The Proper Way to Preserve Flowers
The best way to ensure that flowers last as long as possible is to press them, but most people don’t know the proper way to do it. There are a few tried-and-tested techniques that any flower aficionado should know, but there are also some new tricks that make the process of pressing, chemical drying, and air drying flowers as easy as it is rewarding.
Flower pressing is probably the most common method for preserving flowers, and it’s often the first technique children are taught. Flowers should be arranged face down on a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Then, the flower should be covered with another piece of waxed paper or parchment paper– like a flower sandwich– and placed between the pages of a book or under a heavy object, like a mattress or a stack of books. Pressed flowers take about a week to dry (between 7 and 10 days) and can be glued onto parchment, placed in a picture frame, or used in a shadow box. Edible flowers can also be dried and added to confections.
Air drying, while time consuming, is one of the easiest ways to preserve flowers– and it results in three-dimensional blooms that can be rearranged into a bouquet. Air drying is best done by hanging the flowers upside down in a cool, dry area so that the stems will stay straight and the petals will not warp or wither while drying. Other than that, no additives are required– just let the flowers hang until dry. The process can take up to three weeks, after which point the flowers can be gently removed and arranged in a vase. Dried flowers require little maintenance, but they are brittle, so be careful when handling.
Chemical drying can feel relatively “involved” compared to low maintenance preservation strategies like drying and pressing, but it’s still relatively easy. Silica gel, borax, and regular sand can all be used to preserve flowers and achieve a uniquely 3-dimensional shape without giving off the waxy vibe that fake flowers have. Silica gel is a desiccant (a drying agent) that is common found in tiny, notably-inedible packets often used to keep moisture out of packaged goods. Using silica, borax, detergents, and other commercially-prepared mixtures is a nice way to preserve a bouquet as-is: fill a bucket halfway with silica gel or other drying material. Put the bouquet in and then add more of the drying material until it is completely submerged. Cover the container and let it sit for 1 to 3 weeks, or until the petals, stems, and leaves feel dry to the touch. If the flower petals feel cool and moist, the bouquet is not yet ready. If the petals are dry, remove the flowers and feel the base to make sure no moisture has accumulated in the calyx (the green whorls beneath the petals). If moisture is evident, place the plant back in the drying mixture. If it is dry, remove the flowers as leaving flowers in the drying mixture can cause plants to become brittle. Flowers preserved with chemical drying shrink less than air-dried flowers and hold their natural shapes better. Most people also find that the petals are more vibrant and retain their color longer.