Elyn spent the last 30 years in China, coming home in the summer to cook American food and have fun doing craft projects with her family.
How to preserve flowers is an important question, because a flower isn't always just a flower—it is often connected to memories you don't want to forget.
Did you receive a flower or bouquet for your birthday? Perhaps you've had the happy occasion of getting married and want to preserve your wedding bouquet; or, maybe, you simply have lots of roses in your garden, and you would like to prevent them from drying up and withering away when the winter season comes. In this article, I will outline a number of ways to preserve your flowers so they can last forever.
The process of preserving flowers depends a lot upon the state of the bloom: Have the petals fallen off? Has the rose turned brown? Are the flower and stem looking a bit limp? The best time to preserve your flowers is when they are in full bloom.
These are all important things to consider before you begin the preservation process.
Flower Preservation Tips
Here are some helpful tips when it comes to preserving flowers. These pointers will help you in your quest to keep your flowers looking beautiful in their preserved state.
- Think about what you want to do with them: Don't preserve the flowers just to let them sit in your closet forever. Think about what you want to do with your flowers. Are they going to be a gift for someone? Are you going to frame them and hang them on the wall? Decide what use you will have for the flowers before you start the preservation process.
- Figure out a good location to put them: Make space in your house for the flowers, and find a spot where they can permanently reside. Again, this depends on the preservation method, but you should try to find a suitable location before you start.
- Have plenty of preservation materials on hand: You will need hooks, rubber bands, scissors, silica gel, sand, and paper depending on what method you want to use.
- Keep the flowers out of direct sunlight: The light from the sun will cause the color to fade from the flowers, so try to avoid that. Be sure that you have a place to put the flowers where they will be visible but away from any large glass doors or windows. The last thing you want is for your beautiful and colorful flowers to fade after a few months.
- Be prepared to lose some flowers in the process: Understand that there is a chance that some of the flowers will get damaged or destroyed as you try to preserve them. You can take extra care to ensure that nothing happens but sometimes the flowers end up too brittle and they crack unexpectedly.
8 Ways to Preserve Flowers
Here are eight methods for preserving those precious flowers. You will have to determine which one will work best for your situation. Your situation depends on the type of flowers you are trying to preserve and where you want to display the flowers.
- Glycerin: Soak the flowers in glycerin and let them absorb the substance. This will cause the water in the flowers to be replaced with glycerin, and it will keep them looking fresh.
- Freeze Drying: Take your flowers to a professional freeze-drying company and get them frozen.
- Air Drying: Wrap your flowers up with rubber bands and hang them upside down on a hook in a well-ventilated area.
- Pressing: Use a heavy book and some absorbent paper and press the flowers. Place the paper around the flower and put it in the middle of the book and close. Make sure the book is heavy enough to press the flower.
- Microwaving: Cover the flowers in absorbent material and place them in the microwave on a moderate setting. Check to see if all of the water has been taken out of the flower before finishing.
- Epoxy Resin: Get a mold and fill it halfway up with resin, then place the flowers inside the resin in the arrangement you want. Fill the rest of the mold in with resin and let it harden.
- Sand: Place the flowers in a bowl of sand and let them sit until all of the moisture has been taken out. Gently brush off all of the grains of sand.
- Silica Gel: Place an inch or two of silica gel in a container, then place your flowers on top and cover with another inch of silica gel. Place the let on the container and let it sit until all of the water has been pulled out of the flowers.
1. Preserving the Flower With Glycerin
By using glycerin, your flower will not dry out, keeping its graceful and lively form. This is because glycerin replaces water in the plant, resulting in a plant that never dries. The stem, leaves, and blooms will keep their texture and won't get wrinkled. The feel of the flower after using glycerin will be rubbery and flexible.
The drawback of using glycerin is that, while it keeps the supple texture of the leaves and flowers intact, the color will fade with time. That is why people who use glycerin to preserve their flowers often add food coloring or other dyes.
