This crested celosia, which many people call cockscomb, is perfect for dried flowers. It’s strong, it’s sturdy, it has nice stems, and the rich, red color of this one really holds up well, and keeps its color through the winter.
Tie them together and hang them upside down in the ceiling of a garage or the attic. It needs to be somewhere where its dark, and also hot with a little air circulation, and they’ll dry quickly. In a matter of a couple of weeks, they’ll be wonderfully preserved to last the whole winter.
Some of the qualities we look for in a dried flower – one of them is stem length. The longer stem is better, because whether I’m going to glue to a wreath, use it in a bundle, or make dried potpourri – I can always cut the stem later.
So, we look for varieties with long stems much like this Blue Emotion, blue salvia. We want to cut it at the peak of bloom, so that we can preserve it there. We might leave the foliage on; we might take some of it off. It doesn’t matter, because what we’re after is the stem. What’s nice about this particular blue salvia is that the color is lightfast. In other words, many flowers over time, even if they’re properly dried, the colors will fade in the light. This one holds the color right on through the winter, so you’ll get a good full year of a full color enjoyment.
The way to dry this is to pick them at the ideal stage of maturity, which is full open. And then you’ll want to hang them upside down in a warm, dry, dark place. Blue salvia also comes in a blue and white flower that could be mixed in and dried as well.
Another good dried flower for Kansas are these gomphrena. This rose color here dries exceptionally well. They’re papery, like a straw flower would be, but in a small, round button shape. They make an excellent filler, and again we’d hang them up in the attic of a garage, up by the roof, in a dark, hot place with a little bit of air circulation to dry them out quickly.
Another thing about these is that they do hold their color real well against the light. So, we want to be careful. Not all flowers dry well with a colorfast property.
This is the prairie flower, the native flower echinacea. What’s unique about this one is that we can use the flower and hang it up to dry, but also the cone is prized. If we take the older ones, where the petals have already started to fade, for example, like the ones in here – and we cut them back. On these, we would remove the petals. It seems odd on a flower. But we’re left with this wonderful cone that’s a whole different texture, shape and form. It gives us a wonderful variety and contrast in a mixed bouquet, or in any arts and crafts project. It’s an entirely different form. So the echinacea is really great to have in the garden because it has all these different purposes. From the great color when it’s in bloom, to the dried flower, to the dried cones – it’s really nice.
This feature story prepared with Alan Stevens, Kansas State University Research and Extension State Leader, Horticulture. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.