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Learn to preserve flowers from home gardens and special occasions

pink flowers and yellow flowers laid on white paper on a wooden flower press

A great way to enjoy flowers with family and friends is to harvest and preserve them. The popularity of dried and pressed flowers has turned an old hobby into a renewed interior design and art trend. Use everlasting flowers to create everlasting memories. If you are interested in learning how to dry or press flowers, join Illinois Extension for Back to Basics: Dried Flowers at 5:30 p.m. on October 3 at Jefferson County Farm Credit in Mt. Vernon or at 5:30 p.m. on October 17 at the Illinois Extension Office in Breese. 

Participants will learn about the type of flowers that work best and how to prepare them to hold their color and form. These types are called everlasting flowers as they dry out very easily. 

Everlasting flowers are composed of colorful, papery petals or bract-style modified leaves that, when mature, are stiff and dry when still attached to the living plant. Planting annuals and perennial flowers suitable for drying extends gardening activities without elaborate equipment or previous experience for the whole family to enjoy.  Participants will also get an opportunity to try pressing flowers to take home.

Want to try air-drying some flowers at home? Air-drying is the easiest and most common way to preserve most flowers. Stems dried in this process will be reasonably straight.

  • Cut flowers of good quality in prime condition
  • Remove foliage from stems
  • Gather the stems into small bunches and bind them with a rubber band or twist tie instead of a string, as the bunches shrink as they dry.
  • Hang the bunches upside-down in a warm, dry, dark area with good air circulation. Avoid direct sunlight that will fade the flowers.
  • Attach the tied bunches with a paper clip to the drying rack, line, or nail.
  • Allow hanging until thoroughly dried, which generally takes two to three weeks.  

A few large flowers, such as peonies and hydrangea, are sometimes dried in this way but should be hung individually. Going one step further with this activity, you can make dried arrangements or posies. Remember, flowers dried in this manner are extremely stiff once dried, and some flowers shrink like roses and peonies. Blue and yellow flowers retain their colors when air-dried, but pink flowers tend to fade. This drying method is still an inexpensive and fun activity for any age to enjoy.  

Pressing flowers is a trendy way to preserve flowers from special occasions that can be arranged in framed displays or as artwork. Pressing requires sandwiching flowers and foliage between layers of absorbent material. One way is between the pages of a book, which is closed and weighted down. Wooden presses can also be used with bolts and wing nuts to apply pressure to absorbent material for drying. Finally, heat pressing can be done with a warm iron and wax paper. In comparison, microwave ceramic tiles and paper towels can be used for a quick heat press.

Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator will cover all this and more in this Back to Basics session. Join us on October 3 in Mt. Vernon or October 17 in Breese. This program is free, but advance registration is required. Register today at


About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.