more crystals in and round the petals
- Seal the container, and place it in a cool, dry place for 2-4 days (more if bud is very thick).
- Once completely dry, remove flowers from the silica gel and brush off excess crystals with a soft bristle paintbrush.
- Follow steps 1-2 of the conventional method, but be sure to use a microwave-safe container. No lid is needed.
- Place the container with flowers in the microwave (without a lid) along with a glass of water. Heat on medium power in 1-minute increments until dry. Most flowers will take 1-3 minutes.
- Gently remove any excess silica gel beads with a paintbrush.
What types of flowers work best with silica gel?
According to the Activa product page, the flowers that dry best with silica include the following: rose, aster, carnation, marigold, dahlia, larkspur, geranium, zinnia, chrysanthemum and delphinium.
How long does it take to dry flowers in silica gel?
Most flowers only take 2-4 days with the conventional method or as little as 2-3 minutes with the microwave method using silica gel. You can get a handy guide on page 2 of this manual for reference.
Can you reuse silica gel after drying flowers?
Yes, you can reuse silica gel until the blue crystals have turned pink. The pink color indicates the mixture cannot absorb any more moisture, so it’s time to “recharge” the gel.
To do this, simply spread the crystals in an oven-safe pan and heat the mixture at 250°F for at least 5 hours or until the pink crystals turn blue again.
Can you use silica cat litter to dry flowers?
It’s possible to use silica cat litter to dry flowers. However, the texture or consistency of the litter crystals may affect the quality of your dried flowers.
Do I need to seal my dried flowers after using silica gel?
It isn’t absolutely necessary to apply a sealer, but you do have the option of using hair spray or this Mod Podge Sealer Spray to protect your dried flowers from fading.
If I want to keep the stem of a rose, should I place the entire stem in silica gel?
When preserving an entire rose, it is helpful to remove the stem and only place the flower in silica gel. You can then reattach the stem with floral wire once the rose has been dried with silica gel. (The stem can dry naturally and does not need to be dried with silica gel.)
To more easily reattach the stem, run wire through the base of the rose before drying it.
Can I place my flower face down in silica gel?
For best results, place flowers facing up when drying with silica gel. This allows the gel crystals to reach the center of the flower and will prevent the flower from losing its shape.
Leave a comment to let us know your experience, and have fun preserving your memories!