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Home : How to Dry Flowers: Create Dried Wedding Flowers & Decorations

How to Dry Flowers: Create Dried Wedding Flowers & Decorations

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Jump to a Topic:
Introduction to Flower Drying How to Dry Flowers with Silica Gel
Before You Begin: Preparing Flowers for Drying How to Dry Flowers with Borax or Sand
How to Air Dry Flowers How to Dry Press Flowers
How to Dry Flowers in a Microwave How to Preserve Dried Flowers

Introduction to Flower Drying

Dried wedding flowers, what can't you do with them? They can be worked into bouquets and wedding decorations, given out as wedding favors, and saved as special mementos of the big day!
Drying flowers is also relatively inexpensive, and with all the attention being paid to environmental issues this wedding season adding natural elements into your celebration is more popular now than ever. It's also fairly simple to do! So, if you have a bit of that do-it-yourself spirit, read on to learn how to dry flowers at home!

We've listed step-by-step instructions that will show you how to dry flowers with (mostly) household items to keep trips to the craft store or the florist to an absolute minimum. There's also more than one way to dry out flowers, which is why we've outlined four of our favorite homegrown methods including air drying, desiccant drying, pressing, and the microwave.
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The method that's right for you will depend in part on how much time you have (the more the better) and the types of flowers you want to dry. But don't worry; we've also included lists of our favorite flowers to dry using each method to help you get started. So go ahead and get drying!

PS: If you really want to go all-out and actually grow the flowers you dry for your wedding, we can help you there too! Check out our handy guide to DIY Wedding Flowers!

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How to Dry Out Flowers: Cutting and Preparing Flowers for Drying

  • Properly cutting and preparing your flowers for drying is one of the most important steps in the process.

No matter the method you choose to dry your flowers, how and when you cut and prepare them is equally critical. If you're growing your flowers outside you'll be at the mercy of the weather, so keep an eye on the forecast and give yourself some leeway for when you plan to start your project. Follow these steps to ensure your dried flowers will look their most beautiful:
  1. If you plan to display your flowers and aren't crushing them for potpourri, be sure to select only the best looking flowers as any drying process can exaggerate their imperfections.

  2. Cut more flowers than you actually need -- allow for mistakes and trial and error.

  3. Do not cut your flowers until immediately before you're ready to start drying them to minimize wilting.

  4. Cut your flowers in the late morning or early afternoon -- after all the morning dew has evaporated but before the peak heat of the day. Avoid cutting your flowers on humid days and never cut them shortly after a heavy rain.

  5. Cut flowers just before they've reached maturity or their peak bloom, especially if you plan to air dry them. Flowers will continue to blossom after you've cut them, and fully mature flowers will shrivel more during the air drying process.
Once you have your flowers picked out, it's time to get to work. There are several popular methods for drying flowers, and each has its own set of advantages and drawbacks. The best method to use depends on the type of flowers you plan to dry, how many flowers you want to preserve, and your time constraints. Below are step-by-step instructions, lists of recommended flowers, and a few tips for each method:

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How to Air Dry Flowers

  • Air drying flowers is a simple and traditional method for preserving flowers that also requires very little work or preparation.

  Ideal flowers for air drying:

  Baby's Breath

  Cockscomb / Celosia

  Everlastings / Strawflower

  Germander Sage / Mexican Blue Sage

  Globe Amaranth / Gomphrena

  Hydrangea

  Lavender / Common Lavender

  Lilac

  Love-in-a-mist / Nigella

  Millet

  Purple Majesty Sage / Salvia

  Queen Anne's Lace / Wild Carrot

  Rose

  Scarlet Sage / Scarlet Salvia

  Yarrow / Milfoil
However, air drying also tends to cause more damage to a flower's shape and will exaggerate existing wilts, folds, and imperfections. It also tends to result in more fading. If the exact look and color of your dried flowers is important to you, consider trying a different method. Air drying is also a long process that can take weeks and even up to two months for some flowers, so be sure to give yourself plenty of lead time before the big day.
  1. Remove any leaves and thorns from the stems of your flowers. We recommend leaving about six inches of stem.

