Pressing flowers is an easy way to preserve the beautiful blooms from your garden. You can use them to add a floral handmade touch to cards and gifts or frame them in a design.
Flower pressing is simple but you will need some supplies like newspaper, cardboard, or facial tissues and something heavy to press the flowers in. The goal is to quickly dry them out before they turn brown so that the vibrant colors are preserved.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to press flowers, from the four different methods you can use to selecting the right blooms.
Which Flowers Can Be Pressed?
Just about any type of flower can be pressed, but some are more difficult than others. The easiest ones are those with flat blooms. These will dry out quickly and easily fit into flower presses.
Flowers like pansies, violets, primrose, single-petal roses, single-petal cosmos, and daisies are good ones to start out with.
You can still press bulkier flowers like carnations and double-petal roses or cosmos, but it will take a little more attention to detail. You’ll need to use a method that will help them to dry out quickly enough so that they don’t start to develop mold.
Pansies and violets are the perfect flowers to press, especially if you’re a beginner, because they already have flat blooms.
Another method for larger and globe-shaped flowers is to cut the bloom in half. This makes it easier to press and gives you many more flower options.
Some flowers, like lilies, will usually have pollen left on the stamens. You’ll want to cut these off before pressing so that the pollen won’t stain your flowers.
Besides flowers, you can also press decorative leaves like ferns or maple. Or you may want to use the leaves that go with the flowers you’re pressing to be part of your design later.
Selecting and Picking Your Flowers
When you’re ready to pick the flowers you’ll be pressing, choose ones that have just bloomed or are right before their peak bloom.
The flowers will lose a little color when pressed. The more vibrant the blooms are when you pick them, the more color they’ll retain.
Freshness is also key. You want to pick flowers the same day you plan to press them. Look for ones that are free of any tears or blemishes. Don’t harvest any that look wilted or past their prime.
Harvest the flowers you want just after they open up or right before they reach peak bloom. Let the morning dew evaporate before you pick them so that they will dry out quickly.
If you are harvesting in the wild, a good rule of thumb is to only harvest one out of twenty plants. This means for every one you pick, you need to make sure there are at least nineteen left. This prevents overharvesting and allows the plant population to recover.
The best time to harvest is in the morning after the dew has evaporated from the flowers. Choose a dry day (not during or after a rain shower). Wet flowers are likely to develop mold.
Conditioning the Blooms
After harvesting, you can take a little extra time to condition the blooms before you press them. This step is optional but will help your flowers to keep more of their vibrant colors.
You’ll need a vase (or vases) to put the flowers in, scissors, water, and flower food (the kind you would use to keep a bouquet of flowers fresh).
Pick your flowers by cutting them with 6-8” of stem left. Immediately after bringing them in, hold the stems in a glass of water or a sink filled with a few inches of water.
Then, take your scissors and cut off the bottom of the stems at an angle. (This allows them to draw up more water.) Remove any leaves that you don’t want and place them in a vase filled with water that has been mixed with the flower food.
To condition the flowers before pressing, place them in a vase or jar with a few inches of water and some flower food. Don’t get any parts of the flower or stem wet that you plant to press.
The idea is to hydrate the blooms so that they will be in the best possible condition before you press them. What you don’t want to do is get water on the blooms or any leaves or stems that will be pressed.
To avoid this, only fill up the vase with enough water to cover the bottom of the stems but not enough to reach any part of the flower that will be pressed.
After a few hours, take the flowers out and cut them into your desired length, making sure you cut off all wet parts of stem. You can also cut larger blooms in half at this time.
How to Press Flowers
There are four main methods for pressing flowers: books, a flower press, ironing, and microwaving.
You can try out all four to see which one works best for you or do the one that seems easiest.
How to Press Flowers Using a Book
One of the easiest ways to press flowers is by using a book. You’ll want to use a heavy book and will also need some type of absorbent paper and extra weights (such as more books).
For the paper you can use coffee filters, parchment paper, tissue paper, very thin cardboard, blotting paper, etc. Avoid corrugated coffee filters or anything with its own texture (like paper towels) that would end up imprinted on your flowers.
After you’ve prepared your flowers, open your book close to the middle.
Place the flowers between two sheets of paper. You can do this by laying down a sheet of paper, putting your flower on top, and then placing another sheet of paper over it. Or you can use a larger sheet of paper and fold it over.
Use a heavy book to put the flower(s) in and then stack other books or another type of weight on top to keep the pressure on your flowers as they dry.
Once your flower is covered by the paper, lay it flat inside the book and close the book, making sure the flower remains in position.
If you are pressing multiple flowers, leave about ⅛” of pages in between each pressing. Then, stack more books or another type of weight on top of the closed book to keep it very flat and firmly in place.
It should take 3-4 weeks for the flowers to dry out fully. You can check them in 1-2 weeks to see how they are doing and to replace the paper if needed.
You’ll know the blooms are done when they have a dry and papery texture. Remove them carefully with your fingers or a pair of tweezers, since they will be delicate and easy to break.
Using a Flower Press
A flower press is specifically designed for pressing flowers. It’s made up of two strong boards usually held together with wingnuts and bolts.
