Are Dried Flowers More Sustainable? It’s Not So Cut and Dried

With winter comes fewer fresh, local flowers. It’s the natural order of things. Winter is a time for planning, slowing down, creature comforts, and being home. (And staying home seems to be a recurring theme of late! (Cue the <eyeroll> emoji.) Many florists and flower enthusiasts turn to dried (aka preserved and everlasting) flowers as a change of pace, and to fill in gaps where fresh, seasonal flowers are less available.

Dried flowers make for lovely winter arrangements and add festive texture to holiday wreaths and ornaments. They’re a budget-friendlier way for brides to incorporate into their special day. Blending a mix of dried and fresh flowers is an increasingly popular style trend. One of our fave floral designers, Remy at Labellum Flowers in Bozeman, MT has a flair for this particular look. Plus, they’re a pretty and practical way to enjoy the leftovers from the growing season. Again and again and again.

(Pro tip: As long as you keep them out of direct sunlight, and away from moisture, naturally-dried flowers can last for about a year.)

And then there are those who are adamantly anti-dried flowers, believing they’re bad for Feng Shui, bringing negative chi (energy), and attracting dust. We’re not taking sides, rather guiding you to make more informed decisions.

Many of our florists on The Bloomlist naturally air-dry their excess flowers during the spring, summer and fall growing seasons to have everlasting bouquets to offer customers during the dreary, winter months.

Some pretty and popular everlasting blooms include:

  • Strawflower
  • Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth)
  • Larkspur
  • Celosia
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Hydrangea
  • Ornamental Grasses

The flip side of ‘natural’

However, the “conventional” process for drying flowers is not always friendly to the environment. Commercial and industrial scale dried flower production is filled with ecological threats and toxic chemical use—but it’s disguised by the misuse of the word ‘sustainable’. These products are marketed as eco-friendly because they can be used again and again. But in their drying process, they entirely miss the point.

Most commercially dried flowers are:

  • heat-treated
  • bleached and chemically hardened
  • coated with water-soluble plastic
  • treated with anti-mold chemicals

Why so bad?

The toxic waste run-off from these chemicals produced in factories and warehouses negatively impacts the freshwater supply and marine ecosystems around the world. Couple this with the fact that the vast majority of dried flowers are imported, which translates to a massive carbon footprint. And, once chemically altered, dried flowers can’t be composted, and so they become part of the waste problem, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

What’s a flower lover to do?

When buying dried flowers (all flowers, actually), it’s important to know their origin. Ask your florist or seller where they source their materials. Are they chemical-free? Bleach free? Heat free? Not knowing is likely a sign that they’re on the wrong side of eco-chic.

How to ‘DIY’ dry

Those with skills (and patience) may consider DIY drying your own flowers by tying them with twine, and hanging them upside down in a well-ventilated space. Upside down drying allows them to dry straight. Start with flowers that are more open, but not overly ripe so they fall apart. Remove foliage and stems. To preserve their color, and prevent fadage, avoid sunlight and moisture.

Alternatively, you can dry flower heads (or petals) by laying them on newspaper or pressing them between the pages of a hardcover book, in a dark room. There are environment friendly drying agents, and a microwave method as well.

Dried flowers are ready when they feel like paper and are free from any dampness. Once dried, they will be fragile, so should be wrapped and stored properly.

In conclusion

So, while it might seem like dried flowers are inherently more sustainable, it is important to make sure that all your flowers—both fresh and dried—are sourced ethically: Ideally, locally and sustainably grown, and responsibly harvested. Knowing the source of your flowers, both fresh and dried, helps. On The Bloomlist, our floral design community is committed to prioritizing locally and American grown flowers, in season, and sustainable #nofloralfoam design.

Small changes matter.