Dried vs pressed flowers: which is better?

Preserving Your Bouquet: How to Dry & Press Flowers 

Do you have a special bouquet of flowers that you wish you could preserve? Perhaps from your wedding, or just a nice bouquet your mum got you for your birthday? Well, what if I told you that there is a way for you to turn your blooms into a life-long memento simply by drying them out?

Is it better to dry or press flowers?

It is hard to say if one method is ‘better’ than the other when it comes to preserving your flowers. This is because the benefits of each depend on what you want to do with the flowers, what type of flowers you will be preserving, and how exactly you wish to preserve them. Each person’s drying process will be subjective to their needs. Whether you are looking to keep a dried flower bouquet in a vase, or you are wanting to place your flowers into a frame for your wall, there are several methods you can go about achieving your desired result. 

No matter which method you choose to go with, it is important that you dry out your flowers as quickly as possible, as using flowers which are just beginning to bloom will leave you with a better end result. 

Drying flowers

The main benefit to drying your flowers over pressing them, is that your bouquet will stay true to form. The natural shape of your flowers will be retained during the entire process, whilst simultaneously removing all of the moisture that would otherwise lead to the decomposition of your blooms. Ensuring that your flowers are completely dry, and have no moisture remaining, is the most vital step in the entire process, as if there is any excess water in your flowers, it will cause them to rot! Luckily, it is very easy to identify whether or not your flowers are dried - they will start to feel similar to tissue paper. 

We have outlined the three most common methods of drying your flowers, depending on how quickly you want the process to be, and what materials you have at your disposal.

Top Tip: Any petals you lose in the drying process, can be collected into a small sachet or bag along with a couple of drops of your favourite essential oils, and kept in your linen drawer, to freshen them up before you need to use them again!

Air Drying Flowers

Air-drying is the most traditional method you can use when it comes to preserving your flowers. This is mostly due to the fact that this method is the most effective in preserving the bouquets original shape, and helps to maintain their vibrant colours. It also requires little to no resources, and is the easiest to achieve at home. 

To dry your flowers all you have to do is make sure you have cut off any excess foliage you don’t want to include in your bouquet. Then, you will need to tie the flowers together at the base so that they remain in their shape, and then hang them upside down - the best way to do this is to hang them from a stick or branch, and keep them in a location that is out of the way in order to avoid any damage coming to the flowers. They will also need to be hung somewhere away from any direct sunlight, as this can cause their natural colours to fade quickly.  

One fact to consider when choosing which flowers you wish to dry, is that certain blooms won’t take well to being hung upside down for an extended period of time. Take daisies for instance, even though they would add a beautiful touch to your dried flower bouquet, being hung upside down will cause their pollen to drop out, which can take away from their overall appearance - and also cause a mess.   

The only downside to this method is that it takes the longest amount of time in comparison to the other methods. From the moment you hang your flowers upside down, it will take around 3 to 4 days for all the moisture to evaporate from them, and for them to be ready for use. 

Drying Flowers in a Vase

Another easy method to try is drying your flowers directly in the vase you wish to display them in. This is a particularly good technique if you are trying to dry out a much larger arrangement of flowers, as it requires little to no manipulation on your part, and the flowers can be left to their own devices, pretty much the whole time. In comparison to air-drying, this method is considerably less effort, and can help to achieve more vibrancy in your bouquet. 

To dry your flowers, all you will need to do is add a few inches of water to the bottom of your vase. Once you have trimmed the stems to your ideal arrangement, place the flowers into the vase, and leave them until they are completely dry. This method will work well for flowers with sturdier stems, and is recommended for any project where you wish to keep the stems as part of the arrangement. 

Microwave Drying Flowers

If you are in a hurry to dry out your flowers, whether you need them for a last minute gift, or just don’t want to wait a couple of days for them to dry out naturally, then using a heat method, such as microwaving them, would probably work best for you. Not only is this method more time efficient, it can also help retain the vibrancy of your flowers more intensely. 

The whole process will only take a couple of minutes, but the flowers will need to remain drying overnight, to fully ensure they are completely dry before use. This is a beneficial method for thicker flowers, however it is important to consider that bouquets with more delicate flowers can suffer from this process. 

To dry your flowers in the microwave you will need to:

  1. Cut your flowers in any way you desire. 
  2. Place the flowers onto a paper towel, on a microwaveable dish. 
  3. Cover the blooms with another paper towel. 
  4. Microwave at full power for 90 seconds. 
  5. Check the quality of your flowers, and leave them overnight before use. 

Pressing Flowers

Pressing your flowers is a completely different process to drying your flowers. For one thing, the end result is that your flowers will have lost their natural shape, and instead be completely flattened. Depending on the type of flower you use, pressed flowers can become paper thin, and sometimes almost translucent. Similar to drying, pressing flowers' ultimate aim is to remove the moisture from the flower to halt decomposition. However, the pressing method differs in that the process literally presses the moisture out of the flower, so that they become paper thin, instead of drying it out naturally and retaining its prior shape. 

