How to Dry Flowers – We Tested 5 Different Methods to Find the Best!

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I grow a lot of flowers every year; you might even say I get a bit carried away. I cut fresh flowers daily in the summer and fill every nook and corner with beautiful blooms.  To save some of that summer beauty, I dry some along the way, and over the years I’ve learned how to dry flowers in countless ways.

If you want to know what method was used to dry the daisies in the image above, just jump down to the silica sand method.  It created paper-like perfect dried flowers that kept the vibrancy of the flowers we tested.

Dried red roses against a bright white background illustrating how to dry flowers with silica gel.

Drying and Preserving Flowers – The Best (and not so best) Methods

I spend a great deal of time in late winter and early spring getting my flowers started.  I grow begonias, dahlias, zinnias, mallow, geraniums, and petunias (masses and masses of them) and I get to enjoy them for maybe 12 weeks out of the year.

So it’s nice to save a few of my flowering plants to preserve them, and keep a bit of that summer color living through the fall and winter.

Dried flowers are also great craft items and buying them already dried is a bit too rich for my pocketbook, so I make my own.

Learning how to dry flowers isn’t hard at all, and I bet by the end of this post you’re going to want to start hoarding your blooms from your summer garden so you can make your own.

How to Dry Flowers with A Press

Drying flowers with a press is an excellent way to create flat flowers for crafting projects like scrapbooking or embellishing.

 Materials Required:

What type of flowers work best for pressing?

Flowers that lay flat hold their color, and have single flowers with delicate petals are the best for pressing:

Larger flowers like roses and dahlias can press, but they will become misshapen and may not dry all the way through so be sure to look for smaller flowers without thick fluffy robust heads. Think single-ply leaves and flattened heads.

Pick your flowers for pressing after the early morning dew has dried from the petals.  You want your flowers fresh, but completely dry. Don’t pick your flowers on a humid or rainy day.

Handmade postcard with dried pressed flowers and fresh pink peonies around.

Book Method for drying flowers

Pressing flowers in large books is still a useful method for preserving flowers. It seems old-fashioned, but that’s part of the charm. I can remember my grandmother tucking flowers into books that we often found years later.

It is best to use large heavy books, like a phone book (if you can find one), and either tie a strap or belt around it while pressing your flowers or add something substantial to the top to add pressure. You could also use old belts or straps to wrap around your book to tighten down the pages.

Print can sometimes rub off, or transfer, so it is a good idea to place your flowers between sheets of nonbleached paper before putting them inside of the book. 

Another useful method uses a bleach-free hardbound watercolor notebook. You will still need to add pressure to the top, but this is a pretty easy method that does not require adding additional pages.

Drying flowers this way takes about 30 days. If you open your book before the 30 days to peek, you risk cracking or breaking leaves. But after 30 days you will find your flowers beautifully pressed, and ready to use.

Pressing flowers in a water colour notebook.

Press Method For Drying Flowers (How to dry and flatten flowers at the same time!)

You can buy or DIY a simple flower press using two pieces of wood with bolts in each corner. Stack them inside with pieces of cardboard, and double sheets of nonbleached paper. Press flowers tightly between the books or press and allow them to dry.

I don’t like to use newspaper in my flower presses because it can sometimes leave dye behind.  To avoid transfers of print, use plain, unbleached, unprinted paper between your cardboard sheets.

You will want to give a tiny bit of space between each flower, don’t overlap, but they can be placed relatively close together.

Pros and Cons for Drying Flowers with a Flower Press

Pros for drying flowers with a press

  • Relatively cheap method.
  • Does not require special ingredients.
  • Easy to do, without any complicated instructions.
  • Creates beautiful flat flowers.
  • Pressed flowers make excellent craft project additions.

Cons for drying flowers with a press

  • Takes up to 30 days for perfect pressed flowers.
  • Flowers do not always retain their full vibrancy.
  • Flowers are delicate and can easily break.
  • Fragrant flowers do not retain their scent.
A dried cosmo flower illustrating how to dry flowers with a press.

