You can create breathtaking projects with air dried flowers gathered from your gardens or from nature walks. By following these easy tips on how to air dry flowers you can preserve nature’s bounty for home decorating.
• Select the best specimens. By all measures, nature crafters choose air drying as the easiest and most economical way to dry flowers and foliage. Because this method requires little equipment, you can begin air drying flowers on a shoestring budget.
The key to successful air drying hinges on knowing when to harvest the plants and how to select specimens that are in top-notch condition. Gather plants on a sunny day and cut blooms after the morning dew evaporates – but before the heat of the day. Plan your harvests when colors are at their peak and just before full bloom.
After passing over diseased or insect-damaged blooms, cut the stems cleanly with a sharp knife or pruning shears. Then to make air drying easier, remove leaves near the base of the stem.
• Find the right drying location. For best results, you’ll need a dark, dry place with lots of air circulation to dry your flowers and foliage. A moisture-free attic, basement, garage, or shed works well for most floral crafters. By storing the plants in the dark, you preserve their rich colors; a dry location speeds up the process and ensures that the plants will not mold if you later store them in boxes.
• Choose the best technique. Over the years, three air drying methods have evolved. For hearty materials, such as small pussy willows and wild grasses, simply stand them in an empty vase or crock and allow them to dry.
Larger and more delicate flowers and foliage require special attention. The most popular air drying method involves hanging plants upside down. Sturdy plants that you can gather easily into bunches (larkspur and statice, for example) work well for this technique.
Nature crafters also air dry flowers flat on a rack fitted with narrow slats or a wire-mesh screen. This process works for large single blooms that require air circulation on all sides and for fern like plants such as dusty miller, that lie flat.
• Bundle up your harvest. To hang flowers and foliage to dry, start by assembling small fistfuls. These small bunches dry faster and more easily than large ones. Bind the stems together with rubber bands, floral wire, or pipe cleaners. Be sure to wrap the stems tightly because they shrink as they dry. If you use rubber bands, the binding tightens automatically as the stems dry. Using floral wire or pipe cleaners, on the other hand, gives you the advantage of being able to easily unwrap the plants so you can remove one or two.
But, you’ll need to gradually tighten the wire or pipe cleaner as the stems dry. No matter which type of binding you use, be sure to wrap the stems as near to their ends as possible to avoid crushing the flowers and foliage. Next, hang the bunches from a rafter or pipe. Or, attach the bunches to coat hangers with floral wire or string, and suspend the coat hangers in your storage area.
When hanging bunches of flowers, suspends them at different heights. This allows the air to circulate more freely and the plants dry evenly. Also, make sure the plants are hanging straight down. If they aren’t hanging straight, they may bend as they dry. Then the stems are liable to break when you try to work out the bent areas for an arrangement.
Once you’ve hung up the bundles, wait patiently for the materials to dry. The air drying times will vary depending on the type of plants, their original moisture content, and the dryness of the storage area. Some items, such as larkspur, dry within a week; other flowers, including roses, take two weeks or longer.