Many flowers can be dried to be enjoyed throughout the year. It is possible you are already growing some of these beauties right now. Read below to learn more about what varieties of flowers preserve best, how to dry them, and the best ways to use them. Fresh bouquets are a favorite product among market-goers but they are only seasonally available. Learning to craft and offer dried floral bouquets allows you and your customers to continue to enjoy that beauty in the off-seasons.
How long do air-dried flowers last?
Dried flowers can last indefinitely but tend to lose some of their luster and color within a year. Keeping them out of direct sunlight will extend the color’s life. When designing arrangements for sale, keeping the bouquets seasonally themed can help encourage customers to refresh their purchases even before the colors begin to fade.
What are the best flowers for drying?
There are a few plants that no dried flower grower should be without. Statice is a stand by for its ability to keep color indefinitely. Amaranth, with its rich color and beautiful shape, brings drama to any arrangement.
All of the flowers in the list below have value to offer in dried arrangements. Start with those you are already growing for cut flower production and see how well they dry out. Trialing a few new varieties every season will help you grow your offerings and skills.
List of the best flowers for dried arrangements
Bells of Ireland
Hare’s Tail Grass
Paper Daisy (helipterum)
Sun Ball (Craspedia)
Winged Everlasting (Ammobium)
Beyond Flowers for Drying
Many of the most interesting textural elements for dried flower bouquets and wreaths are not traditional flowers. Leaves, grasses, grains, and mature seed pods from flowers can all come together to set your dried flower arrangements apart.
Seed heads from the following plants make outstanding textural elements and add different colors than are available within the flower. Some of the following are also excellent dried in their flower form, as noted in the above list. Planting crops with multiple useful stages of harvest can give you a better return on garden space and allow you a backup plan if you miss the ideal harvest date.
Amaranth, artichokes, agastache, broom corn, echinacea, hairy balls (Asclepias physocarpa), rose hips, scabiosa, persian cress, pampas grass (pampas is considered invasive in some areas of the USA), poppy, limon (talinum), lunaria, millet, feather top grasses, oats, sea oats, sorghum, wheat.
Harvest seed heads after the petals have dropped but before heads have begun to dry out. Be sure to place something underneath the hanging plants to gather seeds that drop for replanting next year.
Leaves for Drying
Many plants have leaves that dry beautifully and add a wonderful element of foliage to dried arrangements. Dusty miller produces lovely silver foliage that can be used in bouquets. Eucalyptus of many different types can be dried and used in arrangements and also to make gorgeous scented wreaths. Rose foliage can also be dried to good effect but may be more fragile.
Can you reuse dried flowers?
Although flowers and grasses become more fragile over time, they last quite a while. If you are careful with the stems, you may be able to reuse some elements for future arrangements. The most problematic aspect will be dust accumulation. Using a paintbrush or makeup brush helps remove dust or webs. Canned air is not recommended as it can be too powerful and knock petals from the flowers.
For situations when humidity gets to your flowers a warm hair dryer on low can help redry the flowers and add fluffiness back to grasses. Be sure to do this outdoors when possible. A little unscented hairspray can help reduce shedding.
How do you dry out flowers so they keep their color?
The most crucial factor in keeping the color in your dried flowers is keeping them away from sunlight. Quick drying is also vital to bright colors. Selecting flowers known for their color retention and varieties proven to stay vibrant will help ensure that your arrangements remain beautiful over time. Reds, maroons, oranges, and purples tend to keep their color best.
If you have a hot drying space with low humidity, you may be able to dry some of the lighter colors like whites, yellows, and lime greens.
Recently florists and designers have shown more interest in paler colors that look "antiqued." Many flowers that come out pale ivory or brownish in color can still be used in arrangements. Immature sunflower heads are great for this. Just be sure to pick and dry before seeds start to form. If you want to learn more about growing sunflowers for cut flowers, we've got a whole article here.
Hanging Flowers to Dry
Set up your drying space before harvesting. Keep cut flowers in a dark, hot, dry place until completely dry. Attics and garages often have the ideal climate for drying in the summer months. Small bunches hung with plenty of room for airflow will dry faster.
Nails placed at even intervals along rafters can work well for drying smaller amounts of blooms. For larger harvests, string sturdy twine or braided cable like picture hanging wire in long lines. Keep lines high enough that you will not be bumping your head on the flowers and damaging the blooms as they dry. Follow the steps outlined below for a successful harvest.
Pressing Flowers to Dry
Pressed flowers often retain their color even better than those that are hung to dry. Once pressed and flat, these blooms can be used to decorate any number of items including note cards, book marks, handmade papers, envelopes and invitations. Small envelopes decorated with dried flowers and filled with native wildflower seeds make excellent favors for grown-up parties.
Pressing flowers to dry is easily achieved by placing the flowers between sheets of absorbent, acid free paper. These are then placed between the pages of hard backed books or dedicated flower presses. Close the flower press tightly or stack additional books on top of your pressed flowers to get them as flat as possible.
Smaller flowers and foliage work well for pressing. Larger flowers and leaves can be pressed to dry but will take longer and the petal must be arranged carefully to ensure a pleasing shape. Blooms with a single layer of petals and smaller stigmas and ovaries are the easiest to press. For example Flanders poppies have very small centers while breadseed poppies have very large ovules making them much harder to press.
