Methods for Drying Cut Flowers
The beauty of flowers is something that growers look forward to during the off season, sometimes even more than the flavors of summer vegetables. The first blooms in the garden or in the high tunnel are incredibly cheerful and hopeful and provide a unique form of nourishment that is powerful for boosting morale.
While the season of sowing and growing flowers is limited to the warmer months, the enjoyment of these beautiful blooms doesn’t have to be. There are several methods for drying flowers that can lead to beautiful arrangements for the home, handmade gifts, and even off-season farm sales.
Below we will discuss air drying, food dehydrator drying, flower press and book press drying and silica gel and microwave drying.
One basic rule for drying flowers is that you want to pick them in the morning before the heat of the day has had a chance to stress the plants or the in the evening when the sun is going down. They should be harvested when they've had a chance to dry off from the morning dew or before moisture settles at sun down. Flowers shouldn't be picked during or just after a heavy rain, if possible.
Air drying is a very common method for drying flowers. It is popular because it can be done inside a home, on a protected porch, in a barn, or inside any other covered, wind, sun and weather protected shelter. It requires very few supplies and is a great method when dealing in large quantities.
- Harvest flowers into bunches
- Remove excess leaves from the bottom of the stems
- Use a rubber band, twine or wire to secure the bunch together
- Hang upside down in a cool, dark place with good air flow
- Keep the bunches separated from one another for best drying results
The bunches will take a few weeks to dry and you will notice that they change in appearance. Hanging flowers to dry results in an antiqued look; flowers will lose some of their color vibrancy and will shrink a bit in form. When the stems snap, they are dried enough for use. Be sure to monitor your bunches for the presence of mold and remove moldy stems or blooms to prevent spread.
Food Dehydrator Drying
If your goal with your flowers is not to make bouquets, but rather just to capture the beauty of the bloom itself, food dehydrators are a great tool for getting a nicely, completely dried end product. It is important when working with a food dehydrator to remember that some flowers are very aromatic and can leave their scent behind on trays after the process has been completed.
- Cut the blooms from the stems of the plant
- Place flowers right side up, as if they were growing from the tray
- Do not allow the flowers to overlap or they will dry together
- Leave flowers in the dehydrator for a few hours, checking periodically for their progress
- Be sure not to over dry, as flowers may become fragile and shatter
This method is fairly quick and is excellent for creating a fresh from the garden potpourri. Colors usually deepen using this process, resulting in darker, muddier versions of the original hues.
Flower Press (Or Book Press)
Pressing flowers is an easy way to capture the essence and fragile beauty of some of the more delicate flowers and is great for making 2-dimensional crafts like artistic wall hangings. Thin petals and stems generally lend themselves perfectly to this application and the result is certainly worth the minimal effort and investment. Whether you are using a flower press you've purchased, using a homemade flower press, or using a large book, this method results in whimsical masterpieces that other methods cannot replicate.
- Place your flowers into the press between sheets of paper/cardboard or between pages in a large book
- Make sure to place them in the exact shape and form you want them to be when they're dried
- Do not overlap the flowers, unless you are intentionally creating a landscape as they will stick together
- Close down on the press and secure, or if using a book close the book and secure by tying the book together or securing with a belt
- Leave flowers without disturbing them for up to a month to allow them to fully dry
This method is best used for delicate flowers with unique form, but can be used on denser flowers with less success in creating a natural shape. The flowers will come out paper thin and delicate and care will need to be taken to ensure they don't fall apart before use. The fun thing about pressing flowers in an old book are the flowers that get forgotten about and left behind. These secret treasures become a wonderful surprise for the next person who opens the book.
Silica Gel and Microwave Drying
For those of us who don't have much time and need perfection, silica gel can be used in concert with the microwave to create an instant, fully preserved bloom. This method is excellent for fully capturing the look and feel of a freshly picked flower. Additionally, the silica gel is re-usable and can be primed with 30 minutes in the oven between takes.
- Harvest fully opened blooms that look exactly as you'd like them to look dried
- Put on gloves and a mask when working with the silica gel
- Place the blooms in a microwave safe container
- The container will need to be deep enough to completely cover the blooms in the silica gel
- Place long blooms on their sides, large open blooms face up, and flat presenting blooms face down
- Pour the silica gel over the blooms so that they are covered by 1-2 inches of gel
- Cover the container with a lid or saran wrap and let sit for 3-5 days for drying without the microwave
- Be very careful when removing the flowers from the gel to ensure you do not break them
- For an even quicker fix, place the covered container in the microwave for 1 minute
- Remove and let cool for 30 minutes before removing the silica gel from the fully dried blooms.
While this method requires more supplies and is a little bit of a science project, the results are gorgeous. These blooms will appear as though they were plucked right from the field or garden. Be sure to wear gloves and a mask when dealing with the silica gel. It is not a toxic material, but can be irritating due to the properties that allow it to absorb surrounding moisture.
Have your own tried and true methods for drying flowers? Leave them in the comments below!