The heat of the season is perfect for air-drying flowers to brighten those gray, frigid days of winter. Here are tips on which flowers are best for drying—and how to dry flowers so that they look great, not just old!
Best Flowers for Drying
Look for flowers that have a small calyx and hold their petals tightly. (What is a calyx? Note the small green leaves called sepals at the base of the bud; they enclose and protect the unopened bud.)
Good candidates are:
- ageratum (floss flower),
- artemisia for its silvery foliage,
- baby’s breath,
- globe thistle,
- coneflower seed heads,
- rose buds,
- sea holly,
My absolute favorite flower to dry is ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, a lime green cone-shaped, mop-head type hydrangea. Leave to mature on the shrubs, Then stand them upright in an empty vase to dry.
Another favorite is ‘Big Blue’ sea holly which glows as the Sun sets. Its electric blue stems and flowers are gorgeous dried. Cut the stems from your plants after the morning dew evaporates, just before the buds are completely open, or the flowers are fully mature. They’ll usually continue to open after cutting. Tie the stems together and air dry them, upside down, in a dark, dry spot. The trick to retaining that color is to flash-dry them, too, in a hot car. Otherwise, the blue fades with time to almost a gray.
A classic dried flower is Celosia “Dragon’s Breath,” sometimes called plumed cockscomb whch dazzles with its feathery plumes and bright sunset inspired colors like reds, oranges and yellows, and sometimes violet, cream and pink. Harvest the stems of celosia when the flowers are almost completely open. Hang upside down in a cool, dark location to dry for a month.
Strawflowers are another easy dried flower. Harvest strawflowers before the centers of the flowers open, so there’s enough moisture in the blooms to make them easy to handle. Cut the stems 12 to 15 inches long, and remove the leaves. Hang thems upside down in a dry, dark spot that gets good air circulation. They’ll be ready to use in 2 or 3 weeks.
Lavender wands are easy to dry in jars or can be hung by the bunch in a dark, hot area. Snip lavender stems after the morning dew has dried,
Roses are often a popular flower to dry, but this is because many romantics which to preserve their first bouquet of this flower which symbolizes love. The trick is to use roses that have just begun to open. Then hang them upside down to dry as instructed below.
For pressed or flattened flowers, take a heavy book (such as an encyclopedia) on top. Open to the middle and line the facing pages with parchment paper or wax paper. Then arrange the petals so they are face down on the parchment paper and close the book. Leave for 7 to 1o days to dry.
If you prefer to preserve your full bouquet instead, you would need to use silica gel which you can find at craft stores. It’s a sandy-like substance. You can bury your flower bouquet in a box of silica gel for a week.
The best way to flash-dry flowers is to pick them and then throw them in the trunk of your car!
I’m not kidding. Jim Long, of Long Creek Herb Farm, tells readers of his blog and books that a car trunk is perfect for flash-drying bundles of hydrangea and other large flowers.
He says to toss them in a car trunk, parked in the sun, for 24 hours to preserve color. They should dry to the “crinkling tissue paper” stage. That’s the sound their petals should make when you rub them.
How to Dry Flowers
Pick flowers in the morning just before the blooms completely open. Then strip off all foliage from stems. Secure 8 to 10 stems with a rubber band or twist tie. Hang upside down from a hook or coat hanger in a dark, dry, well-ventilated area out of sunlight. Closets, attics and well-ventilated garages are ideal spots. In 2 to 3 weeks, or even less if the weather is hot, flowers will be completely dry. Some colors may fade, but most flowers retain their original hues.
Flowers with thin stems like strawflowers will need wiring, because their stems crumble when dried. Use florist wire or a 20-gauge wire and push it through the center of the calyx, pull it out the other side and then twist wire strands together forming a long stem. Hang flowers to dry in the manner described above.
I also dry flowers in bottles and large vases. I assemble a number of vessels, cut the flowers and put them in a dark corner of the garage, where temperatures easily rise into the 90’s every day.