How to Dry Flowers – Air Dry Method

The air-dry method is one of the oldest and most common methods to dry flowers. Air-drying also produces full flower arrangements with stems intact. It’s also one of the easiest methods too!

What type of flowers

When air drying flowers you want to avoid flowers with lots of water content.  They tend to not dry thoroughly and rot long before they ever dry out.

Look for good flowers such as:

  • African Marigolds
  • Cornflowers
  • Anise
  • Hyssop
  • Globe Thistle
  • Lady’s Mantle
  • Hydrangeas
  • Larkspur
  • Lavender
  • Love in a Mist
  • Dahlias (Pompom)
  • Poppy (Papaver types)
  • Roses
  • Starflowers
  • Strawflowers
  • Yarrow
  • Small yellow flowers like buttercups retain their brilliant color very well when pressed

How to air dry flowers

  1. Start by harvesting the flowers in the morning, after the dew has dried and the flowers are their freshest. Pick blooms that are not fully open yet as they will open more as they dry out.
  2. Gather your flowers in small bunches by the stem and secure them with a piece of string or rubber band. I find the easiest way is with an elastic band.
  3. Hang the flowers upside down in a dark dry place that receives good air circulation. Make sure that your bunches are not too close together.
  4. Hang the bunch of flowers in a cool dark place to dry out. Try to keep them out of the sunlight to retain some of their vivid colours.
  5. Leave flowers for a few weeks to dry. You will notice the flowers will start to change colors. Bright, vibrant flowers change colour to browns, light pinks, dull yellows and transform into vintage bouquets.
  6. When the stems can snap easily, they are finished drying.

Use dried flowers in vases, crafts like homemade wreaths, or even create centerpieces for the holidays. The air-dry method is a wonderful way to preserve your cut flowers or wedding bouquets.

Pros and Cons of Air Drying Flowers

Pros to Air Drying Flowers

  • Minimum supplies required.
  • Easy for anyone to do.
  • Least expensive method.

Cons to Air Drying Flowers

  • Very brittle petals.
  • Flowers lose much of their color and vibrancy.
  • Flowers shrink and crinkle.
  • This method is hit or miss, and you can lose flowers in the process. It is recommended to dry more than you think you will need because you will inevitably lose a few flowers along the way.
Flowers tied with twine and hung to dry against a rustic background.

How to Dry Flowers With Silica Gel

Silica gel is the best method to dry larger flowers if you want to retain most of the color. You can speed up the process of drying using the microwave as well, so if you are impatient you can get dried blooms in a few minutes instead of a few weeks. It’s the fastest way to dry flowers by far.

Materials Needed

**You can pick up silica sand/silica gel at most craft stores. 

What type of flower is best for drying with silica gel

Any! If they can fit in a container and if you have enough silica gel you should have no problem drying the largest of flowers.    Flowers that dry exceptionally well in silica gel are:

  • Roses
  • Peonies
  • Daisies
  • Larkspur
  • Carnations
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • Zinnias (purple flowers tend to fade to deep pink when dried)
  • Sunflowers
  • Geraniums (worked but I did get a few batches of petals!)
  • Dahlias
  • Small Dwarf snapdragons

Silica Gel method for drying flowers

Flowers dried with silica gel look like very realistic paper flowers, they even feel like paper.

Important Things to Remember:

Do not forget to put on your air filter mask and gloves before working with your silica gel. The drying agent can cause irritation to the skin and lung lining if inhaled.

