Well-Preserved: Fresh Flowers that Dry Beautifully

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Ari Moisan)

Cut flowers offer a lovely, if ephemeral and short-lived pleasure—while fresh, that is. Preserved flowers keep on giving, and several fresh picks that can be found in markets now have a gorgeous extended life when dried. The long-lasting, low-maintenance loveliness these preserved blooms offer might sway those looking for the never-ending flower. Here’s a guide to five varieties with decidedly current appeal and timeless potential. Most are widely available, simple to dry, and easy to incorporate into modern decor.

The Etsy Blog has a tutorial on drying flowers properly, or just do what I did: after the flowers have peaked, toss the water out, strip off any leafy foliage from the stems, and put them back in the vase. As long as there is air space around the stems in whichever vase you choose, they will dry out cleanly. If you can’t find them fresh, most of these varieties can be sourced already dried, online at a number of Etsy shops.

(Image credit: Kara Rosenlund)

1. Protea: Native to South Africa, these large and dramatic flowers are naturalized in Australia and many places where an even, Mediterranean climate allows. In Santa Barbara, they are grown on one of our nearby avocado farms, Vista Mundo, which sells them directly to our local Whole Foods. So rustic and elegant in a simple glass pitcher.

(Image credit: Carrie Bluth)

2. Craspedia or Billy Buttons: These have been a favorite of mine ever since I inadvertently discovered they dried so easily and beautifully after falling in love with them fresh from the local market. Like lollipops, the bright saffron globes sit atop graceful slender stems. If left long, Craspedia stems tend to relax into a slightly curvier form as they dry, creating wonky organic shapes that only add to their charm. Contrasted with a white matte porcelain vase, they sing happy modern. If you don’t want to try them yourself, you can find them on Etsy or elsewhere online.

(Image credit: flores del sol)

3. Echinops or Globe Thistle: Whether in a glass vessel or ceramic vase, the sculptural form and silvery blue gray color of Echinops gives off a modern earthy feel.

A photo posted by Nicolette Johnson (@swsco) on

4. Banksia: I discovered these—another iconic Australian variety, with a similar look to Protea—after admiring them in the home of photographer Nicolette Johnson whose Instagram feed shows off many varieties of dried flowers. Her tip for fresh flowers you plan to dry: “After they have passed their prime, make sure to empty the vase of water so that the stems don’t become soft and moldy.” The stems should still be relatively firm when you begin drying them out.

(Image credit: The Blaithin Blair Shop)

5. Gomphrena Globosa or Globe Amaranth: Last spring I found both the crimson and purple varieties at Whole Foods, but haven’t seem them there yet this year. Globe amaranth also comes in pink, red, white, and lilac. Etsy shops The Blaithin Blair Shop and Hartland Homegrown have a variety of colors already preserved and Terrain sells them in purple. Additionally, Food52 has a tutorial for creating a wreath from dried Gomphrena.