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What Are the Best Tips for Preserving Leaves?

By Robyn Little
Updated May 16, 2024
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One of the highlights of autumn in many places is the fall leaves with their vibrant colors. Almost as quickly as they turn a vibrant red, yellow or orange, however, the leaves also fade to a pale brown that quickly removes the lively color from the leaf. There are ways to keep these dramatic colors for years to come by preserving leaves. The leaves need to be dried and then preserved with some substance, such as wax or glycerin.

There are many ways of preserving leaves. For any preservation, you need to select relatively flat, unblemished leaves. Drier leaves will preserve better because they have less moisture in them.

One common way to preserve leaves is to press them by putting them between newspaper pages or wax paper and placing a heavy object over the leaves. Books are great for this task. After a week, check to make sure the leaves are drying and not rotting. A rotting leaf is a sign of too much moisture. It typically takes seven to 14 days for drying leaves to become completely dry.

For a quicker method of drying leaves, a microwave can be used. Place the leaves between two paper towels. Put the microwave’s power setting on medium, and run it for 30-120 seconds. How long the microwave will need to run depends on exactly how much moisture is in the leaves. The more moisture in the leaves, the more microwave time needed.

After the leaves are dried, they can be left as they are or given a bit more protection. Preserving leaves with extra protection can be provided by placing the leaves between a couple of sheets of wax paper and laying a cloth over the wax paper. Then, set an electric iron to medium heat and iron the leaves through the cloth on wax paper for three to four minutes. Applying the heat through the wax paper will give the leaf a thin coat of wax that will help preserve the leaves.

Glycerin is another effective method of preserving leaves. This method allows the leaves to retain their body and flexibility for many years. It can be done on individual leaves or in larger batches.

For this type of preservation, mix a solution of two parts water and one part glycerin. Submerge the leaves fully into the liquid. Make sure the leaves are completely covered. Sometimes this is best achieved by pressing down on the leaves with an object to hold them under water. After taking them out of the solution and allowing them to dry for several days, the leaves will be dry and supple, and their preservation is complete.

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