Drying flowers is necessary when you wish to preserve fresh blooms, but doing so can sometimes be a little time consuming. Some flowers are easier to dry than others, but one method that always provides the best results is through the use of silica gel.
Even for those challenging to dry flowers, the use of silica gel can help you preserve their precious blooms for longer.
For centuries, the drying of flowers has been a form of creative art, but it’s also a way for us to preserve some of our favorite types of flowers for as long as possible. That way, we can enjoy their beauty long after they would have otherwise died.
From bouquets for special occasions to colorful wildflowers and prom corsages to wedding flowers, preserving flowers is a great way of remembering a special time in your life or a special person.
And, when you dry them correctly, they can maintain their beautiful appearance. Sometimes, they can even look better in their dried form.
Whilst there are numerous ways of drying flowers, we are going to focus on using silica gel in today’s post. If you’re struggling to dry and preserve your flowers with various methods, we can guarantee this method will do the job.
We will discuss what silica gel is, how it helps to preserve flowers, and a step-by-step guide on how to do so. We will also go into detail about certain types of flowers that work best with this process.
By the end of this article, you will know exactly how to dry flowers using silica gel so you can enjoy them for a long time to come.
Let’s get drying!
Silica Gel: What Is It?
Most typically found in products that can spoil due to humidity or liquid, such as dry food packages, as well as brand-new shoes, silica gel is a desiccant – “a hygroscopic substance used as a drying agent.”
Usually in the form of tiny, hard beads, silica gel absorbs moisture helping items and food maintain their freshness. Once the beads have absorbed a certain level of moisture, the blue crystals inside often transform into a pink hue.
If you see this, it’s a sign that they are doing their job sufficiently but it also means you should replace the gel with another to prevent any liquids from damaging the goods.
When it comes to drying flowers, silica gel can also work well by absorbing excess moisture. It does so by soaking up moisture formed in the petals and stem of the flowers.
This process helps to preserve the flower’s form and color so you can enjoy it for a much longer period.
This drying process is particularly popular with florists and those who craft.
It can be used to prepare flower petals from many kinds of wreaths, marigolds, pansies, and help preserve wedding bouquets so you can enjoy the flowers long after the special day.
The method is also common for rustic keepsakes and thanks to its quick method, the vibrancy and appearance of fresh flowers is maintained more easily, unlike that of pressed flowers.
There have been numerous studies into the use of silica gel on flowers.
Silica Gel – Different Forms
There are two main forms of silica gel available:
For the process of drying flowers, silica gel crystals are considered the best of the two.
This is because the crystals are much smaller than their beads counterparts so can access very small crevices more easily and dry the flower to a greater extent, thus enhancing the drying process.
When you use silica beads, they generally lie on top of the flower and are not as capable of getting into some types of petals with tubular shapes in the same manner that crystals can.
As well as this, silica beads can also leave behind some indentations on dried flowers, damaging their appearance and quality.
This is one of the main reasons why you have to be very careful when using silica gel to preserve flowers (but we will go into the process below).
When using any form of silica gel to preserve flowers, always ensure it is made especially for drying flowers, as other forms may not work.
For most of us, our first attempts of drying flowers with silica gel do not work out as we hope. But, this is completely normal. It’s usually down to using the wrong type of silica gel.
Sometimes, silica gel can dry out some flowers too much, so they become withered and lose their freshness.
If you look at the label of most silica gel products, you should find a warning stating whether it is suitable for drying flowers or not. If it is not, move on until you find the correct form of silica gel for this process.
As discussed above, more often than not, this will be silica crystals rather than silica beads.
Things To Remember When Buying Silica Gel To Dry Flowers
When using silica gel to dry out flowers, there are some important things to factor in. By doing so, you can ensure your flowers maintain their fresh appearance and form.
Here are some vital factors to consider:
- Fine dust can come from silica gel, particularly the crystal form. This dust can remain airborne when being used.
- Do not breathe this dust in. always wear a protective mask when dealing with silica gel crystals, as well as safety goggles.
- Remember, silica gel is a desiccant substance – not only can it dry out certain items and flowers, but it can also dry your skin if it comes into contact with you. Therefore, also wear gloves when handling silica gel of any type.
Flowers You Can Dry Using Silica Gel
The freshest flowers tend to be the best type for drying with silica gel, such as those that are conditioned and freshly picked.
Ask many people and the thought of drying fresh flowers they have around their home doesn’t even enter their mind until the flowers are around a week or so old.
