How to preserve leaves and foliage with glycerine

A solution of glycerine and water may be used to preserve leaves and ferns to keep them soft and fresh. This process keeps the plant supple by replacing its moisture with glycerine. You will need glycerine (or substitute car radiator anti-freeze solution), boiling water and a container to get started, then follow the helpful tips below.

How to preserve leaves and foliage with glycerine

Tips on using this method

  • Use only freshly cut plants. Pick the foliage when it reaches full growth. When picked early, the tips of the plant are too weak to take up the solution. When cut too late, the sap has stopped flowing and the plant is unable to absorb the solution.
  • Cut the stems at a sharp angle.
  • Split woody stems to facilitate the glycerine uptake.

How to do it

  1. Make a solution of one part glycerine to two parts boiling water and stir it well. If using anti-freeze, combine one part anti-freeze with one part boiling water. A little food colouring may be added to the glycerine solution to counteract colour changes.
  2. Stand the stems in eight centimetres (three inches) of solution.
  3. Leave them until the leaves feel supple and change colour — they usually darken rather than lighten. Depending on the type of leaves being treated, this process can take from two days to three weeks. Check the container frequently to see if the solution needs topping up.
  4. When all the leaves have changed colour, they are ready to be removed from the solution. Should the leaves begin to droop, hang them upside down for a few days to make sure the glycerine has reached the tips. If the leaves feel sticky and take on a shiny, damp appearance, they have been in the solution too long. Swish them in warm, soapy water, rinse well and dry thoroughly.

Glycerine-dried leaves can be used immediately in floral arrangements or stored in the same way as air-dried flowers. When executed properly, the glycerine drying method can help your leaves last for years to come.

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