How To Preserve Leaves And Flowers

A guide to drying and preserving plants, leaves, and flowers.

Did you ever see a flower that you wished that you could save forever? Perhaps the shade of it was perfect, or maybe it was shared with a special someone and you want to keep it as a memory of that time. Well, you're in luck... a variety of methods exist to preserve flowers and other plant material in a variety of states.

First, we'll look at the easiest method of preserving flowers and plants: pressing. The easiest method of pressing flowers is to get a large book, open it to around the middle, and place the flower that you wish to preserve in it. Lay out the flower as best you can in the way that you want it to be preserved, and close the book. The weight of the pages will flatten the flower and help to press out any excess water in the petals and leaves... water that will be absorbed into the pages of the book. To protect the book, you might want to place the flower inside of a folded paper towel before pressing. After a few days, you can open the book up to check on your flower... be careful, though, because it will likely be very fragile. This method is best used if you're wanting to frame your flowers, or you want to put them in an album or under glass. (Of course, if you're making a memory book or flower journal, it's also acceptable to simply leave the flower in the book, perhaps secured with a bit of tape.)

Of course, you might not want to flatten your flower to preserve it... if that's the case, you might want to consider air-drying. Air-drying is best used for grasses, everlasting flowers, goldenrod and the like, and is fairly simple in its execution. Cut the flowers on a warm day, before they are fully open, and remove any excess leaves that may be on the stalk. Tie smaller flowers in bunches with a loop at the bottom (or tie a loop to larger flowers individually), and hang them in a safe and dry place for 1-3 weeks so that they can dry completely. (Hanging the flowers prevents the head of the flower from becoming too heavy for the stem and bending it as it dries.)

Another drying alternative is to use a desiccant powder to remove the moisture from the plant material. Using silica gel crystals, Borax, or sand, fill a small box partially (making sure to cover the bottom). Place the flower or plant to be dried on top of the powder or crystals, and then cover it with another layer of powder or crystals. Leave to dry for two days. Any material that was used for drying plants or flowers in this way can later be dried and reused.

Yet another preservation alternative (and one of the only ways to preserve leaves) is to use glycerin. Using a solution that is 2/3 hot water and 1/3 glycerin, place the stems of your spray of leaves into it (a small jar is an ideal place to do this). This method takes an average of 4-5 days to work, and replaces the water in the leaves with glycerin. The only drawback to this method is that the leaves will likely be darkened by the replacement.

Regardless of the method that you use, dried plants and flowers can be used to capture memories and create wonderful works of art. Just remember that dried plants are much more fragile than fresh materials, and you should exercise extreme caution when handling them. After all, you don't want to break that cherished memory!

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