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How to Harvest and Air Dry Everlasting Flowers

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 Have you ever seen a dried flower arrangement and wondered how it was made?  Or looked at dried flowers in a wreath or craft and been shocked that they were real?  If you have, and have always wanted to try to dry your own, this page is for you!

     Everlasting flowers is just another name for a group of flowers that dry very well.  They retain their color and form better than other flowers.  Many have paper like petals (called bracts) that are stiff and don't fall off when dried. These flowers are also known as "immortals".  Everlasting flowers are a wonderful way to bring your flowers indoors to last throughout the long winter months.

     The trick to drying everlasting flowers is knowing the best time to harvest them.  Cutting too early or too late can cause devastating affects to the color and shape of the flower when dried.  Rely on the list below to ensure the best results. Always harvest on a dry day and after the dew has dried from the plant.  Flowers shrink when dried so always cut more than you will need.

     Once you have collected your flowers, remove the foliage from the stems and tie the stems into small loose bunches with rubber bands. Then hang them upside-down in a warm, dry, ventilated place like a shed or an attic. Hanging them keeps the stems nice and straight.  Let hang until plant material is completely dry, usually about 2 to 4 weeks depending on the flower.  It's really that simple!

List of our favorite Everlastings

Annuals

  • Celosia (cockscomb) - Both plumed and crested types can be dried. Harvest Plumed Celosia when the blooms are bright and nearly fully opened. Harvest Crested Celosia when the seeds begin to form just below the comb.
  • Gomphrena globosa (globe amaranth) - Cut the stems when the flower heads are in the peak of color. Tie the stems together and hang upside down to dry.
  • Helichrysum bracteatum (strawflower) - Harvest only the flower, with little or no stem attached. Pick when only a row or two of outside bracts are opened and before the center opens. Insert a #22 gauge wire up the bottom of the flower (where the stem was) and store wired flowers upright in styrofoam.  They usually look best when only half opened.
  • Limonium sinuatum (statice) - Annual statice is the most used of all everlastings. Pick as buds begin to open because they open further while drying. Tie stems together and hang upside down.
  • Lunaria annua (money plant) - Cut when the pods begin to change from green to brown. Remove the 2 outer shells to expose the papery inner membrane.
  • Molucella laevis (bells-of-Ireland) - Harvest when the green, cup-shaped "flowers" are fully open. As they dry, the flowers gradually fade to cream or tan.
  • Salvia species (blue salvia) - Pick the spikes when the florets are fully open and the calyx is bright blue. Tie stems together and hang upside down to dry.
  • Scabiosa stellata (starflower) - The ornamental part of the plant is the pod that remains after the flowers fade. Pick the pod just as the last petals fall off.
  • Xeranthemum annuum (Immortelle) - The blossoms and buds dry in the stage in which they are picked. Pick just as flowers are fully open. Tie stems together and hang upside down.

Perennials

  • Achillea species (yarrow) - Harvest as soon as every umbel on the head is completely developed and firm to the touch. 
  • Ammobium alatum (winged everlasting) - Harvest just before flowers are completely open
  • Artemesia (wormwood) Typically the taller species are best for drying. It is used as a filler in bouquets or as the base of wreaths. Harvest the stems when the pebbly seed head is fully developed.
  • Echinops ritro (globe thistle) - Pick as soon as the central globes are grey-blue and before the tiny flowers appear. Dry upside down.
  • Goniolimon tataricum (German statice) - Pick when all the tiny lavender-colored flowers on the stem have opened. The actual petals drop off during the drying process, leaving the white calyces or "flowers."
  • Gypsophila paniculata (baby's breath) - Pick when about half the florets are open on a flowering stem. Hang upside down to dry.  White and pink flowering varieties are available. The flowers of perennial baby's breath dry much better than those from the annual species.
  • Lavendula species (lavender) - Pick stems when the florets on the spike are opening. Hang upside down to dry. 
  • Liatris spicata (blazing star) - Pick when 1/2 to 2/3 of the flowers are open. Hang upside down to dry.
  • Limonium latifolium (sea lavender) - Pick when the majority of the flowers are open.
  • Physalis alkekengi (Chinese lantern) - Cut the stems when the pods, resembling Chinese lanterns, become orange in late summer.

   Many flowers can be air dried, the choice is really up to you!!  Experiment a little.  You may be surprised at how well your favorite flower holds up long after frost has come. 

Sources
Linda Naeve, Department of Horticulture Iowa State University
Richard Jauron, Department of Horticulture Iowa State University
 
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