  1. Collect your flowers in the morning after the dew has dried and the flowers are freshest.
  2. Cut your flower stems about an inch away from your flower head.
  3. Place your large flower heads face up in a container at least 2 inches taller than the flower. Flat-faced flowers do better if you place them upside down. Flowers that are long, like larkspur, can be laid down on their sides.
  4. Gently pour silica gel over the flowers until covered by an inch or more of silica gel. Place a lid on top, or saran wrap and set them aside for 3-5 days.
  5. You need to be very gentle in removing your flowers, or you will end up with dried flower petals.
  6. You can use a soft bristle paint brush to remove the remaining silica gel; it just dusts off.
A full image with dried flowers of all different sizes and color illustrating how to dry flowers with silica gel.

Using The Microwave To Speed Up The Flower Drying Process

You can also use the microwave to dry your flowers. This method is fast and does a fantastic job of preserving vibrancy. I do find that the microwave sometimes bubbles leaves a bit, but if you are short on time, this is an excellent method for doing flowers quickly.

I did find that I had to let my silica gel cool down before doing the second batch and for this reason, my advice is to get two jars of gel if you are planning on drying lots of flowers.

With two containers of silica gel, you can allow one batch to cool down while you work on the second one.

  1. Use a microwave-safe container and cover your flowers entirely with about an inch of extra on the top. Pop in the microwave for a minute.
  2. Let the container cool for 30 minutes before removing your dried flowers.

You can seal your flowers with hairspray, mod podge, or with a rattle can spray varnish, be sure it is non-yellowing.

Something to note: You can also use the microwave to dry rose petals in under 2 minutes!

Pros and Cons of Drying Flowers with Silica Gel 

Pros of Drying Flowers with Silica Gel

  • Creates beautifully vibrant dried flowers.
  • Retains the same look as a freshly picked flower. Our preserved daisies, for example, looked incredibly fresh once dried.
  • The fastest method by far is one minute in the microwave and your flowers are dry.
  • You can recharge silica gel by placing it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Cons of Drying Flowers with Silica Gel

  • Silica gel is one of the most expensive methods to start out with, but since the gel can be recharged the costs diminish over time. If you are drying a lot of flowers and require bulk silica gel it could be cost-prohibitive.
  • Don’t spill your silica gel because it is a pain to clean up! (ask me how I know)
  • You also need to use a filter mask and gloves while working with Silica gel.
  • You can make dried flower petals, but I wouldn’t use them in any beauty products, like bath salts. Silica should be handled with gloves, and you have no sure way of knowing if you pulled all the silica from a dried flower.
Geranium heads in a bowl of silica gel to illustrating how to dry flowers.

Drying Flowers in Food Dehydrator

Food dehydrators work well for drying flowers.   I did not find it as impressive as the silica gel, but it did work. We had excellent results with a dried zinnia bouquet.

I would not dry flowers on trays that I would later use for food.  Some of the flowers I dehydrated did leave behind a scent.  I am sure that will dissipate, but after a single wash, that scent still lingered on my trays.

Not sure how much the husband is going to enjoy jerky with a hint of marigold.

Materials Needed

  • Food dehydrator (this is the one I use and it works great)
  • Flowers
  • Scissors or garden pruners
  • Mod Podge or hairspray to seal flower from moisture

What type of flowers are Best Dried in a Dehydrator

You can dehydrate any small or medium-sized flower that will fit in your dehydrator. We’ve had success with:

  • Pom Pom Zinnias
  • Marigolds
  • Carnations
  • Daisies
  • Rugose Roses
  • Coneflowers
  • Queens Anne’s Lace
Bright cheerfull flat head and small colorful flowers laid out on a bright white backrgound.

Dehydrator Method

  1. Harvest your flowers at their full bloom early in the morning after the dew has dried.
  2. Cut your flower stems close to the flowers. Place your flowers right side up but do not allow them to touch each other because they will stick. Only place a single layer of flowers on each tray.
  3. Dry the flowers at 135F for 4-12 hours depending on the size of the flower heads.
  4. For medium-sized flowers like pompom zinnias, or any cone-style flowers, let the flowers dry them for a few hours. The perennial flower that dried the best in the dehydrator were coneflowers (Echinacea).
  5. For small delicate flowers, like Queen Anne’s lace, add for 1 hour but check on them periodically.
  6. You can seal your flowers with mod podge, hairspray, or a rattle can of spray sealer.