This method works best for anyone who wants to display your flowers in a frame, or to use within a craft project, such as a personalised phone or laptop case. For a more experienced crafter, you could even use your pressed flowers in a resin project. On top of that, pressed flowers are extremely practical, in that they are extremely easy to store. If you make a large batch of pressed flowers, they are extremely easy to keep tucked away, making them less likely to be damaged. In this way, they are less likely to collect any dust - dried flowers are notoriously difficult to clean after becoming dusty, as they are considerably fragile. 

Pressing your flowers may be a little bit more of a trial and error process in comparison to drying, as the transformation from start to finish is slightly more dramatic. If you are planning on pressing any flowers from a special occasion, it might be wise to have a couple practice runs with fresh blooms that you can find in your garden or get from the supermarket . 

Pressing flowers with books

Pressing flowers with books is particularly easy to do at home. If you are someone who loves to collect coffee table books but never use them - this is your time to shine! All you need to do is place a sheet of parchment paper in between the pages of a very heavy book (we have found that baking paper works well for this too). Make sure that you place your flowers or petals face down on top of the paper, and close the book. Now, all you need to do is wait! This process can take up to 10 days for all the moisture to be dried out of the flowers - make sure that your flowers are entirely dry before use, otherwise they could start to rot. 

For extra reassurance, you can place multiple heavy books on top of the book you are using to press. This will ensure that your flowers become completely flat, making them easier to frame, or use within a craft project. Just ensure that the weight is evenly distributed across the entire book being used to press, to ensure all flowers are getting an equal amount of weight.  

An important thing to remember is that you will need to use a book that you don’t mind getting damaged. As the process involves pressing the moisture out of the flowers, it is likely that the flowers will cause the pages to warp and become water-damaged. Not only this, but if you are pressing a larger bud, it could potentially leave behind an indentation in the book as it is being pressed. 

Pressing flowers with an iron

The only downfall to pressing your flowers is that it can take up to a couple of weeks for your flowers to completely dry out. If you are looking to have a quick turnaround for your flowers, or you simply don’t have the room to store multiple stacks of heavy books for an extended period of time, then the easiest way to speed up the process is to add heat. Using an iron can cut down the pressing time to a couple of minutes!

In order to do this, you will need to first press your flowers between a heavy book in order to flatten them as much as possible before you use the iron. You will not need to keep them in the book for a long time, just enough so that they are somewhat flat. Then, just place your flowers in between two sheets of heat-proof paper, and place them on your ironing board. When using your iron, you need to ensure that it is on the lowest setting possible, and that there is no steam in order to avoid any damage coming to your flowers. 

Even though this method has proven to be extremely time efficient, it can yield a very different result in comparison to the other pressing methods. Rather than being completely flattened, your flowers may come out with wrinkles, similar to the pages of a water-damaged book. This is an almost unavoidable outcome, no matter what materials you use, as your iron will not be able to evenly distribute the heat all the way through your blooms. Also, it is important to note that applying heat to your flowers in this way, can result in uneven bleaching, and ultimately overall fading of colour. So, unless you need to have your flowers pressed immediately, it would be more effective for you to wait the weeks it will take using a more traditional method!

Using a flower press

The last, and most traditional method, to press your flowers is to use an actual flower press. This compresses your flowers between two sheets of absorbent paper, and allows you to have a modicum of control over how your flowers are pressed in comparison to the other methods. This is due to the fact that during the pressing process you will need a considerably large surface area in order to space out your flowers, which a flower press offers you. However, not everyone has a flower press available to them, in which case the previously mentioned methods of flower pressing will be similarly effective in preserving your flowers for your use.  

When we recommend drying flowers

Drying out your flowers is the most suitable method, when you are trying to maintain more round-shaped flowers, such as roses or peonies. These styles of flowers are increasingly difficult to press successfully, without completely ruining the overall appearance of your blooms, as they will be nearly impossible to completely flatten. However, if your plan is to keep your dried bouquets around your home, hanging on the wall, or in a nice vase, then we would recommend drying as the method you use for preservation, as this is the most effective in helping to maintain your flowers' natural shape.  

When we recommend pressing flowers

If you are looking to frame your flowers, or use them in any crafting project, pressing your flowers would be the most ideal method to take. The best flowers to use in any pressing projects are ones that are naturally flat already. Trying to press thicker blooms, like rose buds, will need to be cut in half prior to pressing, as otherwise they won’t be completely flattened, and are also more likely to damage your pressing equipment (especially if you are going for the traditional heavy book method). If you wish to frame your flowers, or use them as confetti for your dining table, then we would recommend pressing as your method of preservation!

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