Another drawback is that glycerin is expensive and takes anywhere from two to six weeks to set.
- Easy to do
- Petals keep their texture
- Color fades over time
- Takes many weeks to set
2. Freeze Drying
Freeze drying flowers is a complicated and expensive process, but the result is lovely. By freezing the flowers, you are keeping the same look and color they had before, which is a big positive.
To freeze dry flowers, you will need to would look online for a freeze-drying service or consult your local florist, who may work with a freeze-drying company or be able to refer you to one. Freeze drying takes the moisture out of the petals. The result is lovely, bright, and timeless flowers. Another bonus is that freeze-dried flowers keep their scent.
Keep in mind that the flowers will be extremely fragile in this state, so you should take extra care when handling them.
- Same look and color as before
- The flowers keep their scent
- The flowers are extremely fragile
3. Air Drying
Air drying flowers is perhaps the easiest and most common way to preserve flowers.
- Take the leaves off of the stem of the flower. (This allows the flower to dry faster).
- Tie the flowers into small bundles of three or four using a rubber band.
- Hang them upside down in a well-ventilated area. Keep them out of the sunlight and keep the heads separated if the flower has thick, moist petals.
Air drying can take a week to several months depending on the flower you are drying. Air dried flowers will be brittle, so you will have to handle carefully when taking them down.
- Control over the whole process
- The flowers retain their shape and smell
- Takes a long time
- The flowers are brittle and can break easily
You may have seen pressed flowers or plants before. When I was a child, we had pressed ferns displayed in a shadow box hanging on the wall that fascinated me deeply. They looked so ancient and elegant.
Of course, when you press flowers, they become flat. This is a good method for less "meaty" flowers or ones that are already mostly flat, like pansies.
The old way of pressing flowers employed newspapers or an old telephone book as supplies. If you want to do this the old-fashioned way:
- Put the flowers on a piece of paper or inside a telephone book, making sure they do not overlap.
- Put another piece of paper on top of flowers, or, if using a telephone book, close it.
- Put a board or heavy piece of cardboard on top.
- On top of the piece of cardboard or board, place something very heavy, like a pile of coffee-table books, a weight, or a big rock.
- Let the weight put pressure on the flower for two to four weeks, depending on the moisture in the flower.
- After a few weeks, remove the weight, board, and paper. Your flowers will be pressed and ready for display.
I recommend framing your flowers when they are in this form, particularly if you have a lovely bouquet. Keeping them in a frame will ensure minimal damage to the flowers while looking beautiful. I have used the Microfleur microwave flower press and it works really well. You will be very happy with the results!
- The flowers retain their color and texture
- Simple and cheap to do
- Limits how you can display the flowers
- Easy to crush or damage the flowers in the book
While this may seem odd to some people, if you want to dry your flowers out quickly, you can use a microwave. It can be a bit risky, but it can also turn out quite well. First, you have to remove most of the stem from the flower that you want to preserve.
Using a microwave to dry flowers
- Find a container that is safe to use in a microwave. Try to stay away from using a plate unless you plan on not eating off of it again. Alternatively, you can place coffee filters around the flowers to absorb the excess moisture.
- Use silica gel to cover the bottom of the container, no more than an inch or two.
- Place the flowers blossom up in the gel and then add another inch of gel.
- Set the microwave just above defrost for 2-5 min depending on the type of flower. Some flowers, like roses, can withstand higher temperatures. Check the progress of the flower and increase time/heat if needed.
- Once the flowers are dry, remove the container from the microwave and cover it. Leave the container covered with a slight opening and let it sit for 24 hours.
- Use a fine brush to clean the gel off of the petals.
- Quick and cheap to do
- Control over the whole process
- It can be hard to judge the dryness of the flowers
- It is easy to dry out the flowers too much and make them too brittle
6. Encasing the Flower in Epoxy Resin
If you want to preserve your flowers and turn them into decorations or paperweights, suspending them in epoxy resin is a great option. If you choose to use this method, you should spend some time deciding what type of mold you want to use. Your flowers will be sealed in the resin and take on the shape of the mold, so choose one that you think will look the best. Most people opt for a simple spherical mold.
