Sunflowers are a regal, stunning trademark of the warmest months and the first cool blushes of autumn. There may be any number of reasons you would want to preserve them—from keepsakes of memorable occasions to a bright addition for home décor and even for eating the seeds!
Read on to learn how to dry sunflowers for any cause or occasion, and preserve their elegance and beauty in a number of ways.
Reasons to Dry and Preserve Sunflowers
Learning how to dry sunflowers is a timeless tradition. Often they are kept as keepsakes or memorials to remember a certain event. They also make for fantastic gifts and are a great way to make the most out of the sunflowers you spent a season growing and tending to.
Sunflowers are also some of the most beautiful flowers out there, with their distinct contrast of colors and their size making them ideal for all kinds of decorative purposes (check out some of these craft ideas for inspiration!).
There is also a nutritional option for drying sunflowers! The seeds make for a great snack, and if you’ve already grown the sunflowers yourself, this tasty treat comes at no extra cost.
These are just a few reasons you may want to learn how to dry sunflowers and preserve them.
How to Dry Sunflowers For Decoration
The first crucial step for how to dry sunflowers for decoration is to select the right sunflowers for the task! While the natural inclination may be to go for the largest sunflowers most fully in bloom, the opposite is actually the goal.
When it comes to drying sunflowers for decorating, you want to aim for flowers that are partially open and on the small to medium side, prior to developing seeds. You also want a good, symmetrical flowerhead, with any dead leaves removed from around the head.
Once you have selected your sunflowers, you will want to cut them with a good-sized stem. 6 to 8 inches is usually the best range. Be sure to use a quality, sharp pair of shears or garden scissors to avoid tearing the stem!
Now it’s time for the meat and bones of how to dry sunflowers!
Take your flowers and tie some twine or yarn around the base of the stem, near where you made the cut. You can tie up individual flowers or bundle as many as 3 together, depending on your space availability and how many sunflowers you’re drying. Just be sure the heads don’t touch!
Find somewhere dark and dry, and hang your sunflowers upside-down, heads toward the floor. You can do this in a closet, attic, garage, or even a cabinet that doesn’t see a lot of use.
Alternatively, if you don’t have twine or yarn, you can place your drying sunflowers in a vase and store the vase in the same kind of dark, dry place. This will affect how the petals arch as they dry, but some prefer the look of sunflowers dried upright.
The next step for how to dry sunflowers is arguably the longest one: you have to wait 2 to 3 weeks while your sunflowers undergo the natural air-drying process. Patience is key here…you don’t want to jostle or move your sunflowers until they are completely dry.
Once your sunflowers have reached a fully dry stage, take a cannister of hairspray and spray them with a fine, even, single coat. This will help preserve them at their dried stage, maintaining their color and freshness.
At this point, you can place your dried sunflowers anywhere you like for a lovely pop of color and vibrancy in your décor!
You also have the option to dry sunflowers for decoration using a drying agent. This involves placing the trimmed sunflower heads in about 1 inch of a homemade drying solution, such as silica gel, equal parts borax and cornmeal and salt, or borax, sand, and salt if you want to flatten your sunflower heads a bit.
These sunflowers should be left in the drying agent in a sealed, airtight container such as Tupperware for 1 to 2 weeks in a cool, dark area.
How to Dry Sunflowers for Keepsakes
Sunflowers are often staples in the most special occasions. From wedding bouquets to prom corsages, to sweet 16 hairstyles and first-date gifts and beyond, there is no end to where you might find a sunflower bearing significance in someone’s life!
Some people identify sunflowers as part of their personal aesthetic. Some have grown them during unforgettable seasons they always want to cherish. And if you or someone you know falls into one of these categories, knowing how to dry sunflowers can help you preserve those memories and honor that aesthetic for many years to come.
