Tips and resources for farmers and gardeners
Wish the beauty of summer flowers would last forever? Try extending their beauty for months indoors by preserving them when they are at their peak.
Some flowers are easy to preserve: baby's breath, celosia, yarrow, statice, globe amaranth, strawflower and artemesia. But every flower responds differently to drying and preserving. Experiment to get the results you want with the flowers you have.
Air drying is the easiest and most popular way to dry a wide variety of flowers. It is usually the best method to use for baby's breath, globe amaranth, statice, celosia, yarrow, hydrangea, goldenrod, grasses and cattails.
After cutting the flowers, strip the foliage from the stem and tie them into small bundles with string or rubber bands. Hang them upside down in a warm, dry dimly lit area with good air circulation. Attics, outbuildings or even garages work well.
After several weeks they should be ready to use.
To dry flowers with large, full heads such as zinnia, marigolds or roses it is often best to use a drying agent such as borax, white cornmeal or silica gel (sold in craft stores). These materials draw moisture out of the plant tissue and still allow the bloom to maintain its color and shape.
When using a drying agent, spread a layer on the bottom of a air-tight re-sealable container. Select blooms and remove the foliage and cut the stems to about one to two inches long. Place the flowers on top of the layer of drying agent and carefully and slowly add agent so it gets between the petals and covers the blooms completely. Seal the container and place in a cool, dark place.
After about a week, check the flowers. They should be dry or on their way to being dry, depending on the size of the bloom. Gently pour off the drying agent and remove the flowers.
You will need to add a "stem" by using 20 or 22 gauge florist wire.
For those who want a little quicker result, a microwave can be used to speed up the drying process.
Place silica gel in an ovenproof or microwave safe container. Preheat the silica gel on high for one minute. Place the flowers on the warm silica gel and cover completely with additional silica get. Cook for one to three minutes and then let stand for 25 minutes to cool down. Times will vary depending on flower type and microwave.
Remove flowers and add the stem with florist wire.
Some flowers, especially foliage, can be preserved by pressing. Pressed flowers are very useful in making personalized greeting cards, bookmarks, pictures or other decorative items. This method works best for flowers with singles rows of petals or fine delicate flowers.
Place the blooms between layers of paper towels, newspaper or even between the pages of telephone books. Place the sheet on a board, place another board on top and weight it down with heavy weights. Rocks work well. If using phone books, place weights on top of them also to keep the pages flat.
Leave the flowers in the press for four to six weeks.
Orange and yellow flowers tend to retain their colors as does white. Blue, purple and pink flowers tend to fade and red flowers may turn a muddy brown.
If the flowers or foliage you are drying tend to be fleshy you may have to change the paper after about the first 24 hours as a lot of moisture will be absorbed and changing the paper reduces the chance for mold.
Preserving Woody Stems with Leaves
Woody stems with leaves can also be preserved.
After cutting the stems, place them in containers holds about four to five inches of a glycerin/water solution. Glycerin can be found at most drug stores.
Use one part glycerin and two parts water.
As the material is taken up the stem to the leaves, the leaves will tend to get glossy looking and be very supply.
The glycerin/water solution can be reused by adding a few drops of bleach.
Greg Stack (708) 720-7520
University of Illinois Extension