Do you want to make your special flowers last a little longer? Maybe you want to preserve a keepsake from your wedding or a loved one’s celebration of life? I’ve been on a flower pressing kick lately, so I thought it was high time I shared techniques on how to dry flowers, especially when only a 3-D effect will do.
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How to Preserve Flowers: What to Know Before You Start
When you see so many different techniques for drying or pressing flowers, it’s hard to know which one is right for you. (If you’re like me, you can’t resist trying them all at some point to satisfy your curiosity.)
Your choice depends on the type of display you want and the types of flowers you’re using.
For projects like pressed flower art, you may need paper-thin petals. See my complete guide on how to press flowers if that fits your bill.
For other resin crafts or shadow boxes, you might prefer one of the more three-dimensional options below.
Tips for preserving flowers
- Always choose fresh flowers for the best results
- Avoid using flowers with bruises or brown spots
- Pick flowers just before they have reached full bloom
- For thick flowers (peonies, ranunculus, roses), you can remove petals before drying
- Flowers with fleshy or water-rich petals may not preserve well
Trust me on the last point. I once scorched a microwave press while trying to dry a portulaca bloom. Gah!
1. Air Drying Flowers
- Fresh flowers or floral bouquet
- Rope to hang
- Hanger or drying rack
- Hairspray (unscented)
Letting flowers dry out naturally is perhaps the easiest (but not quickest) way to preserve your blooms. If you’ve followed the tips above for selecting good flowers, that’s half the battle.
Simply tie a piece of jute rope or string around 5-10 stems, removing any unwanted leaves as you go. You can also use a rubber band for this purpose.
If the stems are the dainty kind, you can insert florist’s wire through the base of the bloom (calyx) and down around the stem to secure them.
Hang the flowers upside down in a well-ventilated, dark space like a closet, attic or utility room. Just make sure the room doesn’t have high humidity. I like to secure them to a hanger or rod in our laundry room…so much more fun than doing laundry in there!
After 1-3 weeks, your flowers should be completely dry, unless the blossoms are particularly thick. Roses or mums may take longer depending on the size of the flower.
For reference, the bouquet featured in this tutorial was completely dry in about 5 days or so.
Once your flowers have dried, you can spray them with a fixative like unscented hairspray to better retain color.
Best types of flowers to use for air drying
- Roses (my favorite blooms)
- Lavender stems
- Baby’s Breath
- Herbs (mint, lavender, basil)
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, flowers with a small calyx work well. The Almanac also talks about a “flash drying” method of sticking fresh blooms in your car trunk to dry in the sun for better color preservation.
Knowing me, I’d probably forget about it and have potpourri floating around in the back of my car all year.
Best uses for air dried flowers
The air-drying method works well when you’re looking for a more vintage vibe. The colors don’t hold up quite as well as other methods, but there’s a romantic touch to the slightly yellowed blooms.
It’s also a great method when you want to keep an entire bouquet intact with stems. Just know the petals will be more brittle than with the silica gel method below.
2. Drying Flowers in a Conventional Oven
- Conventional oven
- Cookie sheet
- Baking rack (a.k.a. cooling rack)
To dry flowers in the oven, first trim the stems off to leave only the blossom and calyx. Leaves won’t tend to dry very well in the oven based on my experience.
For roses, you will likely want to remove the individual petals, since the center of the bud is difficult to dry out completely without a lot of browning. You’ll also find that multi-petaled flowers like mums and daisies may tend to shrivel.
Next, spread your flowers on a baking rack placed on a cookie sheet. Bake at 200°F (about 95°C) for about 2 hours.
Smaller flowers will take far less time, so keep an eye out after about 45 minutes to 1 hour. You can always air dry the flowers for the last stretch.
Best flowers for oven drying
- Purple or blue-toned flowers (e.g., plumbago, static, etc.)
As you can see from the photos, flowers with bright blue or purple colors tend to retain their color extremely well, while bright red flowers will darken to a wine color and yellow blooms may tend toward brown.