Whilst flowers of this age can still be dried successfully, the best results will always be flowers that are still in their prime and in their freshest form.
As long as the flower is fresh, most flowers can be dried with silica gel. Even difficult to dry flowers, such as dahlias, can be dried using silica gel.
If you have blooms with high moisture content that are challenging to dry but want to preserve them, silica gel may be the best option.
By using silica crystals, in particular, the air pockets in blossoms can be filled with the silica, helping dry all parts of the flower, such as its petals and stem.
Some flowers that dry very well with silica gel include:
- Bachelor buttons
Overall, any type of flower can be dried with the use of silica gel, as long as you use the correct type of silica and follow the process properly.
Supplied Needed When Drying Flowers With Silica Gel
Before you get started on drying your flowers, you will need some supplies.
Here is what you will need:
- Fresh flowers
- Silica gel (crystals)
- Snippers or scissors
- Rubber gloves, a mask, and safety goggles
- A container large enough to holder the silica gel and dry the flowers in
How To Dry Flowers With Silica Gel
As we mentioned, drying flowers with silica gel is pretty straightforward. Before you start, however, there are a few important factors to consider regarding the container you’re using:
- If you are using a plastic container, do not use it afterward for any food storage. The plastic can absorb the silica gel particles which can become unsafe when mixed with food.
- Ensure your container has an airtight lid. If it doesn’t, you can implement some plastic wrap as a way to cover your container and prevent any humidity gaining access to the flowers.
Follow the steps below to preserve your beautiful blooms for a long time to come:
- First up, you need to fill your container with around half an inch of silica gel to build a base to place the flowers on.
- Once you have filled some of the container with silica gel, set your flowers in the container, but ensure they are not in contact with one another.
- If you have flat faced flowers, these can be set face down. Any others need to be face up. For flowers boasting long stems, these can be placed on their sides.
- Now, cover your flowers with the silica gel. You can use a large spoon and pour the gel over the flowers gently and carefully. This allows you to control the flow of the gel more easily.
- Make sure you completely cover the flowers with the gel.
- After they are suitably covered, hut the container with a lid or wrap plastic wrap around it tightly to stop any humidity entering.
And, that’s the method of drying flowers with silica gel all done! Told you it was simple! Now, it’s just a waiting game – but how long? Let’s find out.
The Length Of Time Silica Gel Dries Flowers
All good things come to those who wait, and this includes drying flowers with silica gel. That being said, some flowers need longer than others.
Different types of flowers grow at different rates, based on their moisture content and size. So, the same type of flower may take longer depending on whether it is bigger than another bouquet.
Follow the guidelines on your silica gel package to check how long you should leave it on your flowers to dry. Some packets of silica gel contain an insert displaying the drying times for many flower types.
If you are unsure, a quick google would help, or you can contact the manufacturer.
All in all, thicker and larger flowers tend to take longer to dry with silica gel, with an average time being around two days to a week (again, this can vary depending on the characteristics of the flowers).
A table indicating the varying drying times of flowers can be found in this article (University of Florida on Drying and Preserving Plant Materials For Decorative Uses). Head to the bottom to find it.
How To You Know When Your Flowers Have Dried
There are some tell-tale signs to look out for to check whether your flowers have dried from the silica gel. However, on some occasions, flowers will need more or less time in the gel than first anticipated.
This is why you should regularly inspect the flowers as they dry to see if they have dried before you expect them to.
As we have already mentioned above, most of us need a few attempts to get this process right. The first time (and many other times), it can be easy to go overboard on the silica gel, and leave the flowers dry for too long.
If they become too dry, the petals can become overly brittle and upon contact, can shatter easily.
Petals can also disintegrate when they are overly dried. Many find that parts of the petals are left in the silica gel after you try to retrieve the flowers. If this happens, it’s back to the drawing board!
When drying flowers with silica gel, timing is critical.
Overall, you will know when your flowers are dry when they are stiff and, well, dry. Just bear in mind that they should be stiff and not brittle. Inspect them a few times a day and see how they are. If you think they are ready, they probably are.
How To Safely Remove Flowers From Silica Gel
Once you know the estimated drying times of your flowers in silica gel, and have come to the conclusion that they have dried sufficiently, then it is time to remove them from the gel.
Remember, the smaller the flowers, the quicker they will generally dry. For larger, denser flowers, you can remove them before the drying is completed, as long as the petals are completely dry.
This allows the flower to air dry and complete the drying process.
