How to Dry Peonies for Year-Round Color

Learn how to dry peonies. Save these northern-climate favorites, and display bowls of pink, red, white, or yellow petals year-round.

flower arrangement with peonies

The big, blousy beauty of spring-blooming peonies simply doesn't last long enough. Retain some of their good looks by drying them for a colorful display that can last for years.

Begin with newly opened blooms at their peak of freshness. Cut 6- to 8-inch stems in midmorning, after the dew has lifted but before the heat of the day causes the petals to open more and go limp. Buds showing color can also be dried.

Remember that the colors will change as the flowers dry. Dark reds transform into a deep burgundy, brown, or purple, while whites may become creamy or pale yellow. Once dried, you can group stems together in a vase, or use the flower heads alone to add color and texture to wreaths and swags.

Choose from these varieties of peonies to grow.

Air-Drying Peonies

Paeonia 'Coral Charm'

Air-drying is the simplest, least expensive method for preserving peonies. To air dry, cut the stems at least 6 inches long, stripping off the lower foliage. If you want to create a bouquet now, arrange the blooms and cut the stems at the length you like, but group no more than three stems together, so the flowers dry evenly.

Attach a rubber band or a piece of twine with a loop at the end around each stem or bunch, then hang the flowers upside down from a nail, dowel, or hanger. Or use a clothespin to attach the string or rubber band to the hanger. Allow plenty of room between each flower to promote air circulation. The best location is a cool, dry room, such as an infrequently used closet, where little or no sunlight can reach the drying flowers.

Double or bomb types of peonies air-dry more easily than the ones with single petals, as hanging singles upside down turns the petals down and inward, so the finished dried flower doesn't look open. Allow the inverted peonies to dry for one to two weeks, or until they are no longer limp when turned right side up.

Try these 5 tips to make your peonies last.

Drying Peonies with Silica Gel

Silica gel, a desiccant you can find at crafts stores, takes less time and produces more vibrant colors than air-drying. It's best used when drying the flower heads, although you can dry an entire flower and stem if you invest in a large amount of the product.

You will need a lidded container that will accommodate the height of the flower, plus another 2 or 3 inches. Pour about 2 inches of silica gel, which resembles coarse sand, into the container. Place the peony bloom face up on top of the gel. If you're drying more than one bloom, keep the other flowers separate. Gently add the powdery gel so it drops between and covers each individual petal. Continue delicately adding enough silica gel to the container until each flower is completely covered. A handheld, fine-mesh kitchen strainer may be a useful tool. Cover the container with its lid.

Check the peonies in two or three days, using care when removing the silica, which can be used again to dry more flowers. Using the same technique, you may wish to experiment with household products, including white cornmeal, sand, borax, and unscented kitty litter.

Editor's Tip: To extend the stem of a dried flower head, clip your desired length of floral wire, place it against the remaining stem, and wrap both stem and wire with floral tape; tuck the wire ends into an arrangement or vase.

Caring for Dried Peonies

peonies hanging upside-down to dry

Keep dried peonies out of direct sunlight, which can fade the colors, and humidity, which makes the stems and petals go limp. Avoid storing them in the fluctuating conditions of basements and attics.

You can clean dried peonies in wreaths and vases by simply blowing off the dust with a quick but light puff of breath or air. A handheld vacuum or other suction device is too powerful, and will pull the petals apart.

Dry herbs the right way with these tips.

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