Flowers are my favorite and least favorite gift — as much as I love getting a fresh bouquet of wild or store-bought flowers, I absolutely hate throwing them away. I’ll usually keep them in their vase way past their prime, dreading the day I have to throw them in the trash. A simple and long-lived solution is to press or dry your blooms so you can preserve them for years. But pay attention to which flowers you plan on saving, as not all flowers preserve equally. These sturdy flowers work best for drying, while these thin-petaled blooms work best for pressing.
For optimal flower pressing and/or drying, it’s best to pick flowers at their peak vibrancy — no wilting, discoloration, etc. You also want to harvest them when they’re as dry as possible, so the best time for picking is the afternoon after the dew has dried or in the evening before the dew comes back. If your flowers have been getting lots of steady rain, wait for a few consistent days of dry weather before picking. Now, let’s get to it.
Drying flowers by hanging
What you’ll need: a stick or hanger and a piece of string
Way darker than it sounds, drying flowers by hanging is a simple (albeit a little time-consuming) way to preserve your favorite bouquet. Before hanging, remove any extra foliage from the flower stems. The greenery will dry, too, but leaves are prone to falling off, making it trickier to handle once dried.
Next, group flowers as desired and tie a string around the stems’ base. Tie the other end of the string to a stick, hanger, closet rod, or another sturdy alternative. Make sure your flowers will be able to dry undisturbed for at least three to four weeks. If possible, hang in a dark or minimally light spot to prevent unwanting fading in your petals.
Drying flowers via the microwave
What you’ll need: mask and gloves, silica sand, microwave-safe container, and a cup of water
The silica and microwave method is an excellent way to preserve your blooms’ vibrancy, but we don’t recommend this method if you plan on using your flowers in any body or bath products, tinctures, or teas, as prolonged exposure to silica can cause health problems (hence the gloves and mask!)
Wearing your mask and gloves, pour a thin layer of silica sand into your microwaveable container. Remove any unwanted greenery from your stems and trim as necessary so each flower can lay completely flat on the sand. Depending on how big your container is, you can dry multiple flowers at once via this method.
Cover flower(s) completely with silica sand. Place the container in the microwave with a cup of water. Heat in the microwave for thirty-second increments, checking the flower each time until it looks dry (this might take 2-3 minutes). Once the flower is dry, re-bury it for 24 hours. Remove your flower(s) from the silica sand after 24 hours, brush off any extra silica grains, and spray with unscented hairspray to further preserve the blooms.
Pressing flowers with a book
What you’ll need: 2-3 heavy books and absorbent paper (parchment paper or coffee filters)
Live out your wildest Victorian flower-picking dreams with this classic method of preserving flowers. Begin by plucking unwanted leaves as usual. Place two pieces of parchment paper or two coffee filters in the middle of a large, heavy book. Make sure its a book you don’t mind getting damaged on the off chance some water from the flowers causes the book’s pages to wrinkle.
Place your blooms face down in between the papers or filters, and carefully close the book, making sure not to move the flowers. Stack one or two heavy books on top of the book with the flowers and place somewhere out of the way. Let the flowers sit for 2-3 weeks before checking the blooms for a papery feel. If they still feel soft, change out your absorbent paper, re-press, and let sit for one more week.
Pressing flowers with an iron
What you’ll need: parchment paper, iron, and a heavy book
If you’re in need of gorgeous pressed flowers but don’t have three weeks to spare, consider pressing your bouquet with an iron. Just like with the book method, you’ll want to trim your stems as desired and sandwich the blooms face down between two sheets of parchment paper. Place a book on the paper for 20-30 minutes to flatten the flowers and make them easier to iron.
Remove the book from the paper/flower sandwich. On low and using no steam or water features, gently press your iron on the paper for about 15 seconds. Remove the iron and let the paper cool for approximately 30 seconds. Repeat the process until the flower is dried.
Pressing flowers with the microwave.
What you’ll need: absorbent paper and two microwaveable plates
The quickest way to press flowers is with a microwave — and no, there’s no silica sand this time. To use this method, place your blooms face down in between two pieces of absorbent paper. Put your paper/flower sandwich on one microwaveable plate. Place the second plate on top of the first. Microwave your flowers on low for thirty seconds to a minute, checking periodically until your blooms have reached your desired dryness. Voila! That’s it.
So now you have bundles of beautiful (but ultra-delicate) dried blooms. Now what? Perhaps the biggest issue in drying and pressing flowers is what to do with them after you’re done. Luckily, there’s a whole slew of options from decorations to gifts to tinctures to teas.
Put the flowers back in a vase
Probably the most obvious, but dried flowers make gorgeous and rustic bouquets perfect for placing around the house for an extra pop of color. Because the flowers no longer need dirt or water, you can play around with decorative rocks, beads, and sand. If the petals became brittle in the drying process, try using metallic gold or silver spray for a modern (and long-lasting) look.
Make a shadow box
Shadowboxes are a wonderful way to preserve flowers from special moments like wedding bouquets, flowers gifted after an important performance or event, anniversary gifts, etc. Placing your dried blooms in a DIY shadowbox is great for ensuring the longevity of your bouquet through redecorations, moving, and the general going-ons of life.
String up garland for whimsical walls
Effortlessly bohemian and way more affordable than pricey silk flower garlands, dried flower garlands offer a delicate and colorful addition to any wall, window, or door frame. Check out these tutorials for how to make your own garland from ReadingMyTeaLeaves.com, HearthAndVine.com, and TheKitchyKitchen.com.
Framed pressed flower initials
We’re in love with these delicate initial frames! They make amazing baby shower gifts, wedding or housewarming gifts, or additions to your own home. Use state, school, or birthday flowers for an extra personalized touch.
Aromatherapeutic satchets and potpourri
Those dried blooms still have plenty of aromatic life in them, so don’t stop smelling the flowers just yet. By mixing your petals with some fresh herbs and organic oils, you can create sweet-smelling potpourri for a decorative dish or tin or a transportable satchet for the car, closet, or just somewhere out of reach from kids and pets.
Get crazy in the kitchen!
Dried flowers and herbs are a great addition to any kitchen pantry. Use your dried bounty to make soothing teas, medicinal tinctures, or to take your cake decorating to a whole new level. These bad boys aren’t just limited to food, either — keep your kitchen (and the rest of the house) clean with these all-natural, organic DIY cleaning products.
Transform your flowers into one-of-a-kind accessories
Up your gift-giving game this holiday season
Besides all of the DIY crafts you can make with dried flowers, you can also use those flowers to add extra decorative and sentimental touches to gift wrapping, greeting cards, and handmade paper this holiday season. Speaking of the holidays, here’s a great tutorial for a dried flower ornament.
Colorful bouquets need not be seasonal, and a gifted arrangement of flowers need not be alive! (My perfect scenario — all of the gorgeous flowers with none of the trash-tossing.) Get ahead of the cold-winter blues by displaying summer’s bounty year-round, and share some of that sunshine and love with your loved ones this year.