How to Preserve Leaves: 5 Easy DIY Methods

Pressing, microwaving, ironing, and coating with glycerin or wax.

Composition of autumn leaves.Flatley.
Sergey Sidorov / Getty Images
Overview
  • Working Time: 3 - 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes - 2 weeks
  • Yield: 1 to 30 preserved leaves
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $0-$30

If only you could harness the colorful fall foliage to look at year-round. Oh but you can! With proper preservation techniques, you can save every red, orange, gold, and even green leaf you want.

If you're familiar with the different ways to preserve flowers, you'll find the processes for these five methods of preserving leaves very similar and easy to complete.

Choosing Your Leaves

When choosing leaves to preserve, avoid the overly dry ones that crumble in your hand. Leaves preserve best when they are still silky and pliable.

What You'll Need

Supplies (Vary by Method)

  • Paper towels
  • Thin towels
  • Scissors
  • Wax paper

Materials

  • 1-30 leaves
  • Additional materials depending on method

Instructions

Method 1: Book-Pressed Leaves

Notebook with dried flowers and leaves collage
JessicaPichardo / Getty Images

Just like flowers, leaves can be pressed in a book in order to dry and flatten them. For this method you'll need at least one heavy book and newspaper, wax paper, or blank sheets of paper.

  1. Prepare Your Leaves

    Place your leaves inside a heavy book lined with newspaper or wax paper to protect the pages. Close the book and set it aside in a dry location.

    If you have more books or items at the ready, stack them on top of the book with the leaves inside to help with the flattening process.

  2. Check Dryness

    Examine the leaves after one week. If they start to rot or mold, discard the leaves.

    Your pressed leaves should be ready after about two weeks.

Method 2: Preserving Leaves in the Microwave

Oak Leaf Arrangement

Simon Gakhar / Getty Images

The microwave is a faster alternative to the method above if you are short on time or just impatient.

  1. Prepare Your Leaves

    Take your leaves and place them between two thin paper towels. Place the pile onto a microwave-safe plate and put it into the microwave.

  2. Microwave

    Microwave the leaves on medium heat for 30 seconds on medium power to start. Check the leaves to see how dry they are before microwaving for another 30 seconds. Continue this cycle until they are dry.

Method 3: Preserving Leaves with Wax

Waxy leaves

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography / Getty

To maximize how long your preserved leaves last, consider covering them with a durable coating of wax. In addition to your leaves, you'll need:

  • 1 package of beeswax
  • A double boiler
  1. Melt Your Wax

    Use a double boiler to melt all-natural beeswax down into a liquid. Melt the beeswax but keep it from boiling.

  2. Dip the Leaves

    Once fully melted, take your leaves and dip them one at a time into the liquified beeswax to coat them. Gently shake off any extra wax.

  3. Allow to Dry

    Hang the coated leaves (with clothespins and a clothing line perhaps) to let the leaves dry fully without getting them stuck to a surface.

Method 4: Preserving Leaves With Glycerin

Autumn fall concept. Oak tree Quercus made from twig and yellow red leaves on blackboard background. Top view
Gargonia / Getty Images

As an alternative to beeswax, try coating leaves with glycerin instead. This method will require:

  • 1 cup of glycerine
  • 2 cups of water
  1. Prepare Glycerin

    Mix one part glycerin with two parts water in a large bowl and stir well.

  2. Add the Leaves

    One at a time, drop your leaves into the bowl of glycerin water. Try to make sure the leaves don't get clumped together in the bowl.

    Let them sit in the mixture for three to five days.

  3. Allow to Dry

    After soaking, take the leaves and let them dry completely by hanging or resting on a towel.

Method 5: Preserving Leaves With an Iron

Dried pressed flowers parchment paper

Fruit_Cocktail

In this method, the wax on the paper acts as a sort of lamination for long-term preservation of the leaves.

  1. Place the Leaves on the Wax Paper

    Layout your leaves evenly on a piece of quality wax paper. Cover with a second piece of wax paper.

    Place the pile on an iron-safe surface. Cover the wax/leave pile with a towel to act as a barrier between the wax and the hot iron.

  2. Iron

    Run a hot iron over the pile evenly going back and forth. Your iron should be hot and dry; do not use the steam setting.

    Check that the wax has fully melted together to form a seal before finishing with the ironing.

  3. Cut Leaves

    Cut into the wax paper with scissors in order to get individual leaves. You can also save them as one large sheet to frame or use for another craft.