Preserve leaves with glycerin for dried floral arrangements

use glycerin to preserve leaves in Buffalo NYby Connie Oswald Stofko

I had never even heard of using glycerin to preserve leaves until David Clark, horticulturist, showed me how.

It’s a simple and inexpensive technique. You can learn how to do it in the video below.

Last week we showed you how to dry flowers. Next week we’ll show you how to combine the preserved leaves and flowers by making a hand-tied bouquet.

You can learn even more in a series of upcoming workshops led by Clark as part of the 125th anniversary celebration of Blessed Sacrament Church in Buffalo.

The topics will be:

  • February 27: Preserving Flowers & Foliage and Making Potpourri. You will learn how to preserve flowers and make potpourri. You will leave with potpourri made in the workshop.
  • March 6: Hand-tying Flowers. You will learn the technique of a hand-tied floral bouquet to be displayed in a glass vase.
  • March 20, Garden Magic: Spring Blossoms to Summer Blooms. Get tips on garden ecology – managing the systems in a home landscape.

The sessions will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Catholic Academy of West Buffalo, 1069 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo. Free parking is available in the school parking lot.

Tickets are being sold as a package for all three sessions, and the cost is $60 for non-parishioners or $40 for parishioners for the package.

Advanced registration is required. For more information or for tickets, contact Michael Pitek at 716-816-0144 or

To find out how to preserve leaves, click on the video below.

10 Comments on “Preserve leaves with glycerin for dried floral arrangements

  1. Hello Mr. Clark,
    I loved your video on preserving flowers and leaves using glycerine.
    So I tried to preserve roses using the same technique. I want to learn to preserve them for around 6 months to 1 year. So I used 1:1 ratio of glycerine to water with one flower. And with another rose I used only glycerine. I was wondering if the ratio from the video will preserve it for more than 1 year? Also, can I use acrylic paint to dye them? If not, what should I use to dye them?

  2. Hello Gayatri!
    Wonderful to hear that you have been saving flowers!
    The best way for you to move forward in your project is to make a solution of 1 quart warm water and 1 tbsp. glycerin. Pour into a spray bottle, and lightly mist your pressed specimens with the solution. It will help soften the materials, and make them easier to work with.

  3. Hello, thanks for the informative video.

    I have leaves that i pressed in a book and are now quite dry. Is it possible to preserve them through the glycerin method?

    Thank you!

  4. Hello Karen!
    Thank you for your question—
    Here’s what I think has happened–the solution was correctly mixed. I would recommend letting it cool down to luke-warm…just warm to the touch. Stems will respond better if they are cut on a long slant (with hydrangeas, I cut long slants on both sides of the stem creating a “wedge” effect to create a large surface area of xylem cells for good absorption of the solution. Smashing stems injures the flower stems, cutting with a sharp knife opens the stems.

    It is not necessary to keep the stems in a dark place, in fact, I think it would be better to keep them in a bright area (not direct sun) to allow the stems to act in a natural way with water/solution uptake.

    Success with preserving hydrangeas also depends on the time of the year when you harvest them. Macrophylla types, what I call “Mopheads” — the big round ones — are not mature enough in July. It is best to wait until the flower head begins to change color to “antique” hues….they will feel papery to the touch. Then harvest them and put in a tall glass vase with just 2-3 inches of the solution.

    Lace-cap types do not respond well to drying with glycerin at all.

    Panicle types, “Pee-Gee” or tree hydrangeas (the white conical shaped bloom forms) which appear in mid summer are best harvested in September when they have attained a rose-blush color, and that papery feel becomes apparent. These blooms can also be left intact on the tree and harvested through the fall season.

    Your initial hydrangeas should be discarded and the process begun again at the appropriate time of the year.

    Keep me posted on your next attempt and perhaps you would share your results on my Facebook page.


  5. I have tried several times to preserve flowers using the glycerin method. I used a 2 to 1 ratio of water to glycerin, heated the water until almost boiling, stirred in the glycerin and waited for the solution to cool to about 130 degrees. I then immersed the stems of the hydrangea flowers (which I first “smashed”)into the solution and kept it in a dark dry place. Within a few days, the flowers just wilted! What am I doing wrong? Is it too late to save them? If not, what should I do?

  6. Hello! I believe the issue with your leaves curling and drying is the time of the season. Our local trees are mostly finishes with the process of abscission, whereby the leaves are shed by the trees after their usefulness for photosynthesis. Glycerizing is best done earlier in the season when the trees are in full growth and before leaf drop. At this time of the year, your best choice for preserving leaves would be those of broad-leaf evergreens such as rhododendrons. Thank you for your question!

  7. Here’s a question from a reader:
    Hello! I enjoyed your you tube video about preserving foliage in glycerin. I am having difficulty preserving maple branches with leaves still on them…the leaves are drying and curling after 2 days. I understand that preserving branches can take 4 to 6 weeks, will the leaves “improve” once the solution has reached them?
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  8. Hello Joan!!
    Copper beech leaves [along with other prepared foliages] when glycerized and colorized, will lose the color if they become wet. And during high humidity times of the year [like now] – the glycerine along with the colorant will run – so be careful where you use them. I’m thinking you would actually be better off using the dried beech leaves for your winter decorations, maybe with a coat of paint if you desire something other than the natural brown. I hope this answers your question!!

  9. Here’s a question from a reader:
    I just watched your great video on you tube about glycerin leaves. Loved it until the very last the minute when David said you couldn’t use the leaves outside. I have been trying to use touches of leaves like copper leaf beech mixed in with live greens in Christmas wreaths for outdoor use. Drying made them too brittle – they feel apart on my door with the wind. Is the concern that the glycerined leaves will run?

    I always see Martha Stewart use bay leaves and mountain laurel leaves – but I think the cold weather here would make them turn black. I’ve had that problem with holly. That’s why I was excited about the glycerin.

    Do you think a spray lacquer after glycerin would control the moisture – or just make it brittle and hard to work with?

    Thanks for your help!


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