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How to Preserve Whole Flowers

By Diane Watkins ; Updated September 21, 2017
Larger flowers like carnations need a drying material like silica gel.

Preserve whole flowers as a memento of a special occasion or to use in decorative arrangements. Naturally dry flowers, such as grasses, need little drying and can be used immediately after harvesting. Hang small individual flowers such as Queen Anne’s lace, strawflowers, baby’s breath and hydrangeas to dry. Place larger and thicker flowers in a drying material like silica gel for best results, according to the Iowa State University Extension Service.

Hang Small Flowers to Dry

Harvest flowers for hanging as they are opening or just before their prime. Some flowers will continue to open while hanging.

Gather small bunches of flowers for drying. Secure the bunch together with twine, wire or a rubber band.

Hang the flowers upside down from a nail or hook in a warm dry place such as an attic or pantry. Spread the bunches out to allow plenty of air circulation between and around them, according to North Dakota State University Extension.

Leave the flowers hanging for two or more weeks until the flowers are completely dry. Actual drying time depends on the flower and the air humidity.

Remove the flowers and spray with hairspray to preserve them.

Drying with Silica Gel

Pick flowers for drying in silica gel at their peak, advises Iowa State University Extension.

Place an inch of dry silica gel into an airtight container. Put the flower on top of the gel and gently layer in more silica gel until the flower is completely covered. Gently brush gel between the petals of the flower as you cover it, supporting the flower to maintain its shape.

Tap the container to settle the gel. Recover the flowers with more gel if needed. Seal the container and store it in cool, dark place.

Remove the silica gel after about a week. Larger or thick flowers may need more time. Pour the gel away slowly. Tap the flower gently or brush away excess gel and check the flower for dryness. Recover flowers that are not completely dried.

Display flowers dried in silica gel in a closed container or under a glass or plastic dome. Unprotected flowers will re-absorb humidity from the air.


Things You Will Need

  • Wire, twine or rubber band
  • Hairspray
  • Silica gel,
  • Airtight container
  • Covered display container, optional

About the Author


Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and Web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.