Pressing flowers and preserving foliage are not only enjoyable activities but also let you capture memories of a favorite flower, gift, or moment in time. See which flowers are best for pressing, 5 steps to press flowers, and how to preserve leaves in glycerin.
A Few Guidelines for Flower Pressing
- Flowers need to be as fresh as possible. Choose flowers that are either still in bud form, or that are freshly bloomed.
- Pick flowers, grasses, and ferns in the late morning, right after dew has evaporated. They need to be dry, not dewy.
- If you can’t press the flowers right away, place them in a ziplock bag and store them in the refrigerator.
- Remove lower leaves. Cut steps at an angle under water and put flowers in a clean vase out of direct sunlight.
Which Flowers Are Best for Pressing?
Delicate flowers and flowers with naturally-flat faces are best. Favorites are cosmos, poppies, sweet peas.
Avoid flowers with complex petals and thick stems. Roses, peonies, daffodils are best avoided, as are white flowers, which turn brown easily.
If you do wish to press a rose or more complex flower, split it down the middle with scissors or a knife.
How to Press Flowers
Pressing flowers in a very heavy book is the easiest method.
- A very heavy book. It’s best to pick a book that isn’t too dear to you as the pages may get damp.
- Blotting paper to draw out moisture (If you don’t have blotting paper, use plain facial tissue or even non-corrugated coffee filters, however, avoid paper towels which may leave marks.)
- Arrange your finds flat between sheets of smooth blotting paper. Position as you wish. Leave space between multiple flowers.
- If you have a press, screw it tight, write down the date. If you don’t have a press, weigh flowers down with heavy books or bricks.
- Leave undisturbed in a warm, dry place for at least four weeks (possibly less) until the paper and the flowers are perfectly dry
- Check on flowers every week and change blotter paper until paper and flowers are dry.
- Using tweezers, gently move the delicate dried flowers from the paper to mount on a card, and affix them carefully with a little diluted white glue, especially the sturdier parts (stem, leaves, buds).
- You may want to spray the finished arrangement with a clear acrylic spray or, if you put the flowers on a box, use clear varnish.
Image credit: Raw Pixel/Shutterstock
Pressing With an Iron
If you want to press flowers more quickly, try using an iron. Arrange your flowers between the pages of a book as above.
Heat an iron on low. (Ensure there is NO water in the steamer.) Then press the iron on top of the upper sheet of paper for 10 seconds. Do not move the iron back and forth. Just press down. Check the flower and repeat if not dried.
Pressing With a Flower Press
If you find that you really enjoy pressing flowers, make your own flower press! Use two pieces of wood with holes drilled in each corner. Assemble the press by placing flowers and blotting paper between the boards, then slide a bolt up through each corner. Use wing nuts with washers to tighten the two boards together. Change the blotter sheets every four days or so (this helps prevent browning) and the flower will need to be pressed for at least four weeks.
Once you’ve learned how to press flowers, you can also create arrangements of flowers for your own greeting cards, framed art, or invitations. Imagine opening up a card to find a beautiful real flower placed inside.
Leaves from a flowering plant or a tree can also be preserved! The technique called “glycerinizing” makes leaves and stems soft and pliable, which takes about 2 to 6 days. Here’s how to do it:
- Make a mixture of one part glycerin and two parts warm water. Stir well and pour into containers so the liquid is about 4 to 5 inches deep. Glass containers are best.
- “Glycerinize” the leaves by totally submerging the leaves in the mixture. They should be placed in a single layer and weighted to keep them beneath the liquid. After the leaves become soft and pliable, in about 2 to 6 days, they should be removed, drained and wiped clean with a soft cloth.
- If you wish, you can glycerize an entire branch to add to a flower arrangement. Select with foliage that’s about 18 inches long and split the stem end of the wood. Remove the lowest leaves. Put that stem end of the branch/branches into the glycerin/water container. As the branches absorb the mixture, add a reserve mixture of one part glycerin and four parts water to the original marked level.
Foliage color will gradually change as the glycerin is absorbed. Most branches take from one to three weeks to glycerinize.
Have you pressed flowers or preserved leaves? We’d love to hear from you. Just post your tips, techniques, and questions in the comments below.