Everlasting flowers are not the perennial flowers or weeds in your garden that you just can't seem to get rid of. They are flowers that retain their color and form when dried. Many everlasting flowers are composed of colorful, papery petals called bracts that are stiff and dry while still attached to the living plant. The French call them "immortelles." Flowers of this type are popular to grow and save for winter arrangements.
The most important thing to know about everlasting flowers is when to harvest the flowers so they best retain their color and form. Picking them too early or too late causes them to become misshapen or darken as they dry. Each type has its own best time for picking which a gardener learns through experience. It is important to make daily trips through the garden. It may mean picking just a few stems at their optimum stage for drying and waiting a day or so to harvest a few more.
Before drying, carefully remove the foliage from the stems, unless you are specifically drying it for its foliage. Below is a list of everlasting flowers and the optimum time to harvest the flowers. For more information on everlasting flowers see Pm-1298, Growing and drying everlasting flowers.
Celosia (cockscomb) - Both plumed and crested types can be dried. Harvest plumed celosia when the blooms are bright and nearly fully opened. Harvest crested celosia when the seeds begin to form just below the comb.
Helichrysum (strawflower) - Harvest only the flower, with little or no stem attached. Pick when only a row or two of outside bracts are opened and before the center opens. Insert a #22 gauge wire up the bottom of the flower (where the stem was) and store wired flowers upright in styrofoam.
Limonium (statice) - Annual statice is the most used of all everlastings. Pick as buds begin to open because they open further while drying. Tie stems together and hang upside down.
Blue Salvia - Pick the spikes when the florets are fully open and the calyx is bright blue. Tie stems together and hang upside down to dry.
Scabosia - The ornamental part of the plant is the pod that remains after the flowers fade. Pick the pod just as the last petals fall off.
Gomphrena (globe amaranth) - Cut the stems when the flower heads are in the peak of color. Tie the stems together and hang upside down to dry.
Xeranthemum - The blossoms and buds dry in the stage in which they are picked. Pick just as flowers are fully open. Tie stems together and hang upside down.
Achillea (yarrow) - Cut the stems as soon as every umbel on the head is fully developed and firm to the touch. Dry upright or upside down.
Artemesia (wormwood) Typically the taller species are best for drying. It is used as a filler in bouquets or as the base of wreaths. Harvest the stems when the pebbly seed head is fully developed.
Globe Thistle - Pick as soon as the central globes are grey-blue and before the tiny flowers appear. Dry upside down.
Gypsophilia (baby's breath) - Pick when about half the florets are open on a flowering stem. Hang upside down to dry.
Liatris (blazing star) - Pick when 1/2 to 2/3 of the flowers are open. Hang upside down to dry.
Lavender - Pick stems when the florets on the spike are opening. Hang upside down to dry.
This article originally appeared in the July 28, 1993 issue, pp. 1993 issue, pp. 125-126.