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How to Dry Weed Plants

By Laura Reynolds ; Updated September 21, 2017

If weeds are simply plants out of place, they are out of place in a lot of places. They bloom prolifically by the side of any road. Like most low-moisture plants, common weeds are easy to dry for use in dried arrangements, either as focal plants or filler. Preserving methods range from simple to complex, depending on what variety of weed you are drying and how long you want it to last. When you talk about weeds, there is an endless supply and variety from which to choose.

Air Drying

Cut as much stem as possible. Strip as many of the leaves from each stem as possible on stems picked for flowers.

Turn stems over and tie several together with cotton string. Be careful not to crowd blooms.

Hang bunches in a warm basement or other dry place where the air circulates freely. Avoid places like garages where the wind blows through and can tangle your bunches. If plants are too small to hang, lay them on a small, framed piece of screening, laid on four bricks.

Check stems after three or four weeks for dryness. Once stems are dry, spray them with lacquer or hair spray to help them hold together as they are used in arrangements.

Check stems after three or four weeks for dryness. Once stems are dry, spray them with lacquer or hair spray to help them hold together as they are used in arrangements.

Pressing Weed Plants

Choose pressing for delicate flowers and plants to be used in flat projects. Cut the stem and lay it on a sheet of newspaper on top of several sheets of cardboard. Arrange flowers and leaves to create a good side of the plant.

Fold the newspaper over on top of the flower. Lay a piece of cardboard on top, covering the part of the plant you want to press completely.

Stack as many plants as you wish in newspaper between cardboard (more plants will take longer to dry) and top with several layers of cardboard.

Tie the “book” up with string, set a board and some books on top and check after several weeks.

Using Desiccants

Use materials that draw the moisture out of delicate flowers and stems that should be dried quickly. Lay the plant on a bed of material in a box that fits its basic shape and then bury the plant, arranging leaves and petals as you bury it. Drying time ranges from minutes to days.

Use clean white sand for an inexpensive desiccant. It is the heaviest of desiccants, so choose sturdier plants with which to experiment. If the plant does not dry fast enough, add two parts borax to each part of sand and add a tablespoon of salt to each quart of the mixture.

Mix equal parts of borax and cornmeal for more delicate forms; add up to three parts of cornmeal to one of borax to slow down the drying process.

Invest in some silica gel (the material that comes in little packets with optical equipment) to dry plants quickly and maintain original color with accuracy. This fairly expensive material must be used in an airtight container.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Garden shears
  • Baskets or cardboard boxes
  • Cotton string
  • Nails or hooks
  • Small window screen and bricks
  • Desiccants: sand, borax, cornmeal, salt, silica gel
  • Airtight boxes
  • Oven
  • Florist's wire and tape
  • Craft tacky or cyanoacrylate-based gel glue
  • Garden gloves

Tips

  • Most weeds can be dried by hanging or pressing. Save the more expensive (but faster-drying) desiccant options for more delicate plants or use them when you open a business providing dried plants.
  • Dry just the flower heads of weeds like Queen Anne 's lace that have weak stems and mount them on florist's wire with tacky craft glue and florist's tape.
  • Desiccants can be dried after use in a shallow pan in a slow (250 to 275 degrees Fahrehneit) oven, stirring occasionally. They should be stored in airtight containers to keep them dry. Silica gel turns pink as it absorbs moisture and will return to its original bright blue as it dries.
  • Sophisticated methods like glycerin rehydration are not necessary and often fail with weed plants that survive because they are robust plants that need little hydration to survive.

Warnings

  • Borax is an alkali-based detergent and can be a skin or eye irritant. It can also "burn" or super-dry plants, bleaching petals and leaves.
  • Wear gloves when cutting weeds--especially in the wild.
  • Never cut weeds on property that doesn't belong to you without permission. State and national park rangers might even arrest you for taking weeds that belong to the public.

About the Author

 

An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.