Drying Lavender: How to Dry Lavender Flowers at Home
There are many uses for dried lavender in and around the home. It can be used in home medical remedies, for scenting a room, in potpourri, for cooking, and for making lavender bags or lavender sachets.
Also, dried lavender is attractive and decorative. Some people hang them in bunches around the home or use them as part of a dried flower arrangement.
You can, of course, buy lavender already dried. But why would you when you can do it yourself at home?
It's an easy plant to grow and adds a wonderful scent and colour to any garden. It's also a plant bees love, so you might not want to harvest all of it—leave a little for the bees.
Once you do grow lavender and harvest it, it's fun to dry for use in all of the aforementioned projects. This article explains how best to cut and dry lavender, and how to store it for later use.
Choosing the Right Time to Harvest
You should pick your lavender when it has just opened fully and smells fragrant.
The newly opened blossoms and fragrance means it has a strong concentration of the essential oils and freshness you want to preserve.
If you leave the flowers to bloom for longer, the dried bunches will be less potent.
It's best to harvest lavender in the early evening, after a dry day. Harvesting at this time will mean that you do not need to dry any rain or morning/evening dew before being able to dry the flowers.
How to Harvest
When it's time to cut your lavender, get a pair of sturdy scissors or secateurs. Then follow these steps to harvest the plants:
- Cut carefully, avoiding crushing the flowers.
- You should cut just above the leaves, with a good long stem, to make it easier to hang the stalks for drying.
- Don't cut into the woody part of the plant; leave an inch or two at least of the green growth to encourage future flowering.
- Don't worry about damaging the plant—pruning like this will encourage the bush to grow even more enthusiastically the following year.
- Even if you want to leave some stalks of flower for the bees so that the rest of your garden benefits, it's a good idea to cut the stalk once the flowers as finished to encourage new and healthy growth next year.
Preparing the Lavender Stalks for Drying
If you have a drying rack for flowers and herbs, by all means, use it. But while racks are useful, if you do not have one, they're not essential.
If you don't have a rack, all you need is some string. There are two ways of tying the lavender stalks for drying:
- The first is to group about half a dozen lavender stalks together and tie the bunch firmly with string. This is the quicker method.
- The second is to tie the stalks individually, with about three inches between them. Each stalk is tied with a knot in the string so that if the ends of the string are held taut, the stalks hang individually from the string rather than in a bunch.
The first method is quicker and easier, and fine if you live in a place with low humidity. The second is useful if you live in a fairly humid area—the flowers will benefit from being separated and dry more quickly than they would otherwise.
You can also use rubber bands to hold the ends of the stalks together.
Drying the Flowers
Once the lavender stalks are on a rack or tied with string, you need to find a place to put them while they dry.
It's important that the stalks and flowers are in a dark and dry place so that they do not get mould or rot before they dry properly.
A warm place is best. The ideal drying area is 30 to 32 degrees Celsius for the first 24 hours and 24 to 28 degrees after that. It doesn't have to be exact, don't worry.
Suitable drying places include attics, lofts, and airing cupboards.
If you don't have a place that's suitably dark, you can cover the bunches with brown paper bags (with holes cut along the sides and bottom to allow air to circulate) and dry them in a place with more light.
Check the lavender every few days, as the stalks can shrink a little as they dry, and you may need to tighten the string or rubber bands.
It takes on average a month for the lavender to be thoroughly dried, but hanging longer will certainly do the bunches no harm.
Once it is dry, you need to store your dried lavender until you are ready to use it. You can store the flowers still attached to the stalks the way they were dried or by themselves, depending on the intended use.
If you want to keep it on the stalks, for hanging in a room or using in a dried flower arrangement, put the whole bunch in a paper bag and store them somewhere dry and dark, in a place that's neither too hot nor too cold. Dryness is more important than temperature.
If you want to use the flowers for cooking, tea, potpourri, or lavender bags, gently run your fingers along the stalks to remove the dried flowers. You can then store the flowers in a box or paper bag.