Good things never last long enough – and that includes peony season. The lush, pillowy blooms that flourish in spring are done growing by June in many climates. Drying peonies lets you preserve your favorite flower for many months or years to come. Whether you're trying to preserve peonies that have personal significance – like the flowers from your wedding bouquet – or want dried peony petals to use in potpourri or crafts, the drying process is pretty simple.
Drying Peonies Whole
One easy way to get a big batch of dried peony petals is to dry whole blooms and carefully separate the dried petals later on. The fresher the blooms, the better; if the flowers are starting to turn brown or wilt, those blemishes will still be evident when the petals are dried. Gently remove any imperfect petals before getting started with drying peonies.
Cut one piece of string or yarn for each flower, about 12 inches in length. Tightly tie one end of a string around the stem of a flower, preferably just above the thickest part of the stem, and tie the other end to a clothes hanger so the flower hangs upside down. (If you're drying multiple peonies at once, you may also rubber-band the stems of several flowers together and hang the entire bundle from the clothes hanger.) Hang the clothes hanger somewhere dark and dry like a closet until the flowers are dry and brittle; this will generally take somewhere between one and two weeks.
Using silica gel crystals is another popular method for drying large flowers like peonies. Silica absorbs moisture, so submerging blooms in the crystals speeds the drying process. Pour a layer of silica gel into a container with a lid, then nestle in the whole blooms and sprinkle more of the material over the flowers so the crystals get down in between the petals, and the flowers are submerged. Cover the container for two days, then check the flowers and let them dry for another one to two days if necessary.
Drying Peony Petals
Air drying allows you to preserve the delicate curved shape and ruffled edges of peony petals. Simply collect all the individual petals you want to save, arrange them in a single layer on a mesh screen or a cookie sheet covered with a paper towel, and leave the petals somewhere cool and dry until they're brittle.
Silica gel can also be used to preserve individual peony petals. Use the same technique you would use to dry peonies whole: Carefully nestle the petals between layers of silica gel crystals, cover the container and check on the petals after about a day.
Pressing Peony Petals
From a preservation standpoint, pressing flower petals is just as effective as air drying them, though it may take a week or longer for petals to fully dry. If you have time and you're okay with your petals drying flat instead of retaining their original shape, give this a try. (This method isn't ideal for entire blooms; peonies are too full-bodied to be pressed whole.)
Arrange petals between two layers of tissues, printer paper or blotting paper and set heavy books on top, or place the paper-enclosed flowers between the pages of a large book. Weigh down the book with something heavy and check on the petals' progress after about a week.
Uses for Dried Peony Petals
Once your peony petals are dry, sprinkle them in a warm bath, add them to homemade candles or crumble them to add to potpourri mixtures or sachets for your sock drawers or closets. Or, if you do end up drying peonies whole, you may like the look of them clustered together in a dried bouquet. Note that peonies can be toxic to animals when ingested in large quantities, so don't display a bowl of peony potpourri or a dried peony bouquet if you have pets who like to nibble on things.