- Fill the mold up halfway with epoxy resin.
- Place the flowers in the mold and arrange them.
- Fill up the rest of the mold with resin.
- Wait until the resin dries.
- Remove from the mold and display!
- You can make cool shapes depending on the mold
- The resin sets relatively fast
- The flower is stuck in the position you leave it in
- Limits the kind of displays you can do with the flowers
7. Using Sand to Take Out the Moisture
Any method that pulls the moisture out of a flower, causing it to dry, is a good way to preserve flowers. Sand does just that. Not to mention, it's easily obtainable and a good excuse to go to the beach.
While sand is cheap, it can also get messy, and the tiny grains can get stuck in the flowers. This can make removing the sand a tedious process, particularly if the flower has deep crevices. Hanging your flowers upside down after using the sand is a good way to get rid of the excess grains.
The video below provides a tutorial on how to use sand to dry flowers.
- Cheap and straightforward
- Control over the dying process
- Takes a long time for the flowers to dry out
8. Using Silica Gel
Silica gel isn't the cheapest method, but it can be used multiple times. This method works much like sand, in that its granules serve to extract all the moisture from plants and flowers.
Some brands of silica gel contain blue crystals that change color to indicate how much moisture has been absorbed. These blue crystals turn pink as they absorb moisture from the flowers, so you will know when the gel's drying abilities have been expended. In order to use the gel again, you must bake it, removing all the moisture.
If you decide to preserve your flower using silica gel, you will have to put it in a container that is airtight to prevent the flower from drying out too much.
The advantage to this method is that you can continue to reuse the gel to dry out flowers and you have more control over how dry the flowers get. If you are someone who will be preserving lots of flowers, I recommend getting silica gel as it works quite well.
The video below provides a tutorial on how to use silica gel to preserve flowers.
- Easy to check on the drying process
- You can control how dry you want the flowers to get
- You can reuse the gel multiple times
- The gel is expensive
- It can take a while for the flowers to dry completely
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: After a week, I placed my white roses in silica gel, but they turned brown in the middle. Why is this?
Answer: They turn brown from being wet and undergoing oxidation. You could write the company that made the silica gel and find out.
Question: My Mother just passed away and I want to preserve 2 or 3 roses from the funeral and frame them. Which method of preserving roses for framing is best?
Answer: It depends on how much money you would like to spend. Freezing flowers gives a lovely and natural end result, but you would need to arrange for this quickly or else your rose will wilt and look tired. You could also use the microwave technique if the flowers are already wilted.
Question: Can I spray roses with shellac to preserve roses?
Answer: Yes - but the shellac turns a brownish color with time.
Question: How long will flowers last if they are preserved in glycerine?
Answer: They last a long time. But I can't really say how long. It will depend in part on where you keep the flowers - in the sun, under a warm light, or in a dry, cool place. And how long you kept the flowers in the solution when you preserved them.
Question: How long will a flower hold its color?
Answer: The color of any flower will fade over time. Each flower and each color differs, so I can't really tell you anything specific.
Question: Can I spray "clear coat" on dried roses?
Answer: I don't know the answer to this question, but you could certainly try it on one and see how it looks.
Question: One of my roses did not open. It looks beautiful, and it has dried in the vase. How do I keep the petals from falling off? If I want to keep this one rose, how do I handle such a delicate flower at this stage?
Answer: If the rose air dried in the vase, it sounds like it has already been preserved. I would put it in a place where it will not get bumped, and it should stay like that for quite a while.
© 2013 Elyn MacInnis
Kristy Callan from Australia on August 17, 2018:
Very helpful, thank you!
Deborah Minter from U.S, California on September 02, 2017:
Beautiful and helpful article!