Tips for Drying Sunflowers

There are several methods for drying sunflowers.

There are several methods for drying sunflowers.

Sunflowers are an easy plant to grow once the danger of frost passes. Aside from the familiar bright yellow petals, sunflowers grow in a variety of beautiful colors that make lovely dried flower arrangements and wreaths. Some people also grow sunflowers for the seeds. Depending on whether you are harvesting sunflowers as a food source or for use in dried floral arrangements, there are various methods for drying the flowers.

Harvesting for Seeds

If you are drying sunflowers for the seeds, harvest when the backside of the sunflower head begins to yellow. Leave about a foot of stem below the flower head when you cut it. Hang sunflowers to dry in a warm, dry area that is well ventilated, such as a garage, shed, closet or attic. Avoid drying flowers in damp areas. Keeping the sunflowers away from moisture prevents mold from forming and spoiling the seeds. Allow the seed heads to dry for several weeks after harvesting. Drying the flowers makes the seeds hard and easier to remove.

Natural Drying

Allow sunflowers to dry naturally on their stalks before cutting. Once the petals fall off and the backside of the flower turns yellow, cover the head with a brown paper bag or tie cheesecloth loosely over the head to protect the seeds from birds and squirrels. Air can still circulate, but the paper bag helps prevent moisture from accumulating, which can turn the seeds moldy. Harvest the flowers when the heads turn brown on the backside. The heads of the sunflowers will look dry and wilted. Sunflowers generally take three to four weeks to dry after the flowers reach the mature stage.

Air-Drying

Air-drying is one of the easiest ways to dry flowers, although it can take a couple of weeks for flowers to dry. If you are drying sunflowers to use in wreaths or floral arrangements, select flowers that are just beginning to open. The best time to cut sunflowers for drying is when you can see the flower’s center. By harvesting the flowers at this stage, the blooms will continue to open as they dry. If you wait too long to bring in the flowers, the petals will fall off. Cut flowers on a dry day late in the morning after the dew has dried. Remove the leaves, and bundle a few flower stems together, tying them at the end with rubber bands, twine or wire. Hang the sunflower heads upside down from coat hangers, a clothesline or nails.

Fast-Drying Method

A fast way to dry sunflowers for use in arrangements is to place a layer of silica gel 1 inch thick in the bottom of a plastic container. Silica gel dries the flowers by absorbing their moisture. Lay sunflowers facing upward on top of the silica gel, and push the flowers into the gel. Sprinkle silica crystals over the flowers until they are completely covered. Seal the lid tightly. After two days, brush the gel away from the center of a flower. If the center is not fully dried, leave the flowers in the mixture for another day. When the flowers are dried, lift them out of the gel. Turn each flower upside down and gently tap it on the back to remove excess gel. Store dried sunflowers in sealed bags until you are ready to use them. You can purchase silica gel at most florists and garden centers or hobby and craft stores.

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