Some of the best flowers for pressing included bleeding hearts, buttercups, columbine, cosmos, English daisies, fruit blossoms, geraniums, marigolds, pansies, tea roses, sweet peas, violas, and violets. Of larger types, asters, chrysanthemums, dahlias, poppies, and zinnias can be arranged and pressed. Ferns, rose leaves and immature grain heads can also be pressed.
Steps for successful dried flower harvesting?
Harvest in the late morning after dew has dried but before the heat of the day warms the fields. This ensures the flowers are not overly damp but have the best chance of keeping their color as they dry.
Step 1. Cut and Strip
Cut all flowers at the desired stem length.
When in doubt, take the longest stems you can for more options after drying.
Strip leaves in the field for faster drying.
Step 2. Store Upright
Place striped stems upright in a bucket for transport to drying space.
There is no need to have water in the bucket as long as you are harvesting in the cool of the morning.
Step 3. Bunch and Secure
Make small bunches to allow for airflow.
Secure stems with rubber bands or twine tied with a slip knot to allow for stems shrinking as they dry.
Group flowers by type or arrangement.
Keep in mind the arrangements made before flowers are dry will shrink and may have empty spots that require additional filler later.
Step 4. Hang to Dry
For straight stems, hang upside down until completely dry.
For weeping types like trailing amaranth you can dry some blossoms up or at an angle to add dimension to arrangements
Keep bunches from touching to allow for good airflow.
Using Desiccant to Dry Flowers.
If you live in an area with high humidity or lack a low light, high heat area for drying you can make use of commercially available desiccants like silica gel to assist in drying. This method makes it more difficult to produce long stemmed dried flowers but can be used if your goal is making smaller arrangements or wreaths. For more information about drying flowers with desiccants vs. air drying, see this article by the Iowa State University Horticulture department.
Other ways to dry flowers
There are a number of other methods beyond those we go over here that can be used to dry flowers. Different types of flowers lend themselves to different methods for drying and preserving. Experimenting with different methods can broaden your range of For information on methods like glycerin, freeze-drying and microwave drying the University of Missouri put together a great resource of the best methods to use to dry some of the most popular types of flowers, check it out here.
How can I ensure my dried flowers are of the best quality?
Start with blemish free blooms that are a little more mature than you would pick for fresh cut flowers. One of the best ways to ensure that your blooms are free of insect damage is to encourage beneficial insects in your growing spaces. To make sure you're supporting beneficial insects in your garden and greenhouse, check out this article we wrote. Transfer them to your drying space as quickly as possible. Keep them out of direct light as much as possible.
Starting with long, straight stems will help to give you the widest variety of options when it comes time to build your arrangements.This article goes in-depth about how to install plastic netting so you can grow straight and sturdy flowers for drying.
What are some of the most common mistakes made when drying flowers?
Any of the following mistakes can lead to dried flowers that lose their color, do not stand up well to being arranged or, even worse, develop mold. Following the steps outlined earlier will help you avoid any of the mistakes below.
Picking too late.
Humidity in drying space.
Using loose ties that drop flowers as they dry.
Taking them down before they are completely dry.
Exposing flowers to direct sunlight.
How can I package and store dried flowers to prolong the shelf life?
Store only when completely dry
Keep in darkness
Store in boxes separated by tissue or kraft paper
Place desiccant in boxes if you are in a humid area
What are some creative value added ways to use dried flowers?
Beyond the traditional vase arrangements there are any number of creations you can make with dried flowers. Having offerings at a variety of price points can encourage customers to spend more at your booth or store. This is particularly true during the holiday season when folks are looking for little gifts to have on hand.
Pressed flowers for making bookmarks, handmade paper and notecards.
Nosegays and small arrangements for topping gifts.
Bouquets and boutonnieres for weddings off season. For brides and grooms looking to use local flowers for their wedding in places where blooms are hard to come by after the first frost.
Baskets overflowing with flowers
Decorating swags and garlands for holidays.
How can I make my dried flowers unique and special?
Develop your own style of arrangements. By all means follow peoples designs you like on social media and look through magazines. Save your favorites and those designs that speak to you but then make them your own. Look at things you love but don’t try to copy the work of others, customers will seek you out for what makes you unique.
Try designing with unusual color palettes that bring in trending interior design colors.
Experiment with monochromes that rely on differences of textures for visual interest.
Keep longer stems in odd numbered groupings. Threes, fives and sevens work well for focal stems.
Keep the elements of floral design in mind. Line, form, space, texture and pattern, color, size, and to a lesser extent in dried arrangements fragrance.
If you are unfamiliar with the basics of flower arrangement, The Texas State Florists Association has put out this great primer on Principles of Design.
What are some tips for marketing and selling dried flowers?
Lean into the sustainability aspect of dried arrangements. With more consumers being concerned about the environmental concerns and water usage this is a side of dried arrangements that can be very appealing.
If you are not ready to do all of your own arranging, consider selling to wholesalers, florists or other market farmers who are looking to expand their off season offerings.
If you’ve ever dreamed of adding cut flowers to your vegetable garden setup, you probably have some favorites in mind. Just looking through Instagram feeds may inspire you to want to grow all of the flowers. Based on her experience, our garden contributor Jenna Rich, who owns Partners Gardens in New Hampshire with her partner Tyler, shares some of her favorites to add as a novice grower.