Best uses for oven dried flowers
I love using the oven drying process when making homemade potpourri. The flowers have a crispness that looks romantic, and you won’t fret as much when petal pieces break off in the bowl. It just adds to the charm!
See the last photo in this post for a comparison of oven-drying results to other methods.
3. Pressing Flowers to Dry
If you want to have completely flattened flowers, then flower pressing is for you! In my complete guide to flower pressing, I cover these 4 different ways to press flowers:
- Pressing flowers in a book
- Wooden flower press
- Microwave flower press
- Pressing flowers with an iron
The supplies needed will vary for each method, so I’ll leave you to check out the related post for all the details.
Best methods of pressing flowers
Generally, the same rules apply in terms of picking the freshest, unblemished flowers to begin. Larger flowers with spherical shapes (e.g., roses, peonies) don’t lend themselves well to pressing, but you can always separate the petals to press.
There are trade-offs in time and quality for each method of flower pressing. Overall, my favorite method is using the microwave for the speed and ease of creating DIY pressed flower art.
However, the good, old-fashioned book press creates gorgeous paper-thin petals and does a great job of maintaining color. If you have a heavy book and 2-4 weeks to spare, it’s a great summer project for the kids!
When to use pressed flowers
You’ll want nice flattened flowers if you’re planning to make shallow resin crafts like a tray or coaster. Pressed flowers also come in handy to create beautiful wall art using a simple picture frame. I’m planning to decorate candles, mason jars, bookmarks, and mobile phone cases with my pressed beauties.
4. Using Silica Gel to Dry Flowers
- Silica gel beads (not silica sand)
- Plastic container with tight-fitting lid
- Gloves/mask (optional but recommended)
Silica gel is a desiccant product that wicks moisture away from flowers. I have a complete guide on drying flowers with silica gel with a step-by-step tutorial on using this product if you go this route.
The basic technique involves pouring a layer of the fine crystals (about 1.5 inches) into your plastic container, placing your flowers on top, and layering more of the crystals around the petals.
Once you seal your container closed, you’ll need to wait 2-7 days for the flowers to dry completely. (The length of time will depend on the thickness of your blooms.) After you remove the flowers, you can use a soft brush to dust the excess crystals off your dried flowers.
This method works well with nearly any type of flower, though very delicate blossoms may give you fits, just like with any other method.
When to use silica gel
This is perhaps the most popular way to preserve wedding bouquets. It’s the perfect method for creating shadow box displays, three-dimensional resin crafts, and jewelry because you’ll get the best color retention and the softest texture.
While you can remove the stem and reattach it to the flower with wire after drying, this technique is more often used just to preserve the blossom.
5. Drying Flowers in the Microwave
If you want to use a microwave to dry flowers, you can buy a microwave flower press (for flat flowers) or use silica gel in a microwave-safe dish. Assuming you want to preserve the shape and body of the flowers, I’ll cover the latter option.
- Silica gel
- Microwave-safe dish
- Cup of water
Once again, you’ll create a blanket of silica gel in your container and spread out your flowers before placing more gel on top.
Unlike the conventional method, you will not cover the container but instead, place a glass of water in the microwave with it. Follow the microwaving directions based on the flowers you’ve chosen (typically 1-3 minutes total in 1-minute increments).
Of course, like most time-saving techniques, you’ll face a slight loss in color retention versus the conventional method.
Here’s a look at how the last three methods compare. You can pin it on Pinterest for reference later.
When to use a microwave to dry flowers
Using silica gel in the microwave makes sense when you want nearly the maximum color retention but just can’t spare the time. For something like eco-friendly wedding confetti, it’s the perfect solution!
Project Ideas for Dried Flowers
If you’re here learning about ways to dry flowers, you probably have a project in mind already. Here are a few other dried flower crafts to spark your imagination:
- DIY wreath
- Floral swag
- Flower crown
- Pressed flower table numbers
- Resin crafts (paperweights, coasters, phone case)
- Wall art or shadow box
- Gift tags
Let me know in the comments what you plan to do with yours and tag me on Instagram (@firstdayofhome) to share your creations!