Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Preserve Fall Leaves and Branches with Glycerin

Fall leaves preserved with glycerin

Fall leaves preserved with glycerin will keep indefinitely.

There are many ways to preserve fall leaves, from pressing to waxing to drying. Preserving with glycerin is unique, however, because it keeps the leaves supple and soft and preserves quite a bit of the color. Glycerin-preserved leaves are perfect for crafts, arrangements, and wreaths; and the process is incredibly easy. Here’s how.

What You’ll Need to Preserve Leaves with Glycerin

  • Leaves: A selection of autumn leaves. I like to pick them from the tree to make sure they’re fresh. Yellow leaves seem to hold their color well. Red and orange leaves will take on a russet tone, and green leaves will turn brownish-green.
  • Glycerin used to preserve leaves

  • Glycerin: Glycerin is inexpensive and usually pretty easy to find. Check out the soap making section of your local crafts store, or the skin- or hair-care sections of your pharmacy.
  • Water: Filtered tap water is best.
  • Measuring Spoon or Cup: The size doesn’t matter – you just need something to measure with.
  • Cup or Bowl: Large enough to fix up the amount of solution you’ll need to cover the leaves.
  • Two Flat Pans: You need one pan to soak the leaves, and another pan to weigh it down. Two identical baking pans work perfectly, but you can also use plates or whatever you have on hand.

Five Easy Steps to Preserving Leaves with Glycerin

Step 1: Mix Solution

Mixing water and glycerin
Measure and mix a solution of one part glycerin to two parts water in a cup or bowl. Start with a small quantity and mix more if you need it.

Step 2: Submerge Leaves

Leaves submerged in glycerin/water solution
Layer the leaves in the bottom of the pan, and pour the glycerin solution over them. It doesn’t have to be deep, but make sure there’s enough solution to completely submerge the leaves and stems. If the leaves are overlapping, stir them a bit to be sure every leaf is completely covered and soaking in the glycerin. If you like, you can experiment with adding a few drops of food coloring to the solution.

Step 3: Weigh Down Leaves

Weighing leaves down in glycerin/water solution
Put the second pan on top to weigh down the leaves. If you’re using paper or plastic dishes, you may want to weigh down the top dish with something heavy.

Step 4: Soak Leaves

Preserved leaves
Allow the leaves to remain in the solution about 3-4 days until they feel soft and supple. Leave them longer if needed.

Step 5: Dry Leaves

Drying leaves after soaking in glycerin/water solution
When the leaves are ready, remove them from the glycerin solution and gently blot them dry with a towel. They’re ready to use!

Preserving Branches with Glycerin

You can use this same technique for preserving branches with the leaves still on them. This technique works great for magnolia branches to use during the holidays! Here’s how to go about it:

  • Give the branches a fresh cut.
  • Lightly crush the end of the stems with a hammer.
  • Arrange the branches in a vase filled with the glycerin-water solution with the vase out of direct sunlight.
Branches being preserved in glycerin/water solution

Entire branches can be preserved by soaking the stems in a glycerin/water solution

Branches will take a month or longer to soak up the glycerin, but the finished product will keep indefinitely.

Please Leave a Comment

21 Comments on “How to Preserve Fall Leaves and Branches with Glycerin”

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  1. Marguerite Riker Says:
    November 4th, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Hello. I was wondering if you knew anything about using the preserved leaves as the outside of a lamp or lantern? I’m thinking I can do it because I’ve made my own paper but I want to incorporate leaves of my choosing to make lamps as gifts.
    Thank you in advance for any information you can lend.


  2. Mere Says:
    April 5th, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    I used 2 Tablespoons Glycerine to 3 parts (metric cup) water.
    Left my native leaves for 5 1/2 days. The leaves were green as expected when I took them out of the solution, a few seconds later they turned dark brown. Why is that?

  3. Mere Says:
    April 5th, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Also I know that most users do 1 part Glycerine to 2 parts water. I want to make sure of the measuring used here for leaves. Is it 1 Tablespoon Glycerine and 2 (Metric)Cups water?

  4. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    April 6th, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Hi Mere,
    Since it’s a one to two ratio of glycerine to water, if you used 1 tablespoon glycerine you would use 2 tablespoons of water, not 2 cups.

  5. Mere Says:
    April 6th, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Thank you for that,you can tell I am an amateur at this. I have quite a few different types of native leaves still on twigs (not actual big branches) and the 1 to 2 ratio mentioned above is going to prove a bit slow. Do you have another suggestion for measuring glycerine to water or is this the only safe way for me to process my leaves? Open to any help really.

