The Art of Drying Flowers
This method is as simple as hanging the flowers upside down. However, it is important to note which flowers dry the best using this method. The best type of flowers to dry tend to have a woodier stem that feels like it is holding less moisture, consider delphiniums rather than dandelions.
Flowers should be picked then dried relatively fast to ensure that they start drying in their best condition. But do not get discouraged, you do not need to go foraging or harvesting flowers, unless you are able to and want to.
You can still dry flowers you have received or bought at a store; just make sure the flowers you are planning to use are free of moisture. Excess moisture makes the petals droopy and slimy, which can cause mold and prevent the drying process.
How to Air-Dry Flowers
- Scissors, snippers or pruners
- A place to hang the flowers away from a wall
Step by Step:
- Use the scissors to cut excess leaves from the flower stems. Leave some foliage if desired to have some greenery.
- Cut the stems to the desired length, leaving enough to hang.
- Gather the stems and use the twine to tie them together, leaving enough twine to then loop and hang from.
- Hang the flowers upside down, ideally in a dark, dry, and well-ventilated area. It is important to keep the flowers away from direct sunlight to help retain their color and keep from damaging.
- Let the flowers dry for approximately two to three weeks.
- Once the flowers look and feel completely dry, they are ready to be used.
If you are harvesting your flowers to dry, it is best to cut them right after they have bloomed to help keep their shape and their color bright.
If your flowers feel wet, try laying them on a tissue or newspaper to soak up the moisture before you hang them to dry.
Most importantly, have fun and experiment. Some flowers will take their own new form when they are dry and will not look the same, it is all part of this unique experience.
Flowers Most Conducive to Air Drying
Yarrow - Achillea millefolium (Golden Garden Favorite)
Lady’s mantle – Alchemilla mollis
Love-lies-bleeding – Amaranthus caudatus
Winged everlastings – Ammobium alatum
Masterworts - Astrantia
Cupid’s dart - Catanache
Chamomile – Chamaemelum nobile
Wild carrot – Daucus carota
Globe thistle – Echinops
Baby’s breath – Gypsophila
Sunflowers – Helianthus
Strawflowers –Helichrysums (Golden Garden Favorite)
Curry plant – Helichrysums italicum
Paper daisies – Helipterum
Statice – Limonium sinuatum
Love-in-a-mist – Nigella (Golden Garden Favorite)
Marigolds – Tagetes
Feverfew – Tanacetum parthenium
The History and Process of Drying Flowers
The art of drying flowers for medicine, decoration, and fashion has been a practice dating back thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used dried flowers in the form of garlands and arrangements for special occasions such as religious ceremonies and burial traditions. Aside from decorative use, they used dried flowers for perfumes, incense, oils, and even cosmetic pigments. Similarly, the ancient Greeks and Romans used dried flowers in the form of wreaths and garlands to honor warriors, athletes, poets, and politicians.
During the Middle Ages, in Europe, flowers were dried for medicinal use. It was not until the 16th Century in Japan, that dried flowers were used to create different types of artworks. The Japanese created Oshibana, which is the art of drying or pressing flowers and other natural materials to design an entire picture. Oshibana started gaining attraction westward, and very soon drying flowers became popular in Victorian England. Drying flowers became a hobby for women, who would use them to make garlands, design photos, or adorn accessories such as jewelry, gloves, and fans. An entire culture of symbology and language grew around drying flowers to communicate feelings, and messages of love, celebration, or mourning. Today, this interpretation is what is associated with the use of flowers in our daily lives.
Apart from the ancient use of dried florals, it also became a practice in areas around the world where they lack access to fresh blooms year around. Therefore, they would dry the flowers available in the spring and summer and store them to use during winter. This way they were able to celebrate and enjoy the beauty of flowers regardless of the season. Currently, the rise in popularity of dried florals came about as more and more people strive to reduce waste and adopt more sustainable practices in their daily lives. Dried bouquets are special because with proper care they can last a lifetime and are easy to travel with. Unlike fresh flower bouquets that wilt and are thrown away, dried bouquets are a sentiment you can carry with you forever.
Flowers set the tone for a memorable event, from weddings to proms to funerals, they carry with them a memory of a special moment in time. It is possible to preserve part of that beautiful memory by drying the flowers and using them to create an everlasting bouquet. Dried flowers do not have to be associated with a memory or sentiment, they can also be used for art and decoration just like the Egyptians and Japanese did. There are many creative ways to use dried flowers in your life, however, first you must learn how to dry them. The method we prefer, as Golden Gardeners, is to air dry the flowers, because it is not only the easiest but is the cleanest most sustainable way to preserve them.
For a more in-depth exploration on the topic of drying flowers, check out the book Everlastings How to Grow, Harvest & Create with Dried Flowers by Bex Partridge, which is available to purchase on our website. Also, subscribe to our newsletter if you’d like to know about any upcoming workshops involving dried florals.
Gabriela Rodríguez Cortés
Floral Designer and Contributing Writer