Dahlia Feature: 5 Drying Tips | 4 min read

As May begins, we find ourselves in the final month of Autumn. And, while the year may try to sneak past us without notice, mother nature reminds us that we are rapidly progressing through our wall calendars. Autumn ticks by and we can witness the changing season with beautiful Autumnal blooms, like dahlias, inevitably reaching their seasonal end. I have found true joy in drying dahlias this year. As a lover of dried florals, I tend to rely on dried flower staples, such as strawflower, to feature as a key element in design; however, there is endless inspiration to be found in drying alternative varieties that serve a similar role.

There are so many varieties of dahlias and I have experimented with a fraction of them. In the varieties I have attempted drying, I find dried dahlias to have incredible intense colour and character. The method to follow describes my air-drying technique with two variations, but it is important to emphasise that so much of this kind of work requires trial and error. Patience. It also requires patience.

  1. Timing makes all the difference. Ideally you want to dry a cut flower while it’s in the process of opening before it reaches the peak of its bloom. Attempting to dry fading flowers can be challenging as the integrity of the flower is compromised. You may find petals drop or the flower eventually falls apart as it naturally returns to seed.
  2. Remove all the leaves from the dahlia stem. In most situations, I also remove all the small buds from the stem.
  3. Air-drying is commonly achieved by hanging flowers upside-down by the bunch or individual stem. For dahlias, I recommend hanging them separately to provide space and prevent crushing by other stems. I use elastic bands to individually bind three dahlia stems to a coat hanger to air-dry upside-down; however, the means is varied and many. Some people use twine for binding. I have seen others peg individual stems from a clothes air dryer. Find what is convenient and practical for you.

    Apricot dahlias air drying upside-down from a coat hanger. 

  4. My second variation for air-drying dahlias is by keeping them upright. A choice between drying upright or upside-down concerns the directional force of gravity. Drying stems upside-down causes petals to dry upwards and, in the case of dahlias, creates a rounder form overall. In contrast, drying upright reveals more of the centre of the flower and creates a slightly flatter form. The direction for drying can be more impactful depending on the flower; however, dahlias have subtle differences, and both are effective. For drying upright, I use two wire baskets that are commonly used as sliding drawers for wardrobe storage and fix them together with cable ties. Whatever you choose to use, it needs to have apertures wide enough to accommodate stems, but not too wide that flower heads fall through as they dry.

    Apricot dahlias drying upright in a wire rack.
  5. From here, the standard drying recommendations apply: store in a cool, dry space away from sunlight that maintains consistent conditions.

Dahlia dried upside-down (left) versus a dahlia dried upright (right):

Dried dahlia in apricot tones.      Dried dahlia in apricot tones.

The drying process for dahlias takes roughly a week but could take more depending on the variety and size. As fresh flowers, dahlias are dominant bold blooms; their size and colour make them an undeniable presence in any design. The magic of the drying process, however, means dahlias gain a subtlety and intrigue that they may have otherwise been without. I hope you find inspiration in drying dahlias and remember it’s all a wonderful experiment.

Have you attempted drying dahlias? Or is there another flower you would love to see dried? Let me know in the comments below…

Tess xx

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