Whether casually arranged in a vase or woven into a wreath, dried flowers have undergone a huge surge in popularity. From retro pampas plumes to stylish bouquets in rainbow shades, dried flowers are a great, low-maintenance alternative to houseplants and fresh flowers.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the top flower varieties to choose from, how to grow them and the best way to dry them so you can make your own amazing arrangements.
The best flowers for drying
When it comes to choosing flowers for drying you’re spoilt for choice, most flowers can be dried in the right conditions and if well looked after, they can last for years. Flowers with thicker stems will be sturdier and tend to last longer than those without.
Here’s our pick of the bunch for drying:
Astilbe, bunny tail grass, celosia, cornflowers, gypsophila, larkspur, lavender, nigellas, hydrangea, poppies, roses, sea holly, statice and strawflowers.
Read on to discover how to grow and dry flowers.
Also known as false goat’s beard, this striking plant produces masses of feathery flowers in a range of colours and it dries beautifully. Astilbes flower from late May.
Unlike most of the other flowers listed, astilbes need moist soil in dappled shade. You can start astilbe from seed but it can take a while to germinate and a few years to grow into an established plant so we’d recommend buying plants from a garden centre.
2. Bunny tail grass
This ornamental grass produces fluffy, creamy-white flowers that are a favourite with flower arrangers. It will grow happily in pots or borders. Flowers appear from June onwards.
You can sow bunny tail grass seeds outside from March-May where they will flower. Thin the seedlings to 15cm apart and water well until they are established.
Another show-stopper, celosia produces plume-like flowers in a range of vivid colours. Celosia flowers will bloom from June until the first frosts.
It’s best to grow celosia from seed as they will grow taller than garden centre plants. Sow seeds in a heated propagator from early spring and cover lightly with soil. The seedlings can be transplanted when they have 4 true leaves and the risk of frost has passed. Celosia likes full sun and prefers growing in a flower bed rather than a container.
These beautiful flowers were once seen as weeds growing in fields, hence their name. Sun-loving cornflowers come in a range of colours from blues and pink to black. They’ll flower from June and if planted in a flowerbed, will self-seed and return year after year.
Sow the seeds roughly 5cm apart and 1cm deep from March to May. The seedlings can tolerate frost so you can sow these beauties outside.
Also known as baby’s breath, the delicate white flowers dry surprisingly well. Gypsophila is often added to fresh flower bouquets and will often be the last flower standing. It flowers from May onwards.
Gypsophila grows fast and can be invasive so you may want to keep it contained in a pot. Sow the seeds where you want them to grow in early spring. They like a sunny position and slightly alkaline soil.
One of the most popular flowers for drying, larkspur produces tall, delicate blooms in spring. The seeds are toxic so take care when handling and make sure the plants aren’t grown near fields where livestock graze.
Larkspur seeds need a cold period before they will germinate so you can pop them in the fridge for a couple of weeks before planting. Plant seeds outdoors in peat pots before the first frost as it will give them time to acclimatise for winter. You can plant them in their final location when seedlings have 2 sets of true leaves. Larkspur can grow up to 2m tall so provide a stake for support.
A favourite in cottage gardens, lavender flowers are a magnet for bees. Lavender flowers from June to July and the dried foliage looks incredible in wreaths and hand-tied bunches. When dried, lavender can keep its scent for several years!
Lavender can be really tricky to grow from seed but you can pick up young plants inexpensively from garden centres.
If you’re keen to try growing your own lavender, peat pots are a good solution. Sprinkle over the seeds, water and cover the pots to keep the moisture in. Place the covered seed pots in the fridge for 3-6 weeks then remove the bag and place the pots in a sunny spot until the seeds germinate.
It’s the nigella flower pods, rather than the flowers that are picked for drying which means you get to enjoy the flowers in all their glory. Nigellas flower from July for around 8 weeks before the striking seed pods form.
Nigellas are fantastic self-seeders so once you’ve started, you’ll find they continue well by themselves. You can sow seeds into prepared beds in a sunny spot from March to May. Nigellas don’t flower for long so you can repeat the sowing process for longer-lasting blooms.
The impressively large blooms of the hydrangea shrub appear from July. Unlike most of the other flowers, hydrangea flowers can be left to dry on the plant.
You can grow hydrangea from seed or from a cutting quite easily. The seeds are tiny so place them on top of potting soil and don’t cover them. You can sow the seeds after collecting them from dried flower heads in autumn or wait until the spring. Put the pot in a sheltered location outside and protect young plants in the winter.
Like the nigella, poppies produce striking seed heads after flowering that are easy to dry and add to flower arrangements.
Poppy seeds can be sown directly onto prepared soil in spring, early summer or autumn. Just sprinkle the seeds, water and wait for the seedlings to appear.
One of the most beautiful flowers, roses will bloom from late May throughout summer. Their natural beauty and wide range of colours makes them a favourite for drying.
You can grow your own roses from seed and may be rewarded with a new variety. If you are after a specific rose then it’s best to buy a plant from a garden centre, that way, you’ll know exactly what rose to expect!
12. Sea holly
These beautiful blue, thistle-like flowers appear from July. They are easy to dry and look spectacular in dried arrangements.
Like lavender and larkspur, sea holly seeds like a period of cold before they can germinate. You can sow the seeds in autumn. Choose a sunny spot and sow the seeds where they are to flower.
One of the most popular and recognisable flowers for drying, statice flowers from early summer. The flowers are actually white, but they are protected by the beautifully coloured, long-lasting calyces that surround them.
An easy-to-grow plant, start statice seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date. The plants can be hardened off outdoors when 3-8 weeks old.
One of my all-time favourites, these stunning flowers will bloom profusely from late spring right up to the first frosts. They come in a rainbow of colours and keep their colours well when dried.
Sow strawflowers in cells, don’t cover the seeds because they need light to germinate. Harden seedlings off and transplant outside once all danger of frost has passed. The plants need to be positioned in full sun and might need support.
Pick strawflowers for drying when 2 or 3 layers of petals have unfolded for the best results.
How to grow flowers for drying
Although the flowers listed above have different growing needs, most are easy to grow and will provide you with a fantastic selection of flowers throughout the summer.
Apart from astilbe which likes some shade, and hydrangea which prefers morning sun and afternoon shade, the flowers are sun lovers and will need a spot where they can soak up the rays.
How to harvest and dry cut flowers
When picking flowers for drying, choose the strongest, healthiest looking flowers. You’ll need to choose your preferred openness of the flowers as when picked, that is how they will stay.
When picking statice, wait until all the flowers on a stem have opened before picking. In general, you’ll have a week or so after the flowers have appeared to pick them for drying.
- Cut the stems as long as you can and form small bunches of the same flowers.
- Remove the foliage from the bottom of the main stems.
- Tie and hang the bunches upside down in a warm, dark place for 2-3 weeks. Be careful not to expose drying flowers to sunlight because this will discolour them.
- Cut and hang nigella seed heads while they are green. Poppy seed heads can be cut from the plant when brown, wrapped in a bag to collect the seeds and hung upside down. Remove when the seeds have fallen out.
Once you have your dried flowers, it’s time to get creative with arrangements. You can even dye or spray the flowers.
To dye flowers, they must be completely dry. Follow the instructions on the fabric dye packet. You can carefully dip the flower into the boiling dye solution for 5-10 seconds, repeat until you achieve the desired colour and hang to dry. Make sure to protect any surfaces underneath the flower.
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