The $0 Way to Always Have Real Flowers at Home
Have you ever purchased an exquisite bouquet and wished you could keep it forever? Does the thought of watching fresh florals droop and die a slow death in your vase make you sad? Or are you just drawn to the look of dried flowers in a vase as a statement piece? No matter your motivation, there is no denying that when it comes to decor, dried flowers are here to stay.
My grandmother was always hanging flowers to dry or pressing a flower into a book (we still find some tucked in pages every now and then). And with the return of grand-millennial style, it makes sense that dried flowers are making a comeback.
“Drying flowers is just a great way to reuse something and upcycle material that you already have, and it’s another type of home decor that’s gotten explosively popular in the last couple of years,” says Suzanna Cameron, founder of Stems Brooklyn, an eco-conscious florist and flower shop in Brooklyn, New York. She adds that drying flowers is not only cost-effective, but it’s a process that can take your floral arrangement from a weekly replenishment to a piece of art that can live in your home forever.
It’s important to note that some dried flowers you might find at a home decor store may have been processed using harmful chemicals to achieve a bright, non-natural color—but the good thing (for the environment and your wallet) is that you can dry your own flowers without using any chemicals. “Nature gives us so many beautiful colors that dry with a lot of integrity,” says Cameron. That’s why she has taken to drying her own flowers at Stems Brooklyn. Here, her tips to help create your own dried floral creations at home.
What you’ll need to dry flowers
- A dark or low-light place to hang the flowers via a rod or pole (if you don’t have room for a rod or pole, a Command hook or nail will do)
- Something to tie the flowers with, such as twine, rope, or a rubber band
- Flowers at full bloom
Cameron notes that a perfect place to dry flowers would be a closet.
Start the drying process when the flowers are at full bloom
“Once the flower is fully open, that’s when you want to take it out to dry. Don’t wait until it droops,” Cameron warns. That could cause you to lose petals as the flower dries. Cameron says you’ll know the flower is fully open when the petals are soft and it hasn’t started to brown or droop.
Remove foliage from flowers
Leaves don’t dry well and will end up looking crispy, so it’s better to pull them off before drying. Gently pull away any leaves or foliage from the stem below the bloom.
Hang the flowers upside down
Use your twine to hang your flowers from the rod in an upside-down fashion (bloom closest to the floor).
If you are drying multiple flowers at once (five to 10 stems), Cameron suggests arranging the heads of the flowers at different levels so that they will each have room to dry without compromising their form by pushing their heads into each other. Once you figure out the arrangement, add your twine around the bunch as you would with a normal bouquet.
Because of the full shape of a bouquet, hanging from a closet rod or other pole is ideal—that way, all sides of the bouquet are exposed. If you hang from a hook or nail, the head will inevitably be pressed against the wall to some extent.
As mentioned, a closet is a great place to dry flowers, but wherever your chosen space is, make sure that it’s not receiving direct sunlight; this can take away some of the colors from your flowers. A cool, dark place is best.
Let the flowers dry
The length of the drying process depends on the flowers. Chamomile can dry in just a few days, while a peony might take two weeks or longer. Look to the petals to determine if your flowers are dry: if there’s still any softness in the petals, leave them be. The good thing is that you can’t over-dry flowers, so if you’re feeling extra cautious and want to dry your flowers for a month, that’s okay.
Arrange your dried bouquet
Once you take down your dried flowers, then it’s time to arrange them. Don’t fret if some petals get damaged during your first try. “Flowers are so fragile, it’s really tricky to arrange with dried flowers and not have them make a mess,” says Cameron. “They’re going to get messy when you arrange, them and that’s okay.”
If you get super frustrated during this step, you can try to dry an already-arranged bouquet next time, so long as all of the flowers in that arrangement are suitable for drying.
Which flowers dry best
Cameron says that in general, florals with a thick, woody stem tend to dry best. She suggests using roses, lavender, peony, chamomile, delphinium, statice flowers, and eucalyptus (which actually doesn’t have to dry upside down; you can simply arrange it and let it dry out).
Others like pampas grass and pussy willow branches dry beautifully, but eventually start to shed.
Avoid flowers that contain mostly water, such as tulips, hyacinth, or tropical ginger flowers.
How to care for your dried flowers
Now that you’ve dried a sentimental flower or created a dried flower statement bouquet that belongs in a museum, Cameron says there are just a few things to note for upkeep. If your dried arrangement starts to collect dust, you can gently clean it using a very soft dusting cloth.
Keep your arrangement out of direct sunlight in order to uphold its coloring. And remember: Don’t put them in water. “I know it’s silly to say that, but people will ask me, ‘What do I do? Do I put them in water?” says Cameron. The answer: no. Just display them in your favorite vase or holder, and let them “live” on forever.
Pressing flowers vs. drying flowers
If traditional drying is not your thing, but you do want to save a special flower (that happens to be fairly flat, dainty and not necessarily wooden-stemmed), pressing flowers and placing them in a double-sided glass frame is a great way to hold onto a precious flower or to change up your home decor.
To press a flower, pluck a flower at full bloom, and remove any excess moisture by patting with a dry paper towel; it’s best not to pick a flower right after a rainfall, since it will have more excess moisture. Place the flower in between two white pieces of paper inside a heavy book, and within two to three weeks, you’ll have a pressed flower.
Rosina from Forever Petal says that naturally flat flowers, such as pansies and violets, will work best for this process. “Experimenting is super fun, even colorful weeds and leaves work super well,” she says. “The beautiful thing about flower pressing is that nature provides so much goodness and any color you want to work with.”
After your flowers have been successfully pressed, you can place them in a double-glass frame to enjoy. As with traditionally dried flowers, keep your pressed flower frames out of direct sunlight or damp areas.
And if you happen to forget to take your pressed flower out of the book, perhaps your grandchild will find it one day and smile at the thought of you preserving a piece of beauty.