Everything You Need to Know About Drying Zinnias at Home
Zinnias are famed for producing bountiful crops of gorgeous cut flowers for vases and bouquets. These productive annuals come in several stunning cultivars and a wide range of colors. Zinnias also make fantastic dried flowers, allowing you to enjoy them even when the flowering season is over. In this article, we’ll run through everything you need to know about how to dry and preserve zinnia flowers at home.
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- How to Dry and Preserve Zinnia Flowers – The Essentials
- About Zinnias
- When to Pick Zinnia Flowers For Drying and Preserving
- Key Considerations When Cutting Zinnia Flowers For Drying
- How to Dry and Preserve Zinnia Flowers
- How to Press Zinnia Flowers
- Wrapping Up
How to Dry and Preserve Zinnia Flowers – The Essentials
You can harvest zinnias for drying at any time during the blooming season. Choose recently opened flowers with firm stems. To dry your zinnia flowers, use a cardboard box and some silica gel, a vase of water, or a hanging rack. Zinnias take about 2 to 3 weeks to dry and will last for about a year.
Zinnias are part of the sunflower tribe (Heliantheae) within the aster or daisy family (Asteraceae). There are 22 accepted species in the Zinnia genus, named after Johann Gottfried Zinn – an 18th Century German botanist.
Zinnias are low-maintenance annuals that are easy to grow, especially for novice gardeners. These flowers are native to Mexico but also grow in the Southwestern United States and parts of Central and South America. Zinnias are best suited to USDA Zones 2 to 11 and prefer sunny, sheltered conditions, where they can reach up to 4 feet in height.
These annuals have composite flowers consisting of central florets that are surrounded by layers of colorful petals. Zinnia flowers can be single, double, or semi-double in form and emerge from early summer to the first fall frosts. Zinnias come in various colors, from pink and purple to red, orange, yellow, and white.
Zinnias are extremely beneficial plants to add to your garden. The bright, vibrant flower heads attract pollinators like bees and hoverflies. Zinnias are also edible, although they have a slightly bitter flavor and work better as decorations or garnishes.
Zinnia flowers symbolize love, affection, celebration, and reunion. In the Victorian flower language, zinnias could communicate romantic love and desire to lovers or spouses. Zinnias were also used to convey messages of affection for friends.
When to Pick Zinnia Flowers For Drying and Preserving
You can pick zinnia flowers for drying at any time during the flowering season. Most zinnias bloom from early summer until the arrival of the first fall frosts. Zinnias respond well to harvesting, so they can keep producing flowers throughout the season.
When picking zinnia flowers for drying, there are a few things to look for. Choose stems with flowers that are either almost open or completely open. Young blooms will finish unfurling even after being cut.
Make sure the stems are firm by pinching them beneath your fingers and wiggling them. If the flower head barely moves, the stem can be harvested. If the flower wobbles and the stem feels soft, let it mature for a few more days.
It’s best to pick zinnia flowers as early in the morning as possible. Zinnias hold more moisture at this time of day but will quickly lose water during the afternoon. Water your zinnias the night before you want to pick them for the best results. This ensures they won’t be wilted or stressed, helping them look better and last longer.
Key Considerations When Cutting Zinnia Flowers For Drying
Use Clean, Sharp Tools
If you’re cutting zinnias, ensure that your tools are clean and sharp. Sterilize your pruning shears or secateurs by washing them in a 5% bleach solution. This helps reduce the risk of spreading diseases or pests from other plants you’ve recently cut.
You want to leave a clean cut, so your tools need to be sharp. If you use blunt secateurs to cut your zinnias, it can take a couple of attempts. This damages the zinnia stem, increasing the risk of contamination and disease.
Increase Your Crop
If you want to use your zinnias as a cut or dried flower crop, there are ways to increase the yield. One method is to prune or “pinch” young zinnia plants, which involves cutting off the top 4 inches of the stem. This encourages the zinnia to produce several new stems, which will each produce a flower.
