Focus photography of flowers hanging on rack

How to dry flowers: 5 simple ways

By BBC Maestro

Knowing how to dry flowers is a great bonus for anyone who enjoys fresh blooms. With a bit of know-how, you can enjoy floral displays or decorations at any time of year. 
 
In this article, we take a look at different ways to preserve flowers easily at home – including tips on how to dry flowers quickly. 

How to dry out flowers 

There are several different ways to dry flowers, and all of them have the same principle: remove all the moisture from the bloom before it can start to rot. Drying plant material halts the decaying process, so you’re working against both time and nature to capture the flower’s fresh beauty.  
 
Which method you use depends on various factors: the type and amount of flowers, how much time and equipment you can invest in the process, and also how quickly you need completely dried blooms.  
Some processes are better for certain outcomes than others. For example, if you want to create a dried flower display, air drying works well. Crafting a home-made greetings card? You’ll get a lovely effect from pressing fresh blooms. 

How to preserve flowers by drying 

Here’s a look at some of the tried-and-tested methods for drying flowers at home. 

Assorted-color lear hanging decor

1. Air dry 

This is the method favoured by florist Simon Lycett – as he mentions in his course, Decorating with Flowers, he’s been drying flowers this way for over thirty years. This is that wonderfully photogenic method of preserving flowers where you suspend them upside down in a warm and dry place and let gravity help draw the moisture down the stem. 

  • Choose your drying spot. Simon Lycett recommends somewhere nice and dark “without a lot of passing traffic”. An airing cupboard or a boiler room is perfect.
  • Prepare your cut fresh flowers. Plump flowers like roses and peonies dry well using this method, and choose ones that are fully open.
  • Gently poke florist’s stub wire through the stem, and bend the other end into a hook. Wire works better than string, because as the flowers dry their stems contract, and they’d simply slide out of their string.
  • Hang them up. You don’t need one of those old-fashioned drying racks that florists use. A stretch of clothes line or even a coat hanger will do.
  • It can take up to four weeks to air dry flowers. Keep checking in on them to see how they’re doing. How can you tell if they’re fully dry? Simon recommends giving them a gentle touch and listening for a “crunchy and rattly” sound.
Pink rose on white printer paper

2. Pressing

This is another traditional method of preserving flowers. ​Flower pressing can be one of the easiest ways to dry flowers at home – at its simplest, all you need is a kitchen towel and a heavy book. However, don’t dismiss this method as a low-maintenance kids’ way to dry flowers: pressing flowers can create what Simon Lycett calls “the most ethereal of artworks” that can look “almost like a botanical painting”.  

  • Choose your blooms. The best flowers for drying using this technique are the simple ones like cosmos, sweetpeas and Japanese anemones. Thicker blooms, such as peonies, might rot before they’re fully pressed. The fresher the better – if you’ve just picked a flower from your garden, perfect. 
  • While you can still use a hefty book like an encyclopaedia, a proper flower press gives you a more professional result. Layer the flower, or flowers, inside card and blotting paper, and close the press as directed. 
  • It normally takes three to four weeks for the flowers to be fully preserved. Check their progress after ten days. Be sure to resist the temptation to keep disturbing them.
  • Your perfectly pressed flowers will make the most gorgeous original artworks. 

3. Silica gel 

If you’re wondering how to dry flowers and keep their colour, silica gel is the method for you. Silica gel is a commonly used desiccant. Its little crystals absorb moisture. Gently bury and leave fresh flowers in silica gel for a few days, and you’ll end up with exquisitely preserved blooms. There is a “but” with this method – the flowers soon start to reabsorb moisture once they’re out of the gel. Therefore, this method is often part of a two-stage process: dry the flowers, then preserve them permanently in resin. 

  • Dry out the silica gel crystals in a low oven, then leave them to cool. 
  • Meanwhile, prepare the flowers by cutting off most of the stem (this speeds up the drying process) and replacing it with a wire.
  • Place a layer of gel in a plastic container, then carefully lay the flowers on top.
  • Carefully cover them with the gel crystals, making sure they get into all the little gaps between the petals.
  • Seal the container with a lid, store it safely and check the flowers after four to five days.
  • If they’re not ready, pop them on a piece of paper, dry the gel again and repeat.
  • Remove the fully dried flowers and get ready to immerse them in the resin. 

If you want to know more about using silica gel to prepare flowers for resin displays, we cover this in another article. 

4. Microwave 

What if you can’t wait a few days or even weeks for your flowers to dry? Head for the kitchen and that super-fast appliance, the microwave. If you want to know how to dry flowers quickly, take a look at these two speedy methods. 

Silica gel microwave method 

  • Prepare the silica gel as above, and layer it in the base of a microwave-safe container.
  • Trim the fresh flowers, but don’t add the wire.
  • Cover the flowers with the gel, then microwave in short bursts, checking every few seconds.
  • When they’re dry, cover the container and leave it to stand for a few hours or if you can, overnight.  

Pressing flowers in a microwave 

This is the fastest way to dry flowers. Pop the blooms between sheets of kitchen roll and microwave in short bursts. It can take as little as five minutes to dry them out. 

5. Oven 

If you don’t have a microwave but still want to dry your flowers quickly, the oven is a good compromise. It’s not the most sophisticated way to dry flowers, but it does work and is a favourite way of making potpourri. Here’s what you do. 

  • Set your oven to a low temperature – think of warming plates rather than cooking.
  • Put a sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray and gently spread out the fresh flowers. The flowers shouldn’t touch each other.
  • Pop your tray of flowers into the oven. It can take anywhere between two and eight hours, depending on the size and density of the flowers. Keep checking.  

If you’re lucky enough to have a freeze dryer or dehydrator in your kitchen, you can also use these gadgets to dry your freshly cut flowers. Fancy trying the latest flower-drying method? It seems that flowers are yet another thing that will do well in the air fryer. Layer the flowers on the tray and use the dehydration setting on the air fryer. 
 
Hopefully, these different ways of drying flowers have inspired you to have a go. As Simon Lycett says, preserving flowers is such an enjoyable way of working with plants, and if one technique doesn’t work for you, simply try one of the others. 

To find out more about how to preserve flowers along with all sorts of other floristry tips, take a look at Simon Lycett’s wonderful BBC Maestro course, Decorating with Flowers

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