Pressing flowers and leaves

Activity

Learn how to preserve the beautiful plants in your garden by pressing them using a number of different techniques.

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors & Indoors
  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Science, Art&DT

Learning objectives

  • Learn how to press flowers correctly
  • Use to record the flowers and plants in the garden
  • Make a display or gift using the pressed flowers

Essential background information

Preparation

If tools are being used, health & safety must be carefully considered. Wood should be smooth with no splinters.

Young people should think about what they will do with their pressed flowers or leaves to help them focus on which they would like to collect e.g. a rainbow display, a small bookmark or a seasonal scrapbook.

Equipment

  • Flowers and leaves collected from the garden

For the wooden plant press:

  • Two pieces of wood e.g. plywood or hardboard (280x350mm with a thickness of around 5-10mm)
  • Sheets of corrugated cardboard (cut to A4 size) - the number of sheets will depend on how many plants you are pressing but around 6 would make a good press
  • A newspaper
  • Blotting paper (A3 size is best but A4 will do. Alternatively sheets of kitchen paper or tissue paper will work just as well
  • Drill
  • Long bolts
  • Wing nuts, string or straps

For the book method:

  • 3 or 4 heavy books (hardback, over 500 pages work best)
  • Kitchen paper or tissue paper

For the iron method:

  • Iron and ironing board
  • Baking paper or greaseproof paper

Step by step

You can press flowers and leaves in a number of different ways but the main aim is to get rid of as much moisture as possible. 

Here are a few different techniques that take different amounts of time. Maybe try them all to see which works best?

Building and using a flower press:

  1. Safely drill a hole approx. 15mm away from each corner on each piece of wood.
  2. Place one piece of wood onto a flat surface and push the bolts from the underside.
  3. Carefully arrange your collected flowers and leaves between pieces of A3 blotting paper that you've folded in half or between 2 sheets of A4 blotting paper. Put these to the side.
  4. You then need to create sandwiches of materials. First put a piece of cardboard onto the wood and then add a sheet of newspaper folded to A4 size on top. Place one of your blotting paper 'folders' on top and cover with more newspaper.
  5. Continue to make these sandwiches in that order (cardboard, newspaper, blotting paper with plants, newspaper) until you've added all of your flowers and leaves. Place a final piece of cardboard on top.
  6. Add the second piece of wood, making sure the bolts go through the holes.
  7. Secure with wing nuts, string or straps and make sure the press is nice and tight.
  8. Put your press in a warm, dry place such as an airing cupboard or conservatory, and leave for 2-4 weeks to fully dry out.

Using heavy books:

  1. Open up a nice heavy book somewhere in middle or towards the back. 
  2. Place two sheets of kitchen paper or tissue paper between the pages.
  3. Carefully lie your flowers and leaves onto the paper and place another two sheets of paper over the top.
  4. If you have more to press, do the same again on a different page in the book.
  5. Close the book carefully and put it in a warm, dry place such as an airing cupboard or conservatory. You might want to place two or three more heavy books on top so it presses nicely.
  6. Put your press in a warm, dry place such as an airing cupboard or conservatory, and leave for 2-4 weeks to fully dry out.

Using an iron:

Please ensure only adults or older children handle the iron.

  1. Turn on the iron and set to a low heat. Don't use a steam setting as you want to remove moisture, not add it.
  2. While the iron is heating up, press your flowers under a book to make sure they are fairly flat as this will help the drying process.
  3. Place a piece of baking paper or greaseproof paper onto an ironing board.
  4. Carefully place your flowers and leaves onto the paper and lay another sheet of baking/greaseproof paper over the top.
  5. Place the hot iron onto the paper. Don't move the iron, just let it sit on top for 10 seconds.
  6. Remove the iron and let the paper cool completely before placing it on the same area.
  7. Continue until all flowers and leaves have been pressed. If they sizzle, it means there is moisture inside so repeat until the sizzling stops and the flowers feel firm and dry.

Hints & tips

  • Collect flowers and leaves ideally on a dry day and later in the day so they're not damp from the morning dew.
  • Ensure all other materials for your press are completely clean and dry before use.
  • You can use heavy books to weigh down the wooden plant press if you don't have screws and bolts. Bricks are also a good subsitute for heavy books if you don't have any or enough.
  • You may get better results if you carefully pull off and press each petal individually so they can fully dry out in the pressing/drying process.
  • Use your pressed flowers and leaves to make a scrapbook showing the different plants growing in your garden throughout each season or to make artworks, bookmarks or greetings cards. 
  • Use pressed flowers to make these beautiful sun catchers to brighten up gardens, balconies or windows.
  • Use this activity as part of Flower Power class growing topic.

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