You can buy a flower press or make your own DIY version.
To make your own, you’ll need two rectangles cut out of plywood. You can cut them whatever size you need them to be, but a standard size is 9” by 12”.
Make sure the boards line up correctly when stacked on top of each other and drill holes in each corner of both boards. Tighten the boards together with wingnuts and bolts to make sure your DIY press works, and you’re all set!
Now, you can use the same method as before to prepare your flowers and place them between two sheets of paper.
Take the top board off your flower press and lay the flower folded in paper down on the bottom board. Make sure it is flat and where you want it, then place the top board gently back on. Press the board down to hold the flower in place and tighten the wingnuts back on.
The advantage of a flower press is that it’s much smaller than a stack of books and easier to move around. The disadvantage is that it’s harder to press multiple flowers at once since you would need a separate press or layer for each one.
Once again, it will take about 3-4 weeks for the flowers to fully dry out. Check them at the 1 or 2 week mark and replace the paper as needed.
How to Press Flowers With an Iron
If you don’t want to wait 3 or 4 weeks for your flowers to dry, you can try the ironing method.
First, fold the flower you want to press between two sheets of paper (parchment paper is a good choice for this method). Place a heavy book or another type of weight on top of the paper to make the bloom flatter and easier to iron.
Turn your iron onto low and make sure it’s empty of water. You don’t want to steam the flower and add moisture back in since the objective is to dry it out.
Once the iron is ready, remove the book/weight and move the paper enclosed flower to your ironing board. Press the iron down onto the top sheet of paper for about 15 seconds. Hold the iron in place during this time (no need to glide it like you would to iron clothes).
Using an iron will press and dry the flowers more quickly than using books or a traditional press. Just take care not to overheat the paper or flowers.
Let the paper cool for 10 to 15 seconds, then iron again for another 15 seconds. Repeat this process of ironing and cooling, checking your flower every so often to see how dry it is.
Once the flower becomes dry and papery, the process is complete. Be sure to press the iron and lift the paper gently since the flower will become more and more delicate and brittle.
How to Press Flowers in a Microwave
Microwaving your flowers helps to speed up the drying process but can also turn your flowers brown if you use too high a heat.
For the best results, you might want to invest in a pre-made microwave press. These are designed with vents to help the flowers dry thoroughly and without any metal parts.
You can also make a DIY microwave press using any one of several methods. One way is to use two ceramic tiles lined on each side with cardboard then parchment paper. You would put your flower in between the sheets of paper and use rubber bands to hold the tiles together.
Another method is to put a piece of parchment paper directly onto the microwave tray. Place the flower on top with another sheet of paper to cover it, and place a microwavable plate on top.
It may surprise you, but you can also microwave books as long as they have absolutely no metal parts to them (including staples). You would simply put the flower between two books lined with parchment paper. However, this can dry the pages out, so keep an eye on the books.
Once you have your flowers in your store-bought or homemade press, microwave on low heat for 30-60 seconds. Do not use high heat and don’t microwave for more than a minute at a time.
To keep the flowers from going brown or burning, only microwave for 30-60 seconds at a time. You can also buy a microwave press to get better results.
Let everything cool before checking on your flowers. You can repeat the 30-60 seconds of microwaving followed by a cooling period until the flowers are dry.
It’s recommended that you follow up by pressing your flowers in a flower press or book for two days after microwaving them. This allows them to fully dry out and will help preserve them.
Other Tips for Pressing Flowers
Now that you know the basics of how to press flowers, here are a few extra tips for smooth sailing:
- You want the flowers to dry out quickly to preserve as much color as possible. If you’re using books or a traditional flower press, place them somewhere warm to speed up the process. This could be a sunny ledge or next to a radiator or heating vent.
- If you’re pressing large flowers or stems with lots of liquid, you’ll want to change the paper around them more often. The paper is there to absorb extra moisture, so if it gets too wet, your flowers won’t dry out and will start to mold.
- To make realistic artwork, take different sized blooms, leaves, and stems from the same plant so that you can recreate the flower after pressing.
- Newspaper can work well to cover the flowers since it’s absorbent and sturdy, but make sure your plant material is dry before pressing. Otherwise, you could end up with the newsprint coming off on the flowers. If this is an issue, choose plain paper like parchment, flat coffee filters, or plain facial tissues.
Once you’ve correctly pressed your flowers, it’s time to get creative and put them to good use. There are many ways to use them to make artwork or add them to homemade gifts and cards.
What to Do With Your Pressed Flowers
Once you’ve successfully pressed your flowers, there are tons of ways to use them. Here are some ideas:
- Decorate cards to send out at holidays, use as invitations, or mail as thank yous.
- Make creative bookmarks with plain paper and your pressed flowers.
- Attach them to picture frames for one-of-a kind photo holders.
- Use them to make herbarium sheets containing a recreation of the plant using pressed materials, botanical name of the plant, and other important notes or information.
- Glue them in a creative arrangement on a blank or painted canvas for unique artwork.
- Make them into a framed “photo” by arranging them in an empty glass frame and hanging it up in your house.
The possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to use your creativity!