You must remove the flowers very gently and carefully from the silica gel. Too hard and you can easily break or damage the petals, stem, and other parts of the flowers.
We recommend using a fork to pull the flowers from the gel slowly. This allows the crystals to then fall away.
Let the crystals fall back into your container as you bring the flowers out. If the flowers have been drying for too long, their petals may be very brittle. Just a slight touch can shatter them.
You’ll probably find that some crystals stay on the dried flowers once you have pulled them out. These can simply be brushed off using a soft, small artist brush.
What Happens If Flowers Are Left In Silica Gel For Too Long?
The main goal when placing flowers in silica gel is to dry them out. But, there is a difference between having dry flowers and having dry, brittle flowers. Leave them too long, and they can become too fragile to work with.
This could cause them to crumble or break apart. Additionally, the prolonged exposure to the silica gel may cause the color of the flowers to fade or change.
As discussed above, the amount of time that flowers can be left in silica gel will depend on various factors, such as the type of flowers, the thickness of the petals, and the humidity levels in the surrounding environment.
As a general rule of thumb, flowers should be left in silica gel for no longer than a few days to a week to avoid over-drying.
Experience is probably the best way of determining how long a certain type of flower or a general size of flower should dry in silica gel for.
How To Recharge Silica Gel
Fortunately, the crystals from silica gel are reusable. Therefore, you can use them repeatedly to dry blooms, but they may need some recharging at times. So, if you get it wrong the first time, try some other flowers.
It won’t be long until you get the timing perfect!
To recharge silica gel, you can follow these steps:
- Preheat your oven to 250 °F (120 °C).
- Spread the used silica gel out evenly on a baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake the silica gel for about one to two hours, depending on how much gel you have, and how saturated it became during the flower drying process.
- Periodically check the silica gel during the baking process to ensure that it doesn’t overheat or start to burn.
- Once the silica gel is completely dry, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Store the recharged silica gel in an airtight container until you are ready to use it again.
It’s important to note that silica gel can only be recharged a certain number of times before it loses its effectiveness. Over time, the gel will become saturated with moisture and will need to be replaced.
If you notice that your silica gel is no longer effective at drying flowers, it’s time to replace it with fresh gel.
Does Silica Gel Keep Flowers Preserved Forever?
Whilst silica gel is an effective way to preserve flowers, it does not keep them preserved forever.
While silica gel can help to dry out and preserve the shape and color of flowers, it does not prevent the natural deterioration that occurs over time.
With time, even flowers that have been dried and preserved with silica gel will eventually begin to fade and become brittle. Factors such as exposure to sunlight, temperature, and humidity can all contribute to the deterioration of preserved flowers.
However, when stored properly in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, flowers that have been preserved with silica gel can last for several years or even longer.
In general, the lifespan of preserved flowers will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of flower, the quality of the preservation process, and the storage conditions.
It’s also worth noting that some flowers are more suitable for preservation with silica gel than others.
Flowers with thin petals, such as roses, daisies, and carnations, tend to dry well with silica gel, while flowers with thicker or more fleshy petals, such as hydrangeas or peonies, may require a different preservation method.
Silica Gel Dried Flowers – How Long Do They Last?
There’s no doubt that drying flowers using silica gel is one of the best, most effective techniques. Nevertheless, other methods may result in your flowers lasting longer. This is because flowers dried in silica gel tend to be more fragile.
How long the flowers last depends on various factors, such as how long they were dried for, the way they were dried, the surrounding moisture level, and if they are on show in a suitable, protected area away from sunlight and moisture.
There are numerous estimates on the true longevity of dried flowers but when stored properly, silica gel dried flowers can last for several years.
When it comes to storage, silica gel dried flowers should be kept in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to help prevent fading and deterioration.
Ideally, they should be stored in an airtight container or bag to keep moisture and air out. Some people also recommend adding a packet of silica gel to the storage container to help absorb any excess moisture that may be present.
In general, flowers with thinner petals tend to dry better with silica gel than flowers with thicker or more fleshy petals. Roses, daisies, and carnations are some examples of flowers that tend to dry well with silica gel.
With proper storage, silica gel dried flowers can last for several years and make beautiful keepsakes or decorations.
However, it’s important to note that even with the best storage conditions, over time, the flowers will still gradually lose their color and shape.
If you have a beautiful bouquet of flowers that you can’t stand the thought of losing, why not preserve them? Follow our silicon gel process above and you can enjoy your beautiful bloom for years rather than a week or so.
Let us know how you get on with this method!