What Is Plant Preservation? A Guide for Beginners

A collection of orange lilies in a brown vase with a white and orange zig-zag pattern around the middle.

Plants and flowers go through seasonal cycles and change their appearance as they grow and age. Though they spread using shoots, seeds, and pollination, the natural life cycle of most plants means that their beauty is fleeting. 

You might be tempted to pick attractive blossoms to take them home. However, wildflowers and plants start to wither and lose shape and color when separated from their roots. It only takes a couple of hours, or less, before the appearance of harvested plants starts to change for the worse. 

Some species of flowers perk up when placed in water, but even these bouquets have a limited lifespan. It can be quite disappointing when roses from a wedding or Valentine’s Day start drooping after a couple of days. 

There are preservation methods that allow you to keep these plants in their most attractive form. These methods work for most leafy or flowering plants. For example, it is possible to preserve roses in their original colors or keep wildflowers or ferns in their most picturesque mid-summer incarnations. 

There are several plant-preservation methods, each of which offers a different set of benefits. The best option depends on the type of plant and what you plan to do with your preserved specimens. You can also obtain flowers and plants from a specialist who is skilled in the art of preservation. 

Here are a few tips you’ll want to know if you’re going to preserve plants.

Benefits of Preserved Plants

There are advantages to purchasing preserved flowers or collecting and drying or pressing them yourself.

  • Preserved plants are maintenance-free. After you handle the preservation process, the specimens require little to no care. You do not have to worry about over or underwatering, changing soil, adding nutrients, or removing dried or dead leaves. These bouquets also do not require special lighting or climate controls like living plants.

  • Preserved plants are eco-friendly. Preserved plants are biodegradable, so they do not have the plastics often used in artificial flowers, and they do not use water or fertilizers like fresh-cut plants.

  • Preserved plants are suitable for multiple settings. Preserved flowers can serve as decor for a special occasion like a wedding and add color and style to your home’s interior design afterward. 

  • Preserved flowers last for a long time. Professionally preserved flowers can last from one to three years with proper care. Keeping them away from direct UV rays and HVAC vents can help them reach their full potential lifespan. 

  • Preserved plants offer better overall value than fresh-cut flowers. Fresh-cut flowers are typically cheaper, but they only last for a week, even with proper care. 

    • For premium flowers like roses, preserved options provide a lot more value. A dried arrangement might cost several hundred dollars and last up to three years. Maintaining the same arrangement using fresh-cut flowers would require weekly replacement, so the cost would be thousands of dollars over the same period. 

How can you take advantage of these benefits? While it is possible to purchase premium preserved flowers, you can also easily learn to make your own. 

How To Preserve Plants

There is more than one method for preserving plants. If you can learn the techniques correctly, you can maintain the natural appearance of the flowers and shrubs that you collect. 

Collecting Material

The process of preserving plants starts when you collect your materials. Here are some rules to follow to ensure this first step goes smoothly. 

  • You want to ensure that you get the best possible specimens. You need to select flowers that are in full bloom and plants that are at the peak of their color. You should also ensure that they are the correct size for your needs. 

  • The time of day also matters. Dew adheres to plants in the mornings, so you will want to wait until later in the morning when this moisture has dried before you begin collecting. Damp plants may lead to mold or fungus growth. 

    • However, if you have a bouquet of cut flowers, such as roses, you will want to keep them in a vase with water until you are ready to preserve them. 

  • If you are worried about crushing the leaves or petals, you can transport your collections back home in a box. If you are concerned about the leaves or petals wilting, you can wrap the specimens in a damp paper towel. 

  • Generally, you want to have as little time as possible between picking the plants and beginning the preservation process. If you want to take time selecting your plants, you can mark them as you go and wait until right before you leave for home to cut them. 

There are four different ways to preserve flowers and plants. 

Different Ways To Preserve Plant Material

The best preservation method depends on the type of plant, how long your plan to keep it, and the types of materials you have on hand. 

  • Pressing works best for flowers with flat heads, such as buttercups and violets. Flat plants, such as ferns, also respond well to pressing. 
    • The pressing process involves ensuring the flower is clean and dry before placing it in between several sheets of paper. You then place a heavy object, such as a thick book, over the paper. 

    • You can stack several plants under the book, provided there is paper separating each one. 

    • You should leave the flowers under the book for two to four weeks, then carefully peel the paper away and let them dry for an additional week. 

  • Drying works best if you want the plant to maintain a three-dimensional shape. Daisies and sunflowers respond well to drying, and you can also try this method with roses.

    • The simplest option is to hang-dry the plants. You can hang flowers by the stem with the head pointing downward. This method takes about two weeks and requires a warm, dry place to be effective. 

    • You can place the flower head-up in sand or a similar mixture that will wick the moisture away. After sprinkling a fine layer over the head of the flower, you place everything in a 250-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Glycerin is a chemical that can replace the water in plants. You simply place the stem in a mixture of one part glycerin and two parts water. After two weeks, the glycerin will replace the water in the plant and preserve it. 

The final step is to decide what to do with your preserved plants. 

How To Share Preserved Plants With Others

You can preserve flowers for a variety of reasons. They might serve as long-lasting decorations or personal keepsakes. You can also use preservation methods to keep bouquets from special occasions, such as weddings, proms, or anniversaries. 

Some people also attach special meaning to different colors of flowers. If you adopt this practice, your gift can have an extra dimension of meaningfulness. 

Preserved plants can also be used to mark special events instead of fresh flowers. These long-lasting blooms are excellent gifts for anniversaries, birthdays, Mother’s Day, or retirement parties. For example, your loved one will be able to enjoy preserved roses for several years after Valentine’s Day instead of the several days they would get from fresh-cut flowers. 

Preserved flowers are also a great gift for employees or colleagues. These plants can help to start a trend of eco-friendly gifting within an office.

Plant preservation has a very diverse range of applications. It can serve as a hobby for flower lovers, a way to create keepsakes from special occasions, or an option for giving meaningful gifts.

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