How to Use a Flower Press

How to Use a Flower Press and Tips for Pressing Flowers and Leaves

How to use a flower press with tips for collecting, preparing, and pressing flowers and leaves for best results.  

I can count the years that I’ve watched spring come to life on our hillside. Yellow forsythia star-shaped flowers and cheery daffodils are always the first teases of spring. Followed by pink buds on our redbud trees that remind me of a merry-go-round, at a closer look. 

Midway up the hill, countless varieties of tiny blue and purple wildflowers cover the ground. My daughter has been bringing these to me in her tiny fists since she could walk. At four years old, she began to put them in water and place them near a sunny window. Ensuring me that they will grow since rain and sunshine make flowers grow. 

Unfortunately, most of these delicate spring blooms only last a few days after being picked. I understood my daughter’s disappointment when the flowers drooped instead of growing taller. 

Luckily there’s a simple way to preserve spring and summer blooms!

I briefly shared about pressing flowers in my tutorial for making clear soap with pressed flowers. But, after preserving flowers from our hillside, woodlands, and walks, I thought it was time I go into more detail with tips for collecting, preparing, and pressing flowers and leaves for best results. 

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25 leaves, herbs, and flowers best for flower pressing!

What flowers are best for pressing?

You don’t have to venture far to discover an abundance of flowers during the spring and summer months. Making these seasons the best time to learn how to use a flower press. While I wish every bloom dried just as it appears on its stem, not all flowers press well. So, how do you know what flowers are best for pressing? 

When it comes to flower pressing, much of it comes down to testing and patience. Without testing different flowers and leaves, you may never know what will retain its color best or hold its shape well. 

In general, you’ll want to pick flowers and leaves that have naturally flat blooms or thin parts. These will always be the easiest to press. 

Another thing to consider is your purpose for pressing flowers. Are you going to use them to make stationery such as bookmarks and greeting cards? Or do you intend to use them to make jewelry, coasters, soap, or candles? Your purpose should help define your selection. 

For example, if you want to know how to press flowers for framing, consider how the flowers will lay in the frame, in a grouping, and the composition you have in mind. A great tip I recently read is to pick flowers in stages of their growth—a more scientific approach but very pleasing to the eye after framing. 

No matter what you intend to do with pressed flowers, here is a list of the best flowers and leaves for pressing, I’ve come across:

25 Flowers, Leaves, and Herbs to Press

  1. Violets
  2. Bluebonnets
  3. Daffodils
  4. Eucalyptus
  5. Lavender
  6. Single-Petal Roses
  7. Hydrangeas
  8. Forget-Me-Nots
  9. Bluebells
  10. Yarrow
  11. Poppies
  12. Lambs Ear
  13. Snow Drops
  14. Crocuses
  15. Thyme
  16. Larkspur
  17. Ferns
  18. Clematis
  19. Queen Anne’s Lace
  20. Clover
  21. Pansies
  22. Geranium
  23. Sage
  24. Delphinium
  25. Anemones 

If you’re pressing flowers or leaves from a bouquet or arrangement, avoid those sprayed with glitter or paint. These will always turn brown due to chemicals. 

Tips for Collecting and Preparing Herbs, Leaves, and Flowers for Pressing

Tips for Collecting and Preparing Herbs, Leaves, and Flowers for Pressing

Your specimens won’t last long after picking, especially flowers and especially if the temperature is warm. Wilting flowers and leaves just aren’t worth pressing. So here are tips I find usual for collecting and preparing herbs, leaves, and flowers for pressing. 

When Collecting:

  • Pick flowers, leaves, and herbs in the morning hours after the dew has evaporated. 
  • For vibrant colors, plunge each specimen into water immediately after cutting. Ask your local florist for a flower tube. It’s a plastic tube with a lid designed to fill with water and keep flowers fresh. Another option is to use a thermos or water bottle. 
  • Harvest leaves and herbs before they reach their peak. And select flowers that look like they are just ready to open their buds. 

To Prepare:

  • Fill a bucket with water. Then hold stems underwater and recut at an angle allowing for the best water absorption. The fresher each specimen is, the better the color will be and the less the likelihood of browning.  
  • Next, begin to separately lay each bloom, leaf, and herb you’ve collected onto a flour sack towel to dry. (I find they stick to other types of towels.) You don’t want to press anything wet or damp. 
  • Blot excess moisture with blotting paper as needed or recut stems to remove wet parts. 
  • If any items have stamens such as a lily, remove them, so the pollen doesn’t stain. For roses, carefully peel petals to press. 

All in all, pressing flowers, leaves, or herbs as soon as possible after picking will give you the best results. However, it’s good to keep in mind plants will not retain their exact color no matter how quickly you worked or how well you prepared them. It’s a natural process, and plants will slowly fade over the years as well. But don’t let that discourage you. I find it’s a part of what makes flower pressing so interesting. 

Supplies For Pressing Flowers

Now that you’ve learned a handful of tips for collecting and preparing for flower pressing, I’m sure you’re ready to learn how to use a flower press. But, before you get started, make sure you have these supplies on hand: 

Wood Flower Press: a classic wood flower press will give you the best results. It’s made of two wood boards, a screw system or leather straps, and blotting paper. They’ve been in use since Victorian times. 

Blotting Paper: I’ve tried other things like printer paper, paper towels, and wax paper, and none work as well as blotting paper. Wax paper can retain moisture and cause mold. And paper towels will leave an imprint on plants, for example. In a pinch, white tissue paper or parchment paper can work. 

How to use a flower press with tips for collecting, preparing, and pressing flowers and leaves for best results.

How to Use a Flower Press:  

  1. Cut blotting paper to fit the size of your wood flower press.
  2. After pressing as detailed above, arrange a collection on 1 pre-cut sheet of blotting paper without plants overlapping. 
  3. After arranging plants, cover with a second sheet of blotting paper to create a sandwich. 
  4. Repeat until you have arranged each plant for pressing into a “sandwich”. 
  5. Next, stack “sandwiches” of plants between the two wood boards of the press. (If your wood flower press has corrugated cardboard like mine, place the stack in between these first. See the reference below.)
  6. Then tightly close with screws or leather straps depending on your wood flower press. 

For reference a flower press should go in this order:

  • Wood Board
  • Cardboard
  • Blotting Paper – sandwich part 1
  • Flowers and Plants – sandwich part 2
  • Blotting Paper – sandwich part 3
  • (repeat here as needed for additional 3 part sandwiches)
  • Cardboard
  • Wood Board

How long do you leave flowers in a flower press?

Flowers and plants typically dry in 1 to 2 weeks. Store your flower press away from heat or direct sunlight in a dry place. For thicker plants replace blotting paper and dry for an additional 1 to 2 weeks. 

Trial and error will teach how to place each bloom to look their best when pressed. I often test different ways to arrange leaves and blooms on one or two blotting paper sandwiches for every new plant I press. 

I’m so glad I learned how to use a flower press! Pressed flowers, leaves, and herbs are beautiful framed, tucked into cards, and made into jewelry. What are your flower pressing plans? I’d love to hear your ideas—tag #farmhousechicliving on Instagram to share them with me. And don’t forget to pin these easy techniques on how to use flower press.