A woman picks a bunch of lavender with secateurs

How to dry flowers for resin the easy way

By BBC Maestro

You can create a unique ornament or delicate pieces of jewellery by encasing fresh flowers in resin, which is a lovely way to preserve cut blooms forever.

For your resin decoration to work perfectly, your flower or plant needs to be two things: fresh-looking and completely dry. How do we achieve this seeming contradiction? The answer lies in silica gel, a crystalline desiccant that’s easy to use and gives you excellent results.

In this article, we look at how to dry flowers for resin quickly by using silica gel.

How do you prepare real flowers for resin?

You have to dry flowers before putting them in resin, which prevents them from rotting or going mouldy. If you’re displaying flowers in resin, you want a drying method that preserves as much of their original colour and form as possible, and that’s the silica gel technique.

We’ll take you through this method of preserving flowers shortly. Before you start, choose a flower that’s at the peak of its beauty; almost fully in bloom, its colours bright and its petals glossy.

How long to dry flowers before resin?

If you use the silica gel method, it takes about five days to completely dry out the fresh flowers. However, while this seems like a long time, the key to creating beautiful, dried flowers is speed, and there are two stages in this process where you need to act fast.

This is because you need to preserve that just-picked freshness before the blooms, stems or foliage begin to wilt. Have your silica gel prepared so it’s ready and waiting while you prepare the flower or flowers, and they can go straight in. It then needs to be left for at least four or five days in a sealed container before you gingerly lift the lid.

When the blooms are dry, you need to act quickly again. The silica gel method will give you gorgeous results but a flower dried using this method will reabsorb moisture pretty quickly. Get the flowers into the resin as soon as you’ve dusted off the last speck of gel.

Step by step guide to drying flowers using desiccant 

There are two things you need to prepare when you’re using the desiccant drying method: the flower and the gel. Let’s start with the flower.

  1. Florist Simon Lycett recommends removing as much of the stem as possible (this speeds up the drying process) and replacing it with a wire.
  2. Cut a piece of florist’s wire and poke it through the front of the flower, down towards where the stem was.
  3. Draw it down through the flower until it’s no longer visible from the front.
  4. Bend the wire around your finger to create an L-shaped hook.
  5. It’s now ready to be “nestled” into the silica gel.

How do we prepare the desiccant?

  1. Pour a generous amount of silica gel into a metal baking dish.
  2. Pop it into the oven at a low temperature.
  3. Keep carefully removing the tray and giving it a good shake to move the crystals around.
  4. When it looks completely dry, take it out of the oven.
  5. Leave it to cool completely. Simon Lycett warns that warm silica gel will “cook your flowers”.

Now you’re ready to dry the flowers. You need a plastic container with a sealable lid.

  1. Place a layer of silica gel at the bottom of the container.
  2. Carefully lay the wired flowers on top of this, making sure you space them out well. If you’re drying a variety of flowers, use separate containers. The depth of silica needed will be different, and the timings may also vary.
  3. Sprinkle gel over the flowers. The crystals need to get in between every petal and into every little gap, so don’t simply pour the gel – imagine you’re sprinkling icing sugar over a cake and do this gently, using a spoon.
  4. Keep going until the flowers are covered. Shake the container occasionally, then add more gel.
  5. When the flowers are covered, seal the box with the lid and store it in a safe place.
  6. Check it after four or five days. Use something like slimline tongs to gently extract the flower from the crystals.
  7. Not fully dried? Take all the flowers out and lay them gently on some kitchen paper. Dry out the silica gel in the oven again, then repeat the process when it’s cool. Give the flowers a couple more days before checking again.
  8. When they’re dry, give the flowers a gentle brush, as the crystals do tend to stick a bit.

The flowers are now dried and ready to go into the resin. This method retains the blooms’ depth and colour really well – just what you want when you’re crafting resin ornaments or jewellery.

Herbs strung to a wooden coat hanger

Alternative ways to dry flowers

Silica gel is just one of the ways you can preserve fresh flowers. Sometimes, you might not be able to wait four or five days for the blooms to be ready: how do you dry flowers for resin quickly? 

The fastest way is in the microwave, and you can adapt the silicone method. Here’s how to dry flowers for resin in a microwave.

  1. Prepare the silica gel as we did earlier, but don’t put the wire through the stem (we all know the rules about metal and microwaves).
  2. Put the flowers in the gel inside a microwave-safe box, also as before, but don’t put the lid on.
  3. Pop it in the microwave, alongside half a mug of water (the steam stops the flowers from scorching).
  4. Microwave in short bursts, gently checking the flowers every 30 seconds.
  5. When they seem dry, put the lid on the container and leave it for a few hours.
  6. Dust off the gel and use those beautiful dry blooms.

If this is still too slow, you can use a fast-pressing technique. This means that your flowers will be flat, like classic pressed flowers, but this literally takes minutes. Make a flower and kitchen paper sandwich and microwave it in short bursts until the flowers are dry. 

Other ways to dry flowers for resin include:

  • Air drying – the classic method of suspending flowers upside down in a warm, dry place
  • Pressing – using a flower press or heavy books
  • Freeze drying or dehydrating – if you have one of these handy kitchen gadgets, use it!

As Simon Lycett says, give it a go. The silica gel method of preserving flowers is a lot of fun to try, and you’ll be delighted with how vibrant and fresh the dried flowers look.

If you want to know more about preserving flowers, explore florist Simon Lycett’s in-depth BBC Maestro course, Decorating with Flowers.

Learn how to decorate with flowers

Join Simon Lycett as he shares his passion for flowers and the tricks of the trade to create your own fabulous creations – for hobbyists and professionals alike.

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