  2. Tie your flowers together in small bunches of about 10 using a rubber band, string, twine, or wire. Tie the stems tight as they may shrink and break loose while they dry. You may need to hang weak, delicate, or exceptionally large flowers individually and you may need to reinforce or replace their stems with wire.

  3. Select a dry and dark location for drying your flowers. Closets are always an ideal choice but allowing for plenty of air circulation is critical so be prepared to empty yours out before you begin. If freeing up closet space isn't an option you can also use an attic, your garage, or a shed. Avoid basements and other moist or damp areas.

  4. Hang your flower bunches upside down from a coat hanger. If space is an issue you can also use a laundry drying rack to fit more flowers.

  5. Your flowers will need anywhere from a week to three weeks to dry (and up to a few months in extreme cases). Check on their progress after the first week and then once every few days. When the petals feel like paper and the stems are easy to break, they're done!

  6. Remember to preserve your flowers after they're dry to keep them looking beautiful.

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How to Dry Flowers in a Microwave

  • If you're looking for how to dry flowers quickly, using a microwave is as good as it's going to get. The faster a flower dries the more color it retains, so the microwave is also your best option for minimizing fading.

However, this method also requires the most trial and error and you'll need to be careful not to under or over dry your blossoms. Some moisture-rich and thick-petaled flowers like succulents do not take well to being 'cooked'.

You'll also be limited by the space inside your microwave so this method works best with smaller flowers. Keep in mind that you'll only be able to dry a few flowers at a time and that this can get pretty labor intensive when it comes to bigger drying projects.

  • You'll need to purchase silica gel crystals before you begin. For you non-crafty types, these crystals are the stuff in those packets that are always in boxes of new shoes; it's available at most craft stores. You'll also want the largest possible container with a lid that can fit inside your microwave -- try to find one deep enough to completely hold your flowers vertically and make sure it's one you won't need to use again for cooking or storing food.

Note: Some drying enthusiasts have noted that silica gel crystals may cause slight spotting on some flower types. If you notice this happening you can try cat litter in place of crystals.

  Ideal flowers for microwave drying:

  Acacia

  Carnation

  Cockscomb / Celosia

  Dahlia

  Drummond's Phlox

  Gerbera Daisy / Common Daisy

  Globe Amaranth / Gomphrena

  Love-in-a-mist / Nigella

  Marigold

  Oxeye Daisy / Marguerite Daisy

  Rose

  Rosemary

  Shasta Daisy

  Starflower

  Sunflower

  Tickseed / Lanceleaf Coreopsis

  Tulip

  Violet

  Yarrow / Milfoil

  Zinnia
  1. Pour the silica gel crystals into a microwave or oven-safe container then heat on high for several minutes to remove any ambient moisture.

  2. Gather your flowers and cut the stems of each short enough so that the flowers will fit vertically inside the container -- keep in mind that you'll need to completely cover each flower.

  3. Once the crystals are cool, pour them into your drying container to create an even layer about one inch deep.

  4. "Stand" each flower stem first in the crystals. You'll want to limit each batch to just a few flowers; cramming in more can cause the petals to curl and even burn. If you're drying more than one kind of flower, use only flowers of the same type in each batch.

  5. Fill the rest of the container with crystals, being careful not to damage the petals of your flowers. Make sure each flower is completely covered.

  6. Place a small cup of water in the microwave to help minimize over drying.

  7. Place the flower container in the microwave next to the water. Heat your flowers on a setting or two below high for about 2 - 5 minutes. The amount of time and heat required can vary greatly between different types of flowers and microwaves so you'll probably need practice to get the timing and temperature perfect. In general, the more delicate the flower the lower the temperature and the less time you'll want to use.

  8. Once your flowers have been properly cooked, keep them covered in the container (be sure to leave one corner open to vent) and store them in a dark place away from moisture. Let your flowers cool for about a day to complete the drying process.

  9. If your first attempt fails, don't worry. You can re-use your silica gel crystals as many times as necessary. Simply repeat step one to remove any accumulated moisture then try again.

