How to Create Beautiful Dried Flowers to Enjoy Year-Round

Learn how to use silica gel, air drying, or even the microwave to preserve your favorite blooms for wreaths, bouquets, and decorating projects.

Call it a 1970s throwback or the latest craze in the maker movement, but dried flowers are back in a big way. They are the perfect accent to wreaths, long-lasting bouquets, or other decorating projects. Plus, drying flowers you've grown yourself is an excellent way to extend your enjoyment of the fruits of your labors. Luckily, it's easy to preserve all sorts of flowers, either through air drying them, giving them a spin in your microwave, or using silica gel. Just follow these simple steps, and then find out how to best maintain your dried flowers so they last as long as possible.

pink dining table dried hydrangea globe thistle
Dried florals like the hydrangeas, bluish globe thistles, and pink-tinged ornamental oregano in this arrangement can be almost as colorful as fresh flowers. Carson Downing

How to Air Dry Flowers

To dry most types of flowers, you can let nature do the work. Blooms with sturdy stems, such as hydrangeas and globe thistles can be dried just by leaving them in an empty vase in a cool room with low humidity. However, you'll likely get better results by hanging flowers upside down so they won't droop while drying.

  1. Choose flowers that are not completely open and are not quite mature. (They continue to open as they dry and may lose petals if fully mature.)
  2. Cut flowers in the morning, after the dew has dried; use sharp garden scissors or floral snips.
  3. Remove unneeded foliage.
  4. Group flowers into small bundles or leave them as individual blooms. Use string or dental floss to hang flowers upside down in a cool, dark, dry, indoor spot. To prevent mold, space out the blooms so that air circulates well around each bundle (a nearby fan on a low setting can help, too).
  5. When flowers are done drying, they will feel dry and stiff to the touch. This may take several days or several weeks, depending on conditions and the type of flowers.

How to Dry Flowers in the Microwave

  1. Pick flowers just before they open up. (They will continue to open as they dry and may lose petals if fully mature.)
  2. In a shallow, microwave-safe container, gently cover the flowers in silica sand or an equal mixture of borax (sodium borate) and cornmeal. Fill trumpet- or cup-shaped flowers with the mixture to help them keep their shapes.
  3. Place the uncovered container in the microwave and "cook" on high for a minute. Check to see if the flowers have completely dried; if not, microwave for another 30 seconds and check again. Flowers that have thick petals take longer to dry than those that are thin.
  4. Leave the flowers in the mixture for a day after microwaving them to allow them to finish drying.
glass cloche bold flowers frozen silica gel
A flower frog secures an assortment of blooms dried with silica gel under a cloche. Carson Downing

How to Dry Flowers Using Silica Gel

Freeze flowers in time by submerging them in silica gel, a drying powder available at crafts stores. It will preserve petal shape and color a little better than air drying or microwaving. To fit large, full flowers like peonies into a small container of the silica gel, cut the stem an inch or so below the flower head, dry both pieces, and rejoin with hot glue and florist tape ($1, Etsy). Small flowers can be dunked into the powder intact. After submerging flowers in the silica for one to two days (go longer for larger blooms), tip them upside down and use a soft makeup brush to gently remove powder.

green wall framed dried flowers sideboard
Flowers will lose color over time, but keeping them out of direct sunlight slows fading. Carson Downing

Tips for Maintaining Dried Flowers

When you take a little care of your dried flowers, they can last for months and even years before they fade or fall apart. Here's how:

  1. Keep dried flowers out of direct sunlight to reduce fading.
  2. Keep dried flowers away from heat vents.
  3. Dust dried flowers as needed with a feather duster.
  4. When not in use, store dried flowers in a box in a dry place away from dry heat.
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