Pros and Cons of Drying Flower With A Food Dehydrator

Pros for drying flowers with a food dehydrator

  • A relatively quick method, flowers can be dried in a few hours.
  • Easy process, no real fuss.
  • Perfect drying method if you want to make potpourri, or make dried petals.
  • The easiest method for bulk drying lots of flowers at once.

Cons for drying flowers with a food dehydrator

  • You need a food dehydrator.
  • Some flowers, like French marigolds, leave a smell behind on your trays.
  • Overdrying can cause very brittle and delicate flowers.
  • Most flowers change color, especially the pinks purples, and magentas that gained a deeper, ruddier color after drying. Yellow flowers generally held their color well.
Flowers in a dehydrator tray illustrating how to dry flowers in a dehydrator.

Drying Flowers With Sand Or Kitty Litter

How to dry flowers with sand or kitty litter uses the same process as drying flowers with silica gel.

Drying with sand or kitty litter takes longer, and the results are a mixed bag.  I found I never really got any consistency with this method.  You can use it in a pinch and still get OK results.

Materials Needed

  • Sand or kitty litter
  • Airtight glass or plastic container
  • Flowers
  • Scissors or garden pruners
  • Mod Podge or hairspray to seal flower from moisture

What type of flowers

If your flowers can fit in a container and if you have enough sand or kitty litter you should have no problem drying most flowers.   

  • Roses
  • Pansies
  • Peonies
  • Daisies
  • Larkspur
  • Carnations
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • Zinnias

The larger, more delicate flowers like geraniums or peonies are hit and miss. I found the kitty litter and sand too heavy to keep the shape of the flowers, but zinnias and daisies worked fine.

Sand or Kitty Litter flower drying method

  1. Cut your flower stems about an inch away from your flower head.
  2. Place your large flower heads face up in a container at least 2 inches taller than the flower. Flat faced flowers do better if they are placed upside down. Flowers that are long, like larkspur, can be laid down on their sides.
  3. Gently pour your kitty litter or sand over the flowers until covered by an inch. Place a lid on top, or saran wrap and set them aside for 10-21 days. (It’s hit or miss here you will have to test and experiment)
  4. You need to be very gentle in removing your flowers. The sand and kitty litter are heavy and can damage the shape of the flowers or weigh down and break off the petals. Go slow, pretend you’re Indiana Jones without the fun and excitement.
  5. You can use a soft bristle paint brush to remove the remaining sand or kitty litter.

Pros for Drying Flowers with Sand or Kitty Litter

  • Inexpensive method.

Cons for Drying Flowers with Sand or Kitty Litter

  • The process is longer than say using silica gel.
  • Flowers can be easily damaged during removal.
  • Flowers do not keep or hold their vibrancy.

So what Method Was The Best After All That Testing?

After testing all the drying methods above, I’m all-for pressing flowers. If you grow your own flowers this is a cheap and easy way to create a collection of dried blooms over the summer.

I love how easy it is, and the investment was a few pieces of wood and some screws to make a DIY press.

The pressed tiny flowers are the best to use for cards, tags, decals, scrapbooking, bath bombs, handmade papers, potpourri, home decor items, and wallpaper.  You read that right; you can make your own wallpaper and deck it out with dried flowers.

Silica gel was a close second. The gel created dried flowers that looked amazing and retained color very well.

Kitty litter and sand were the methods I disliked the most, they were very hit-and-miss and I found them messy. But in a pinch, they do work!

If you’ve finished drying your flowers, you should also check out our tips for maintaining your preserved flowers in this post: How To Keep Your Dried Flowers Looking Great.

Looking For More Flower Gardening Inspiration?

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