    Once again thank you

  6. Marguerite Says:
    April 7th, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Thank you. I have already preserved the leaves last fall. It is 2 to 1 ratio exactly. Don’t put more water in your solution, the leaves won’t preserve. Do it right and they are beautiful.
    My question was; will they stay preserved long term to use them in lamp shades? I’m afraid they might start falling off after time from the heat of the light bulb? Should I put them in between two thin pieces of vellum?

  7. sarah Says:
    September 24th, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I would like to try preserving branches with leaves this fall. The intent is to use them as centrepieces in my wedding next fall. Will they last and keep there colours?

  8. Katie Says:
    October 24th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    I’m wondering if it is possible to preserve a large number of leaves at the same time (by layering them in the glycerin mixture) or if it works best if you work to preserve only one layer of leaves at a time. Thanks for any tips!

  9. Tracy Says:
    October 25th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Will this method also work with Cedar Branches ? I have seen preverved Cedar Branches for sale and would like to know if this method would work for Cedar as well.
    Thank you

  10. BigMommaT Says:
    November 3rd, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks you so much for the step-by-step. My daughter’s wedding is going to be gorgeous!!

  11. NORM Says:
    November 22nd, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    I recently found a Siamese (conjoined) Elm leaf, I want to preserve it in a way it can be handled without it being destroyed, easily. had a Horticulturist tell me it is a very rare specimen, she wants to do a D.N.A. on it, what method would you suggest?? Thank you, Norm Willingham.

  12. Diana Anderson Says:
    January 2nd, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    My daughter is getting married in May. She wants to use magnolia leaves/ branches in her decorations which we can get here on our farm. I get the necessity of being exact on the one part glycerin to two parts water. But should the water be hot or not? I have seen both suggested and wondered which was preferable? Also crushing the end of the branches would seem to help the absorption of the solution. I was planning on using 5 gallon buckets for this process. Any suggestions as to containers or are the buckets ok?

  13. Darlene Fenwick Says:
    September 16th, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Can other stem branches of leaves other than magnolia, such as Rhododendron or Viburnum be dryed with glycerin and water.

  14. melanie martinez Says:
    September 25th, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    I have a bunch of preserved leaves, but they are really folded up and creased. Is there a good way to flatten them? Can they be ironed? They were preserved in glycerine a few years ago. Thank you

  15. Susan Alvey Says:
    November 1st, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Can you re-use the left-over solution or do you need to start over?

  16. Dori Says:
    November 21st, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I have a bunch that I’ve used for fall deco for 10+ years now and they get curled or wrinkled in storage, so I iron them every year. Low temp-no steam, you should start at lowest setting (only increasing heat if a few repetitions dont work)and press the iron no more than 5 seconds at a time, let cool and only press again if nessesary, letting cool in each break to keep from burning or drying out the leaves.

  17. elle Says:
    December 5th, 2014 at 2:08 am

    hi, could you please expalin me how to fix the dried leaves on paper, i want to fix them on painting
    so many thanks

  18. Sandy Alden Says:
    December 5th, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Most of the questions were never answered. I’d like to see the answers to everyone’s questions. Surely someone can type an answer….

  19. mills wade Says:
    December 10th, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    Its been a long time but Marguarite was never straightened out on the mixture. She took the tablespoon answer literally. For the record Marguarite if u need to use 2 gallons of water, to cover your leaves or put the bottom of your branch stems in, you would then use 1 gallon of glycerin. However much water you need you would use half that in glycerin. I soaked Magnolia leaves in a big cooler. I used 1 gallon glycerin and 2 gallons of water. I smashed the ends of the very long branches and put the ends in the mixture. I kept them outside under a porch but the sun could still get to the branches but not the water-glycerin mixture. They were ready after 3 weeks. But I would suggest 4 weeks to be safe. After a couple of weeks I would snip the branch ends or smash them again allowing the mixture to move up the branches freely. This could also speed up the soaking process.Check the lower leaves and when the upper leaves are as waxy as the lower ones they are probably ready. They are waxy feeling and as green as when I snipped them.I used them for christmas tree filler and mantle greenery.

  20. Carole Starnes Says:
    March 8th, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    i have clipped magnolia leaves for preserving to make wreaths. I paid $5.25 per 6 oz. bottle for glycerine, bought 2 bottles. I see that I will need about a gallon to have 3 gal. of mixture. Does anyone know a place to buy glycerine in a qt. or gal. size and much less expensive?

  21. Matthew Palizzi Says:
    March 31st, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Carole Starnes, ebay carries large quantities of Glycerin, but specifically vegetable Glycerin. The most I’ve seen on ebay is 5 gallons for $21.99. :)

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