Another way to make zinnias more productive later in the season is to deadhead them regularly. Removing wilting or spent flower heads allows the plant to focus its energy on new flower buds. Harvesting your zinnias regularly also helps, so adopt a cut-and-come-again approach throughout the season.
The Appearance of Dried Flowers
One important thing to remember when drying zinnia flowers is how the blooms will change during the process. The color will vary slightly once the flowers have finished drying. Dried zinnia flowers are slightly darker and will reduce in size by about a third compared to freshly picked blooms.
How to Dry and Preserve Zinnia Flowers
Drying and preserving zinnia flowers is really fun and easy. Although zinnias produce excellent cut flowers, each one will only last between 7 and 12 days. You can enjoy the flowers for up to a year by cutting and drying your zinnias.
Zinnias need to be left somewhere cool and dark to dry properly. There are three main ways to dry and preserve zinnias. Let’s take a look at each method in more detail:
Using a Cardboard Box and Silica Gel
Although this method involves the most work, it’s also one of the quickest ways to dry zinnia flowers. Any cardboard box will do, while silica gel can usually be purchased from craft stores. Silica gel is a desiccant, which means that it absorbs water.
- Inspect your zinnias and choose a firm stem with a flower that’s almost or completely open.
- Using clean, sharp pruning shears, cut about 2 inches below the flower head. Keep one set of leaves as well.
- Fill the bottom of the cardboard box with a layer of silica gel.
- Place the zinnia flower heads face down on top of the silica layer.
- Using more silica gel, cover the flower heads completely but leave the stem visible.
- Place the box in a cool, dark location and wait approximately 2 weeks.
- Your zinnias should now be completely dry!
This method is ideal if you want to use dried zinnia flowers in a bouquet or vase. Take longer cuttings to help fit your chosen vase. The trade-off is that your zinnias will take longer to dry.
- Examine your zinnias, looking for firm stems bearing flower heads that are nearly or fully open.
- Cut off your chosen stems using clean, sharp secateurs, and cut just above a pair of leaves.
- Group several cut stems together and tie them in a bundle with string or an elastic band.
- Hang them upside down from a peg or drying rack in a cool, dark place. Tie them in place with more string.
- Wait about 3 or 4 weeks, then check your stems. Your zinnias should now be fully dry.
Using a Vase
Alternatively, you can place your zinnias in a small vase to dry. This method helps to preserve the color of your zinnia flowers while they dry.
- Using sharp, clean tools, cut off some firm zinnia stems with open flower heads. Remove most of the leaves except for one pair just below the flower head.
- Fill a third or a half of a small vase with clean water.
- Cut the zinnia stems to size so that they fit into the vase and place them in. Make sure to keep them upright.
- Place the vase somewhere out of direct sunlight with stable temperatures. Once the water has fully evaporated in a few weeks, your flowers should be dry.
How to Press Zinnia Flowers
Another way of preserving zinnia flowers is to press them. Pressed zinnia flowers make beautiful decorations for cards, notebooks, and other craft projects. Here’s a step-by-step guide to pressing zinnia flowers:
- Choose individual zinnia flowers that are fully open with firm stems.
- Cut each flower off with clean, sharp shears at the base of the flower head.
- Get a large book and some sheets of paper. Cut the paper sheets to the size of the book.
- Place the paper in the open book and arrange your zinnia flower heads face down on the sheet. You can do this for multiple pages.
- Carefully shut the book to press the flowers into the paper. Keep in mind that this can discolor the pages of the book.
- After a few weeks, open the book to check your zinnia flowers. If they’re totally dry and flat, they’re ready to use.
Zinnias are gorgeous annuals that can brighten up any garden during the summer months. But to make this beauty truly timeless, you can dry or press zinnia flowers. Harvest zinnias with firm stems and flower heads that are almost open. You can dry zinnia flowers using a hanging rack, a vase of water, or a cardboard box and some silica gel. Zinnias can take between 2 and 4 weeks to fully dry.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.