Dried Flower Arrangements - A bouquet of strawflowers sold by A & M Growers
A bouquet of strawflowers sold by A & M Growers
In our Dried
Flower Arrangements article on A & M Growers, the chosen method was to air dry the flowers. This method is still one of the best ways to preserve certain flowers. Strawflowers have blossoms that dry easily. Acrolinium, yarrow, and gomphrena also dry themselves. Some blossoms are more delicate than others.

Dried Flower Arrangements - Air dried flowers
Air dried flowers
Air Drying

In general, pick flowers for drying or pressing when they are dry, after a day or two with no rain, toward noon when the dew has evaporated, and before they are fully open. Hang flowers with weak stems in small bunches secured with rubber bands. Don't forget that stems shrink as they dry. Make a hook from a wire twist tie, put one end through the band, and fasten the other to the line or the nail from which you hang your flowers.

Other methods to use for more delicate blossoms are silica gel, glycerine, or pressing a flowers in a book. Each method is specific to the type of flower you choose to dry.


A thick book is the best to choose when drying flowers using the pressing method. Begin at the back of the book and line the two pages with newspaper. Spread open the petals and lie the flower between the newsprint and pages of the book. Working forward, flip about a half an inch of pages, and repeat the process until the book is filled. Close the book and weight it down with other books for 7-10 days, then check to see if they are dry. If not, close the book and check again in another seven days.

Dried Flower Arrangements - Statice dried in glycerin
Statice dried in glycerin

The glycerine method works well especially with foliage but flowers must be watched carefully because if the flowers absorb too much glycerine, they will become limp and unusable. The glycerine method is perfect for viburnums, rhododendrons, foxglove, and magnolias. Mature flowers work the best with this type of method.

Leaves and stems preserved in glycerine remain pliable. Some material treated this way change color. A few varieties of leaves turn bronzy, great for leaves and dramatic arrangements. Autumn leaves do well in glycerine. The time of year that flowers are dried using the glycerine method will make a difference in the finished color. Even changing the drying of flowers in a dark or light area will affect the color.

Mix thoroughly two cups of boiling water with one cup of glycerine. Pour the solution into a tall, narrow container. Put in branches or stems of flowers to be treated. Keep the plant material upright in the glycerine solution in a dark place. It is important to check to see that the stems are taking up the glycerine, adding more if necessary. After about four days, veins in the leaves will darken, and the leaves may feel soft and somewhat oily. Remove the solution and store the flowers in loosely covered boxes or paper bags.

Use a shallow pan and one or two inches of glycerine for single leaves. Make sure leaves don't stick together. Check the leaves daily. It can take as little as two weeks or as long as three months to properly dry. Remove them from the solution and lay them down on several layers of newspaper to absorb the surface oil. Cover with more newspaper and leave them for about a week. Wipe the leaves with tissue to remove remaining traces of oil.

The glycerine solution can be reused. Use a pair of panty hose to sieve out the any debris. The solution will turn brown after use which will not affect the process.

Dried Flower Arrangements - Carnations dried in silica gel
Carnations dried in silica gel
Silica Gel

Silica gel is available in most florist shops and garden centers. The mixture that is prepared especially for drying flowers contains a blue crystal that loses color as it becomes moist. This indicates when it is time to recondition the mixture. To do this, spread the silica gel on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan and place it in a warm oven at 250 degrees for an hour or two, until the blue color returns, Silica gel can be used over and over again but must be warmed in a flat pan for several hours before reusing.

Most flowers should be wired before being dried in silica gel, as stems do not dry well. Cut off the stem about an inch below the flowerhead. Insert a fine wire up through the inch of the stem and into the calyx. If the stem is too small or weak, use the horizontal method, that is place the wire through the calyx horizontally. It can be bent down later to form a stem. Wrap with florist's tape.

If the blossom is flat in form, the daisy for instance, push the wire up through the center, bend it into a small hook, and pull it back into the center of the blossom. This will hold the flower firmly to the wire stem.

The silica gel method is perfect for pansies, poppies, pinks, and primroses. Silica gel is a dry granular substance. Flowers dried in it seem to keep both color and shape for a long time if they are kept airtight and out of direct sunlight. You can use shallow cardboard boxes that can be wrapped in plastic film and made airtight, plastic boxes with snug lids, or large metal cookie cans. Make sure the container is six inches deeper than the flower. Line the bottom of the box with several layers of dry newspaper, and scatter an inch-thick layer of silica particles over them. Place a flower on the bed of silica and gently cover with more silica, making sure the little grains are under, around, and over the entire blossom. You can put many flowers in the same container, but be careful to leave at least an inch of space between them. Gently sift the mixture around each flower, covering every petal separately and sprinkling the drying compound in slowly until the entire container is filled.

When the box is completely filled, cover it securely and leave it unopened for five days. This should be sufficient time for most flowers to dry. Open the box and check a flower by uncovering it. If the flower feels dry and papery, then it is ready. and very carefully pour off the mixture, lifting out each flower as it appears. If you find that an especially thick and heavy blossom, such as a rose or a peony, is not completely dry, place it on top of the silica gel in the container and leave it for a few days more, until it is dry all the way through.

Roses can also be dried upright in cardboard tubes such as those found inside rolls of paper towels. Stand the flower in the middle of the tube and surround with silica, carefully sifting the grains among the petals.

Blossoms with many layers of petals, like roses and chrysanthemums, should be dried face up. Single flowers like daisies, zinnias, violets, and poppies should be placed face down, then gently cover with another inch of the granules. In each situation, cover the material with another layer or two of newspaper and the lid of the box to make the container as air tight as possible.

When the flowers are quite dry, store them in an airtight container until you are ready to arrange them. If they are exposed to a moist atmosphere, they will begin to wilt. It is best to make dried bouquets after the humid summer weather is past. Keep the flowers away from high humidity as they will last longer.

Dried Flower Arrangements - A rose petal drying in sand
A rose petal drying in sand
There are other drying compounds that can be used in the same fashion. Borax and very dry sand at a mixture of 2 to 1 will take 14-17 days for the drying process. Borax and cornmeal can be mixed at a 1 to 1 ratio. White cornmeal is sometimes used as a drying agent. It is even possible to use kitty litter. All these are applied in the same way. Kitty litter can be used in conjunction with a microwave for the drying process.

Most important, experiment with the different processes until you find a method which is comfortable to you.

Source: Interview/research/photos by Bryan Wright

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