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Preserved Flowers + How to Dry Leaves and Flowers for Decor

A round-up of the best preserved flowers and dried stems for fall or any time of year + how to dry flowers and leaves yourself.

best preserved flowers and how to dry flowers and leaves for home decor

Somehow my ritual of drying bunches of hydrangeas every fall sends me down the rabbit hole of obsession over ALL of the gorgeous dried flowers and stems out there.

Okay, not obsession. I’m obsessed with my kids and my husband, but I really REALLY am loving the dried flower look. There are so many beautiful ones out there, but if you feel like foraging your yard, I’ll share some tips to explain how to dry flowers yourself too.

preserved flowers in a bowl on a buffet for fall dining room decor

Why Preserved Flowers Are “In”

The thing is I don’t really consider preserved flowers and dried leave in home decor as a trend. It’s not one of those things that really goes out of style or even out of season.

But dried botanicals is definitely “in” right now.

It gives you the natural beauty of real foliage without the short lifespan of fresh flowers, plus they’re more eco-friendly than artificial and are often much cheaper than buying fresh.

You can even dry and preserve flowers yourself, if you have a great selection of varieties in your own backyard.

preserved hydrangea flowers in a vase on a dining room table for a simple fall centerpiece

Where to Find the Best Preserved Flowers and Dried Stems

In case you don’t have much greenery to forage in your yard though, here are a bunch (har har) of my favorite preserved flowers and dried stems with amazing review and for all budgets.

(Affiliate links are provided below. Full disclosure here.)

dried hydrangeas on a dining table

I brought some dried flowers into our dining room to slightly shift away from summer, but even though they’re sort of “fall”, they really work mostly year-round and add a little life during the cold winter days.

How to Dry Flowers and Leaves From Your Yard

A couple times a year, I take a few minutes to forage our yard to dry flowers and preserve leaves to use as home decor in dried flower arrangements.

We have a huge magnolia tree that works beautifully all year for pretty wreaths and garlands using magnolia leaves. And lavender cut from planters and air dried makes the house smell amazing. Yay for free greenery!

dried lavender in a vase on a bathroom countertop

Finding the Right Flowers and Leaves to Dry

  • Only choose flowers and leaves without bruises or spots that haven’t turned brown
  • Choose flowers with paper-thin petals; fleshy, moist petals don’t dry out as easily
  • Pick fresh flowers just before full bloom
  • Pick flowers later in the day after the morning dew has dissipated
dried and preserved hydrangeas in a basket

The Easiest Way to Dry Flowers

There are several different ways you can dry flowers and leaves to use in floral arrangements, but I’ve found this to be the easiest method.

Simply let them dry naturally. It’s not a fast method, but it’s a no-brainer method you don’t have to babysit.

  1. Wrap a rubber band around a bundle of stems (around 5-8). Tie up the bundle with a piece of string leaving 6-12″ of length.
  2. Hang the bundle upside-down in a dark space with no humidity. A closet works well for this.
  3. Wait about 2-3 weeks until all water evaporates from leaves and petals.

(Some flowers do just fine by sitting in a vase without water to dry while standing upright. Hydrangeas are the easiest flower to air dry in a vase because of their woody stalks.)

air dried hydrangea flowers in a vase on a kitchen countertop

Best Air Dry Flowers and Leaves to Use

  • Hydrangea
  • Roses
  • Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila)
  • Yarrow
  • Thistle
  • Daisies
  • Strawflower
  • Coneflower
  • Lavender
  • Thistle
  • Marigolds
  • Eucalyptus
  • Magnolia leaves
  • Sage
  • Mint
  • Bay
making pressed flower art

Pressing Leaves and Flowers to Dry

This is my favorite drying method for displaying leaves and flowers in picture frames and shadow boxes.

  1. Place leaves and/or flowers between pages in a heavy book or in a flower press separated by parchment or wax paper (coffee filters work well too).
  2. Store the book or flower press in a cool, dry place with weights on top and wait a couple of days to a few weeks, depending on how much water content the leaves and flowers had initially. (You can check on them periodically without disrupting the drying process.)
fall leaves pressed in a book
flower press used to make pressed flower art

How to Preserve Flowers and Leaves

Once leaves and flowers are dry and/or pressed, you can preserve them with a quick spritz of aerosol hairspray. I especially love doing this to preserve hydrangeas.

Remember the AquaNet of the ’80s? That stuff is the jam!

  1. After air drying or pressing, protect the work area with newspaper or a piece of cardboard where you’ll be spraying.
  2. Hold an extra strong can of aerosol hairspray 6-8 inches away from the flowers/leaves and spritz all around and in between petals.
  3. Let the leaves and flowers dry for about 10 minutes. Reapply and repeat dry time twice.

Dipping flowers in silica gel works well too if you want a hairspray alternative.

That’s it! Your dried flowers and leaves will officially be preserved to avoid withering and discoloration so you can use them for many seasons.

dried pampas grass and preserved flowers on a dining room sideboard for fall decor

Ideas to Decorate With Dried Leaves and Flowers

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do dried flowers last?

When kept out of direct sunlight and humid conditions, dry floral shelf life can last between 2-3 years on average.

Do dried flowers get moldy?

It’s really important to make sure flowers are completely dried before using them as decor. Some flowers that are fleshy like lilies and tulips can be especially challenging to dry and are susceptible to mold because they hold more moisture.

Why are dried flowers so expensive?

Dried flowers cost more than fresh flowers because it is a lengthy, tedious process to dry and preserve fresh flowers. That’s why it is the perfect craft to DIY. Still because dried flowers last so much longer than fresh flowers, they pay for themselves over time.

How to clean dried flowers and leaves?

You don’t have to do much to care for dried flowers over time. To dust them, gently spray dried flowers with a few light puffs of canned air. For thicker leaves like magnolia and palm leaves, you can lightly brush them with a feather duster.

Have you attempted the flower drying thing?

Or stopped on the side of the road when you see pretty pampas grass or wildflowers? I won’t tell 😉

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10 Comments

  1. I have a question. I picked a plastic bag full of green magnolia leaves from her tree. Because I’ve was so busy, I was not able to make a wreath out of them, like I had hoped to. Now they are all brown and hard. Help! What can I do with these dried brown leaves? Thanks in advance!

  2. I just figured out how to dry Queen Anne’s Lace without it folding into a ball!!!! I also dry hydrangeas! I love free!!

  3. Yes I cut and dry stuff from my yard cause I agree free is awesome! I like it because it’s unique and textural. Just started following you and so fun all the stuff you do but manage to do so on a budget.