Preserving Flowers: Six Ways of Drying Flowers
Dried flowers can be a cherished memory, a keepsake from a first dance or a wedding bouquet. Or they can can simply be a way to keep your favorite flowers around all year long. Drying flowers is a time honored craft that has been practiced and perfected over the centuries. Today, thanks to new technology, in addition to the traditional methods of drying flowers, we have several new techniques for drying flowers. Six techniques are described here, some are more effective than others, however, you will need to decide which fits your unique needs best.
The idea behind drying flowers is to remove the moisture, while retaining the flowers original shape and color. Not all flowers weather the drying process the same. Some flowers will come through this process better than others. The color of some petals and leaves will change. The drying of flowers is a time consuming process, requiring patience and a dedicated space that is well ventilated. Good air circulation will ensure that your flowers will dry as quickly as possible, which allows for better preservation of color; the faster a flower dries the better the color, and the less opportunity for mold to grow. Avoiding light and dust will also help in color preservation.
How Long Does It Take To Dry Flowers?
It all depends on what your are drying. Thick, fleshy flowers will take longer than thin, sparse ones. A good rule of thumb for correctly drying flowers is. . . the flower heads and petals should be crisp, not sticky and leaves should crackle when you touch them.
Hand drying, the oldest method, is also the easiest and most effective method for drying anything; leaves, flowers or herbs. Hang drying is also good for drying large quantities. you can hang dry flowers in a closet, attic, dry cellar, garage, outdoor shed, anywhere that is dry, warm and out of strong sunlight. Hang drying in an outdoor shed or garage is usually not recommended, because nighttime damp air can cause mildew and mold to form on the flowers. if you decide to use the kitchen for drying, avoid placing the flowers near the stove or sink, because steam and spray can delay the drying process.
1. Choose a dry day to pick the flowers. Select flowers that are still buds or have just opened.
2. Remove leaves from the flower stalks.
3. Bunch together about six stems, making sure that the flower heads are not touching one another. it is important to keep the heads separate, so that they dry quickly and remain intact.
4. Tie the bunch together at the end with a rubber band, about one inch from the tips. A rubber band is better that tying with string because the rubber band will adjust as the stems shrink during the drying process.
5. Hang the bunches in rows, far enough apart to that they won't tangle or crush each other. Spacing then this way also helps speed the drying process.
6. If there is dust or too much light in the hanging area, cover each bunch with a paper bag. Tying the bag around the stems with string.
This drying process may take from several days to a week.
Air Drying or Drying Flat
Another traditional method of drying flowers is air drying or drying flat. This method is especially good for drying loose petals, flower heads or leaves. The finished flowers look like they dried naturally. Air drying requires a flat surface that allows air to circulate around the flowers. You can use a window screen, drying trays, muslin that has been hung like a hammock or newspaper laid flat on the floor.
1. To dry petals, spread on a flat surface in a single layer.
2. To dry flower heads, place them in single layer rows, heads facing up.
3. To dry leaves with stems or single stem flowers, lay them down in a random manner, don't let them overlap.
The air drying method may take anywhere from several days to weeks.
Water drying is another old fashion, traditional method. It works well with sturdy stemmed flowers or when you want the flowers to remain on a stem. The flowers dried by this method tend to keep their original appearance, so they look more natural.
1. Place flowers in a container filled with a small amount of water.
2. Place the container in a warm area, out of sunlight.
3. The water will gradually evaporate, allowing the flowers to dry slowly and look more natural when dried.
This process of drying may take anywhere from one to two weeks.
Oven drying flowers requires a controlled temperature of about 100 degrees F, so this method has only been around as long as modern ovens. Oven drying is often used if you do not have the space to hang or air dry, or if you need something dried quickly. It is also a good idea to oven dry all flowers that you have hang or air dried to ensure that they are bone dry and to avoid mold or mildew from forming.
1. Set the oven temperature at 100 degrees F and leave the door slightly ajar, so that any lingering moister can escape.
2. Place the flowers on a cookie sheet, one layer deep, and place in the oven.
3. Watch carefully and turn the flowers every fifteen minutes.
4. When the flowers are crisp and brittle, remove from the oven.
Depending on what you are drying, this process can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
Microwave drying is not only the latest drying method, but it is the quickest and most effective. Flowers and leaves retain their rich colors when dried this way. However, smaller, more delicate flowers do not dry well when dried in the microwave.
1. Fill a microwave-safe container with silica gel (available at craft shops and nurseries). Microwave on full power for one minute, until the crystals turn bright blue.
2. Place about one inch of the dried, warm silica gel in a shallow rectangular oven-proof baking dish or plasctic container. It is best to dry one flower at a time until you have gained some experience with this method of drying. Place the flower on the bed of warm crystals and carefully cover it so the crystals completely cover the flower. Be careful not to crush the flower.
3. Dry for one minute at full power. Check the flower every 30 seconds after, until it is dry.
4. Let the flower remain in the crystals for 20 to 30 minutes before gently pouring them off and removing the flower.
Most flowers take between one and three minutes to dry. Those with fleshier petals take the most time to dry.
Drying in Silica Gel
Drying in silica gel is the best method for drying larger, whole flowers. The traditional way of drying in this manner was to use salt or sand. However these materials are messy, take 6 to 8 weeks to complete, and the results are inconsistent. Today, instead of sand or salt, silica gel, a sand like mixture with blue dots, is used. It dries flowers in a few days, so they retain good color. The flowers usually dry brilliant and clear and in their natural state. In fact, flowers that were dried in silica gel look as if they were fresh picked.
Silica gel absorbs moisture from the flower, and as it does, the blue dots in the mixture turn pink, indicating that the maximum moisture content had been reached. Drying with silica gel must be done in covered airtight containers. You can reuse silica gel, but you must dry it out first. You can do this by placing it in a baking dish and putting it in a 250 degree F oven . When the blue color returns, you can take it out and use it again.
1. Fill any airtight flat container with about one inch of silica gel.
2. Place the flower heads face up in the mixture. If the flower is flat-petaled, like a daisy, place it face down. Gently press the flower into the silica gel and make sure that the insides of the flower are also covered with the mixture.
3. Gently cover the entire flower with more silica gel until it is entirely covered. As you cover the flower be careful not to disturb the natural arrangement of the petals.
4. Place the cover on the airtight container.
5. Check you flowers everday until they reach the point of being dry, but not brittle. If you leave the flowers in the silica gel too long they will become brittle and shatter like glass when they are removed.
6. When the flowers are ready gently remove them with a slotted spoon.
7. If any silica gel remains on the flower, gently remove it with a watercolor paint brush.
It can take about two to three days for thin petaled flowers to dry and five to seven days for fleshier flowers to dry.
There are certain requirements for ideal storage of your dried flowers. If these requirements are not met, all of your time and hard work will go to waste.
1. The storage area has to be dim, in order to keep the colors from fading, and it must be cool and dry to prevent mold and mildew from growing.
2. The space should be set up so that you move the storage containers as little as possible. Dry flowers are very fragile and crush easily.
3. Label everything as you store it. Flowers can look remarkably alike when they are dried. So to avoid confusion, place the name and date on the label when you are storing them.
Dried flowers are a true enjoyment. So practice these methods, find the ones that work best for you and enjoy.