Growing Flowers for Drying
In general flowers prefer growing in full sun and in well-drained, neutral pH soil.
Flowers are grown at Keuka Flower Farm in full sun, USDA Hardiness Zone 6a and fairly heavy silt loam soil.
All flowers are either directly seeded in the fields or more commonly, transplanted into the fields. We use plug trays to grow our seedlings and these 'plugs' are set into the
ground via a turn of the century cabbage setter (see transplanter image).
Like most of the Northeast, our soils tend to be more acidic, therefore we do use lime. For the home grower, we recommend using hydrated lime which can be purchased at most farm or garden
centers. Sprinkle the lime around the plant (side dress) and work it into the soil with a fork. You can do this in the fall or spring (hydrated lime begins working immediately).
Flowers also require sufficient water which could be of particular concern if you have sandy soils. We have fairly heavy soils, which retain a lot of moisture. This can be of some benefit
during drought periods particularly since we do not irrigate our fields.
Harvesting Flowers for Drying
It is best to cut your flowers in the morning hours after the dew has evaporated from the plants. Once cut, group stems into bunches using rubber bands (pure rubber
rubber bands work best) and remove them from the sunlight as soon as possible.
There are definite developmental times which are best for cutting flowers for drying. This can be very specific for different plants or even different cultivators of the same plant.
In general, it is best to pick immature flowers (ones that are not completely open) since flowers continue to open during the drying process. If you pick a flower at the time that it
looks perfect, it will continue to open while drying, leaving you with a flower past that perfect stage. Most people pick flowers too late in development.
For example, have you ever seen a pretty dried rose? If you really look at it, the flower is still fairly closed. Avoid harvesting flowers too mature in development. Such flowers will
generally shed upon drying and will not hold up well in arrangements.
We offer specific picking and growing recommendations for each flower we grow. Just click on any dried flower name on any of our lists to obtain a wealth of specific information including
With only a few exceptions, we air dry all our flowers. We simple hang flower bunches upside down on wire (over two miles of it is stretched in our circa 1860 barns).
The barns offer ideal conditions: 1) darkness; 2) very good airflow; 3) cool updrafts; 4) perfect (usually) humidity levels. Once you have cut your flowers, it is important to remove
them from the sunlight as soon as possible. This, along with drying in the dark, is the most important factor in maintaining good color.
Technical Note: Fading of a color pigment is an oxidation chemical reaction, which requires water and light. When you cut the flower it contains water (that is what we are trying
to remove). Thus, we remove the light during drying and inhibit the reaction. Once the water is removed we can reintroduce the now dried flower into the light. Any fading which subsequently
occurs as a result of the dried flower reabsorbing moisture and reacting with the now present light.
Hang your bunches in a well ventilated attic, large closet, or even a dark shed or garage. Hanging lines can be made out of rope or wire (we use 14-gauge fence wire). The reason we
hang flowers upside down is simple to maintain straight stems. If you dried flowers right side up, they would bend over (like a wilting flower) and you would end up with dried flowers
with distorted stems. With this in mind, there are a few flowers that have woody stems (e.g. hydrangea) or very light flowers (e.g. Baby's Breath) which do not require hanging.
Duration of drying time depends on many factors including humidity, temperature, airflow, and the type of flower you are drying. In certain conditions, some flowers can dry in 24 hours.
A dried flower should feel stiff and dry, not limp or damp.
If you are picking only flower heads, you can set them on newspaper or a sheet spread out on a counter or floor to dry (in a dark room). You can expedite the drying process by placing
them on a screen.
Enjoying Dried Flowers
In general, dried flowers should remain out of direct sunlight while you enjoy them in their final state. This will minimize fading over time. We also suggest not
to place dried flowers in the path of forced air heat registers. This extremely dry air is very hard on dried flower structure (causes shattering).
Suggestion for use of dried flowers would include wreaths, swags (vertical and horizontal), sheaths, bouquets, and sprays. Simply hanging dried flowers in a room can be very appealing.
Also, placing clusters of bunches in a basket, as though you just came in from a garden, is most attractive.
In the future: We plan to offer virtual clinics on wreath and swag making, and table arrangements. Presently we do offer wreath and swag making demonstrations during our August Flower
Farm Open House Weekend.
Care of Dried Flowers
Routine dusting can be accomplished using a real feather duster or hair blow dryer on its lowest setting.
Storing Dried Flowers
We recommend wrapping the flowers in newspaper and placing them in a cardboard box. Do not store the box containing the dried flowers where it is unusually damp (some basements)
or very dry (some attics). Also, a lot of people think you should never store dried flowers outside (it would be way to cold). This is simply not true. Temperatures are not important.
In fact, a garage can be an ideal place for storing dried flowers. Actually, if your home is heated by forced air, the preferred place to store dried flowers would be in a outside building
away from the dry heat.
Word of caution: if you do store your dried flowers outside, make sure you protect them from small rodents and insects (a few mothballs will work).