University of Vermont Extension
Summer (late) News
Department of Plant and Soil Science
PRESERVING SUMMER FLOWERS
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
Have you ever wished you could enjoy
the beauty of summer flowers year-round? You can, if you preserve
flowers now while they're in their peak of bloom. Because flowers
parts respond differently to drying and preserving methods, you may
experiment for best results with method and time of harvest. More
method may work with many flowers.
with top quality plants. Choose fresh, unwilted, undamaged flowers
from your garden, farmer’s market, or cutting field at a farm stand.
plant materials on a warm, sunny morning after the dew has dried.
encourages mold and slows the drying process.
to cut flowers just before they are fully opened. Always gather more
than you think you'll need for your arrangements and wreaths since
shrinkage and loss of plant material will occur. Tall artemisia or
useful as filler in arrangements and wreaths.
Harvest when the seedhead is fully developed, and air dry.
drying is the easiest and most popular method of drying flowers. It
generally the best method to use for flowers with strong stems such
cockscomb or celosia, globe thistle, sea lavender, liatris,
sedum like ‘Autumn Joy’, Joe Pye, and yarrow. Air dry those with
small flowers in clusters
such as baby's breath, larkspur, statice, salvia, or lavender. Also
air dry dock, goldenrod, grasses, dusty
miller, sedges, cattails, and hydrangea. Pick hydrangea when it is
getting a papery
feel, as picking before this stage may cause it to wilt.
cutting the flowers, strip the foliage from the stem, then tie a few
together with a string or rubber band. Hang upside down on a hook,
or coat hanger for several weeks in a warm, dry place with good air
circulation, such as an attic, garage, or old barn. Keep out of
sunlight, and preferably below 85 degrees (F).
Flowers such as hydrangea and yarrow dry best when placed upright in
jar filled with one-half inch water that is then allowed to
evaporate. If an
enclosed or indoor space, you may need to use a dehumidifier on
dry dahlias, plumed celosia, zinnias, roses, marigolds, and other
thick heads or delicate blooms, use a drying agent--borax, white
or silica gel (available at craft shops). These materials draw the
of plant tissues while still retaining flower color. Others good
for such such preservatives
include salvia, annual larkspur, and delphinium.
the drying agent about an inch thick in the bottom of an airtight
container. Don’t use wooden or cardboard containers, as
they will allow moisture inside. You may
want to use a mask if working with silica gel, and don’t reuse the
later for food.
blooms approximately the same size and type, and remove the foliage
and most of
the stem except for about an inch. Place the blooms on top of the
cover completely with more drying agent. Seal the container, and
place in a
cool, dark place. In about a week's
time, the flower petals will be dry and crisp. Gently pour off the
remove the dried flowers, or remove with a slotted spoon. Some then
spray blooms with a fixative, such
as hair spray. Store preserved blooms in
an airtight container with just a bit of drying agent on the
bottom. To hold the blooms upright in arrangements,
use 20 or 22 gauge florist's wire.
you want instant results, you can microwave the flowers with silica
gel in an
oven-proof or glass container. Preheat one inch of the silica gel on
one minute or until crystals turn blue. Place a flower on the warm
and cover completely with silica gel. Cook for one to three minutes,
then let stand for up to 25
minutes (time depending on flower type).
preserve summer flowers by pressing them between layers of paper
newspaper, in a wooden flower press or between heavy books. Flowers
delicate flowers or a single row of petals lend themselves to
pressing. Examples include fennel, pansy, viola, wild
roses, dianthus, lavender, and alyssum. Foliage such as fennel and
ferns can be
pressed too. Pressed and dried birch
leaves can be strung with fine wire into a fall garland.
only perfect specimens for pressing, but keep in mind that while
yellow blossoms will retain their vivid color, most blues, purples,
will fade, and reds may turn a muddy brown.
Leave your flowers in the press for four to six weeks. If the
is very fleshy, you may need to change the paper after the first 24
to 48 hours
to prevent mold growth.
preserve woody stems of leaves and fruit, cut the ends and place the
four to five inches of basal stem in a glycerine mixture until the
plant has a
glossy appearance and a leathery feel to all its leaves. To make the
combine two parts water with one part glycerine (available at most
stores), and blend thoroughly. Save the glycerin solution for future
adding a few drops of bleach.
collecting and preserving flowers and foliage, don’t forget to
non-flower items too for later decoration such as cones, acorn caps,
pods, and seeds.