Silica gel is a drying agent that draws out and absorbs moisture, it works well with fresh flowers and foliage. Mixed with the silica are small blue crystals called "tell-tale". When the silica gel has absorbed all of the moisture that it can, these crystals will turn pink. To reactivate the silica after it has absorbed its limit of moisture, simply spread it out in an oven-proof container and dry in a conventional oven at 250 to 300 degrees. Dry the silica until the tell-tale regains its original blue color. By drying the silica, it can be used over and over again. After drying, store in an air-tight container.
As a rule, light-colored flowers such as white roses, daisies and snapdragons, light pink carnations, roses and camellias, bright yellow and orange jonquils, marigolds and pansies, blue hydrangea and forget-me-nots and lavender asters will retain almost all of their original color when dried. Darker colors like deep red and dark purple will tend to darken to even deeper shades when dried.
Step by step conventional room drying;
Step 1...Covering the flowers with silica gel.
Using a cup or small scoop, pour silica gel around the edges of the flowers, gently shaking the container so the gel sifts under the petals. There should be 1 inch to 2 inches of silica surrounding all parts of the flowers.
Step 2...Cover the container and label with date and contents.
Snap lid onto container to make air-tight. For extra protection or if your lid tends to be loose, masking tape used around the lid helps. Labeling with the date and contents will aid you in not under or over drying as well as what type of flowers are in each container.
Flower drying chart;
Class of flower;
Jonquil, tulip, lily, orchid, pansy, and azalea..dry covered for 2 days. Doesn't need a second drying, but will need 1 day of surface drying.
daisy and marigold...dry covered 3 days. Doesn't need a second drying, but will need 2 days of surface drying
rose, carnation and camellia.... dry covered for 3 to 4 days, 2 days for the second drying and 1 to 2 days of surface drying.
Step 3...Checking for dryness;
To determine if the flowers are adequately dry, run your finger through the silica next to the outer edge of the container, where you are sure not to disturb the flower. As the gel falls away from the flower, exposing the petal tips, gently feel them with your fingers.
Step 4...Pouring off the silica;
Very carefully pour off silica gel until the flowers are uncovered. Rotate the container as you pour so flowers are uncovered evenly from all sides.
Step 5...Surface drying and calyx drying;
Many flowers must be dried in two stages. When the petals have dried but the centers or calyxes have not, finish by surface and calyx drying. Flat flowers with thick heavy centers should be placed on the surface of the silica to complete drying. On flowers that have heavy calyxes, push the calyx down into the silica gel, allowing the petals to remain above the surface.
Step 6...Cleaning the flowers;
Clean your dried flowers by gently blowing away the silica gel. Any remaining crystals that cling may be removed by carefully brushing with a fine artist's brush.
Step 7...Securing a stem wire to the dried flower;
To add a new stem, make a small loop on the end of the wire and secure to the back of the flower with a quick drying glue or a hot glue gun. On flowers with heavy centers and calyxes, stems may be placed into the back of the flower using a needle to puncture a hole and then gluing the stem up inside the flower.
Step 8...Cover the stem with floral tape;
After the stem is secured to the flower, finish by wrapping with floral tape, securing foliage to the stem as you wrap.
Step 9...Sealing the flower;
Spray fragile flowers with a clear matte sealer to add extra strength. Sealer also helps to prevent excessive fading of your flowers.
Microwave oven drying;
The big plus to this drying method is that it is almost foolproof, allows you to complete a project in only a day to 2 days and retains more color than conventional room drying techniques.
To begin follow Step 1 in conventional room drying. After covering flowers with silica, carefully place a microwave thermometer into silica gel, making sure it does not touch the bottom or sides of container. Try to remember the placement of the flowers so you don't injure them with the thermometer.
Place the container, uncovered, in the center of the microwave. Always be sure to place a glass of water in the back of the oven for the protection of the microwave. Bring the temperature up to 200 to 220 degrees F. by operating the oven 30 to 60 seconds at a time, until temperature is reached.
Finish by following conventional drying method Steps 6 through 9.
Microwave do's and don't;
1...Never use wire stems of any kind. Wooden toothpicks are best.
2...Always place a glass of water in a rear corner of the oven, this is to protect your microwave.
3...Do not close silica gel container with a cover after drying until silica has cooled down to room temperature, thus preventing entrapment of rising steam.
4...Drying time will vary in microwave drying, according to the amount of moisture in the silica gel being used. Very dry silica is much faster.
5...After bringing temperature up to 200 to 220 degrees it MUST be cooled down to room temperature before flowers can be removed. If the silica is disturbed before then it will distort the shape of the flowers. The key to success is to be patient.
Once your project is finished an important thing to remember is to protect your flowers from the harmful ultra-violet rays of direct sunlight. All flowers will age with time or gradually fade, but this happens slowly.
Never mix more than one type of flower in one container. Use different ones for each type. Flowers dry at different rates.
To store dried flowers until you have enough to begin your project, place them face up in an air-tight container of silica gel. The container should have about 2 inches of gel in it, just enough to hold them upright, keeping them dry, even during warm and humid weather. If flowers are stored in a glass jar or other see through container store away from sunlight or bright light to avoid fading.
Sometimes during drying or arranging flowers may break or lose petals. Repair from the back with quick drying glue or hot glue gun.