The first step to learning how to dry sunflowers for keepsakes is to select your preservation method. This could be a shadowbox for an average sunflower head, for example, or necklaces where you might sprinkle on the dried sunflower leaves or smaller heads and then cover them in epoxy. You can also make coasters or other resin keepsakes with sunflower heads.
Next, follow the same steps for how to dry sunflowers for decoration—but this time, at the end, trim the sunflower stem off just behind the head.
If you are using a shadowbox or layered frame, you may want to use decoupage, scrapbooking paper, or other valuable items to decorate the backdrop of the shadowbox. Once you have done this, you can pin the sunflower to the shadowbox backing and place a dollop of hot glue to hold it in place.
If you are using a dried sunflower as a keepsake in a scrapbook, you will want to slip it into a plastic sleeve, pocket page, or cover it in a sealant or mod podge. This will prevent it from cracking, crumbling, or rotting if it becomes moist over time.
You can also use dry sunflowers for keepsakes by suspending them in resin for coasters, or using clear glue or epoxy to affix them to necklace backing. In this instance, you can dry the flowers by hanging them, or pressing them in a book to help flatten and dry them simultaneously.
How to Dry Sunflowers for Eating
Sunflower seeds are among the most beloved and nutritious snacks around the world. Learning how to dry sunflowers for eating will help you make the most of sunflowers in your landscaping or garden and help you save money on buying sunflower seeds to eat as well!
The first step for how to dry sunflowers for eating is to let them progress past full maturity and begin to decline. In the best-case scenario, you will want to let them dry out in the heat and sunlight, staking them if possible to keep them from weakening too much.
Once your sunflower head has lost its petals and the head is heavy and droopy, with the back of the flowerhead turning a deep yellow-brown, tie a cheesecloth or bag over the head and affix the mouth shut with twine.
This step will help prevent birds and squirrels from making a move on your sunflower seeds before you can harvest them. It will also help catch any seeds that fall from the sunflower head before you harvest them.
Once the sunflower heads are completely dried out and all or mostly bereft of petals—which should be another few weeks after they begin to droop—it’s time for the next step in how to dry sunflowers for eating!
You can trim the stems close to the head and use a fork, stiff brush, or even your hand to simply brush the sunflower seeds loose from the head. Then, it’s time to process the seeds by removing any clinging pieces of flower or plant residue and placing the clean seeds into a gallon of water mixed with 1 cup of salt.
Allow the seeds to soak in the saltwater mixture for a minimum of 8 hours, then strain them and spread them on a cookie sheet or in a shallow plan. Heat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and finish drying the seeds for 5 hours.
Now it’s time to enjoy your sunflower seeds! You can also place them in the freezer in an airtight container for later. They will keep for up to a year.
If aren’t able to finish drying your sunflowers in the outdoors before harvesting the seeds—perhaps due to inclement weather, pests, relentless birds and squirrels, or the like—you aren’t without options! You can finish this method for how to dry sunflowers by cutting the stem of your still-drying sunflowers about a foot below the flowerhead and hanging them to dry as you would for decoration.
Be sure to let the sunflowers dry out completely in a dark, dry place, watching for that characteristic yellow-brown backing. At that point, you can remove the seeds as you normally would, bake them, and enjoy!
Other Methods for How to Dry Sunflowers
There are a few other methods for how to dry sunflowers that can work well for both decoration and keepsakes!
You can bake sunflowers in an oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit and check them every 15 to 20 minutes until they reach a paper-like consistency. Alternatively, you can microwave them on a paper towel in 20 second spurts for a total of 1 to 2 minutes to achieve the same effect.
For flatter flowers and a vintage look, you can use a press or a book weighed down by another heavy item to flatten and dry the flowers. Just make sure the pages are acid-free.
Wrapping Up How to Dry Sunflowers
Learning how to dry sunflowers is a valuable skill to make the most of sunflowers you grow, use in cherished moments, and more!
If you’d like to learn about great sunflower varieties to grow and dry next season, check out our Sunflowers page for different varieties, tips on sunflower care, and so much more.