  10. Once they're done, remember to preserve your flowers to prevent damage.

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How to Dry Flowers with Silica Gel

  • Silica gel crystals are an excellent desiccant for preserving and drying your flowers. They can also be used without a microwave or oven for your projects.

For an easy and straightforward way to slow-dry your flowers without the risk of overcooking or frying them in the microwave, follow the steps below:

  Ideal flowers for desiccant drying:

  Coneflower

  Gerbera Daisy / Common Daisy

  Germander Sage / Mexican Blue Sage

  Globe Amaranth / Gomphrena

  Lavender / Common Lavender

  Lilac

  Lily-of-the-Valley

  Lilac

  Love-in-a-mist / Nigella

  Oxeye Daisy / Marguerite Daisy

  Queen Anne's Lace / Wild Carrot

  Rose

  Scarlet Sage / Scarlet Salvia

  Shasta Daisy

  Zinnia
  1. Pour your silica gel crystals into a microwave or oven-safe container then heat on high for several minutes (longer in the oven) to remove any ambient moisture. Set the crystals aside for about half an hour to cool.

  2. Get a plastic container that can be tightly sealed with a lid and that's large enough to hold the flowers you want to dry.

  3. Once the silica gel crystals have cooled, evenly fill the bottom of your container with a layer that's about one or two inches thick.

  4. Place your flowers head down inside the container, keeping them evenly spaced.

  5. Completely cover your flowers with the remaining silica gel crystals.

  6. Use the lid to seal your container. We also suggest further sealing your container with heavy-duty tape to ensure it stays airtight.

  7. Store your flowers in a dry place away from sunlight. Check on their progress every couple of days. Some flowers will take a week or longer to dry, but allowing flowers to over dry will cause them to turn brittle and powdery.

  8. Once your flowers are dry carefully brush away the silica gel crystals with a small paintbrush. Don't get rid of the crystals after you're done -- you can use them over again by simply reheating them in the oven or microwave.

  9. Once you brush away the crystals, don't forget to preserve your flowers to prevent further drying.

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How to Dry Flowers with Borax or Sand

  • While not nearly as fast as the microwave, using borax or sand to dry your flowers is an effective natural method that's also easy and fun to do.

There's a lot less risk of under or over drying your flowers using this method, which can greatly cut back on frustrating trial and error. This is also a great kid-safe project to share with children and one they can easily learn to do themselves, so if there are kids around feel free to let them in on the fun!
  1. Find a deep container, box, or tray big enough to "bury" your flowers inside.

  2. Evenly spread about one or two inches of borax or sand in the bottom of the container. Sand tends to damage flowers more frequently, which is why we prefer borax, but both are equally effective. If you do use sand, find clean finely ground sand that is free from soil or additives.

  3. You can place your flowers on their sides or flower head down in the box depending on its size. We prefer drying flowers vertically to help prevent "smooshing" and to dry the petals more evenly.

  4. Regardless of what direction you want to place your flowers, dig small evenly spaced indentations in the borax or sand that are wide enough to fit the head of each flower.

  5. Place a flower in each indentation then carefully and slowly cover the flower completely in borax or sand.

  6. Once your flowers are completely buried, seal the container with heavy duty tape and place them in a dry location like a closet that is away from heat and sunlight.

  7. Depending on the type of flower, it's age, thickness, and other environmental factors, it can take anywhere from a few days to three weeks for each flower to completely dry. Use a paintbrush or makeup brush to uncover your flowers and check their progress every couple days -- the flowers will have a papery texture when they're done.

  8. Your flowers will continue to dry out once you've finished, so don't forget to preserve your flowers.
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How to Dry Press Flowers

  • Pressing flowers retains more of their beauty and color while providing unique decorating opportunities.

You may remember learning how to dry flowers in a book back in those middle school science classes, or maybe you've encountered some pressed flowers in a few scrapbooks. While not very useful for creating bouquets, pressed flowers have tons of decorative potential for any creative or DIY bride.

