To extend the enjoyment and beauty of your flowers you can dry them. It is better to wait till the flowers are in full bloom when you pick them but buds can also be dried. Late morning or afternoon is the best time of day to cut flowers because they will be open and moisture free. They also won’t be droopy or wilted from the hot sun. You want to keep the shape as close as you can to the original flower and make sure they are dry if you tie them together. Check the flowers you select for damage from insects or disease. Imperfections will be more noticeable after the flowers are dried. Darker shades maintain their color better than pale shades but if you prefer to use pale shades you can paint them with spray paint.
An easy way to dry your flowers is to air dry them. Eight to ten stems should be gathered together with a rubber band at the cut end of the flowers. When the flowers dry the stems will shrink. Using rubber bands work wonderful because they will shrink to fit the size of the bunch. Once the flowers are banded together, you can insert a florist wire inside the rubber band and bend it to make a hook. Use the hook to hang the flowers upside down on pegs, pieces of lattice or cuphooks. The weight of the flower keeps the stem straight when they’re hung upside down.
They need to be out of direct sunlight so a dark and ventilated room would be ideal. Hot attics and damp basements aren’t good places to dry flowers. Not all flowers can be dried in this manner. Some of the best flowers to air dry are baby’s breath, hydrangeas, strawflower, golden rod, globe amaranth and statice. You can experiment to find flowers that dry the best for you. The drawback to the air drying technique is it may take up to four weeks till you have usable dried flowers. Some of the color and form of the flowers may also be lost.
Flowers that don’t dry well using the air dry method can be dried with chemical desiccants. Colors will stay vibrant which will make them look more like fresh flowers because they will dry quickly. There are different kinds of compounds that you can try. Borax mixed equally with cornmeal can be used. Silica gel is a good choice because it is easy to utilize. It’s available as a powder and the color will change once it absorbs the moisture. Flowers may dry better if they have a lot of moisture when you use silica gel because it’s a drying agent. Before you start the drying process, remove all of the stems except one or two inches because dried stems are very brittle. Florist wire will work to make a false stem. Not all flowers are wired the same way so do some research for directions on the particular flower you are drying. One type of flower should be dried at a time, because some flowers dry faster than others. Lay spiky flowers lengthwise and compact flowers with their heads facing up. Afer the flowers are placed in an airtight container make sure the desiccant is around the edges of the flowers. Also, dust a light layer on top of each flower carefully covering every petal. If the flowers aren’t dry in four to five days then re-cover them with desiccant and check back in a few days.
Another way to dry flowers is to use the microwave oven. This the best way for flowers to look fresh and colorful. Use uncovered heat-tolerant glass or microwave containers. Using a cardboard box such as a shoe box has also been suggested. Put flowers in a supportive substance such as silica gel or borax mixture before you place them in the microwave. This will maintain their natural form. To prevent extreme dryness of your hands it is recommended that you wear gloves. Also, to prevent excess drying of the flowers put a cup of water in the microwave.
Set your microwave to approximately 350 watts or the 4 or 5 power setting. If your microwave doesn’t have a 1-10 power setting then set it on medium to low. Some people advise different settings. A micorwavable thermometer put into the silica gel will help you know how long the flowers should be microwaves. Keep the thermometer a half-inch from the covered plant material when you insert it into the silica gel. You need to be able to read the non-metal thermometer from outside your microwave. Most flowers are done when the silica gel reaches a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If you use borax, mix it with either white or yellow cornmeal. Pure borax can bleach or burn the flower parts. Some flowers that are best suited for microwave drying are the pansy, peony, anemone, buttercup, daylily, hollyhock and zinnia.
No method of flower preservation will be perfect and each one will have some drawbacks.