Press-dried wedding flowers can be used to decorate tables, favors, or attached to centerpieces and larger decorations. They make brilliant all-natural accents to wedding stationery in particular. You can use them to decorate your invitations, guest book, wedding album, programs, seating cards, or menu cards. For a romantic and really sentimental flourish after the big day, press some of the flowers you used at your wedding then include a few petals inside your thank you cards along with a little note or poem. This is a fantastic way to turn a simple thank you into a cherished memento for each of your guests.

There are a variety of ways to press flowers and you can even find flower presses at many gardening centers and craft stores, but to press flowers at home the old fashioned way, follow these steps:

  Ideal flowers for press drying:

  California Poppy / Flame Flower

  Cockscomb / Celosia

  Coneflower

  Drummond's Phlox

  Gerbera Daisy / Common Daisy

  Germander Sage / Mexican Blue Sage

  Hydrangea

  Lily-of-the-Valley

  Oxeye Daisy / Marguerite Daisy

  Queen Anne's Lace / Wild Carrot

  Rose

  Scarlet Sage / Scarlet Salvia

  Shasta Daisy

  Sulphur Cosmos / Klondike Cosmos

  Tulip

  Zinnia
  1. Find some heavy books. Dust off those encyclopedias, the dictionary, or dig up some old telephone books.

  2. Tear out a couple pages from the phonebook or cut pages out of the newspaper that you can fit inside your book (any absorbent paper will do; avoid glossy magazine and catalog pages). Lay the pages out on a table.

  3. Cover one of the pages with paper towels, napkins, facial tissues, or strips of toilet paper. This will help absorb moisture quicker and keep your flowers looking more colorful.

  4. Place your flowers on top of the tissue paper. If pressing more than one flower on a page, be sure to keep them evenly spaced and press only flowers of the same type on each page.

  5. Lay additional tissues on top of the flowers then cover the tissues with a second page of phonebook paper or newsprint.

  6. Slip the pages with your flowers inside your book somewhere towards the middle. If you're pressing multiple layers of flowers in the same book, make sure there is at least half an inch of pages between each layer.

  7. Find a warm and moisture-free location to place your book, then pile on the weight. Place under a large stack of books (this is why we love using encyclopedia sets) or use boards, barbells, or other dense weights.

  8. Depending on the type of flower, its moisture content, and the humidity of the surrounding air, pressing may take anywhere from five days to two weeks. After a week, replace the tissues with fresh ones then resume pressing.

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How to Preserve Dried Flowers

  • Dried wedding flowers and petals aren't frozen in time. They can be brittle, lose their color, and will eventually disintegrate. But with proper storage and preservation, you will still be able to enjoy your flowers throughout the season and well beyond!

No matter how well you've dried your flowers, you will still need to exercise some care once you're finished in order to enjoy them. Dried flowers are particularly delicate and will continue to lose moisture and grow more brittle over time -- like all organic material they will eventually completely break down. Dried flowers are also attractive to household insects, which can quickly ruin any arrangement. Follow these tips for preserving and storing your flowers to keep them beautiful and insect free for as long as possible:
  1. First, spray your flowers with a clear adhesive for protection. Clear acrylic spray is a good choice but ordinary hairspray works just as well. If you doubt the preservative powers of Aqua Net you can also buy flower-specific sprays from your local garden center or craft store.

  2. Any spray you use will eventually wear off so periodically re-spray your flowers as necessary.

  3. When you're not using or admiring them, store your flowers in sealed airtight containers to prevent insect infestation. Check your boxes periodically to make sure no insects are present.

  4. As with drying, store your flowers away from sunlight and moisture. Sun exposure can quickly fade your flowers, while moist or humid air can be reabsorbed back into the petals and cause them to wilt.
No matter how well you preserve your flowers eventually it will be time to say good bye, or at least to stop using them for decorations. With diligence and a bit of luck you can keep your dried wedding flowers looking great for years, but sooner or later without special storage the end will come. As a last ditch measure you can lightly re-color your flowers by coating them with a matching color of acrylic spray paint, but we believe that if it's come to that point then it's time to get a fresh batch of flowers and start again!

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