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.

63 COMMENTS

  1. 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.

    Sincerely,
    Marguerite

  2. 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. 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?

    • 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. 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!

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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

  12. melanie,
    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.

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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. 🙂

  17. Hello, I’m in the UK and I’ve been preserving leaves on the 2/1 warm water to glycerine for a long time. I prepared a lot of fine ivies for use in my RHS Chelsea 2011 entry for floral design. ( awarded Gold). I have recycled them loads of time since and they’ve just been used for a large set of table centres for a wedding here in the UK. They look as good now as back in 2011.

  18. Hi …
    Can you please suggest me a method to preserve coconut leaves without loosing its green colour for 1 week?
    Thank you.

  19. For the record Mills Wade, it’s not Marguerite that got the measuring mixed up its Mere…just thought I’d correct that.

  20. Julie, I love learning new things. Being able to preserve our beautiful fall leaves would be awesome. Don’t you just love all the gorgeous colors? Thanks for the information.

  21. Hello. I am designing a wedding and will be using a medium size tree limb ( 5′ ft high by approximately 4 ‘ ft wide ). The limbs will have the leaves on them (maple). I need to have these limbs/ leaves last for approximately one month. I need your advice!! How would you do this utilizing glycerin to preserve the limbs and leaves. Thank you!!!

  22. Hi,
    I am wanting to preserve some blossoms on the branches to use in Jan – thought I could incorporate them into wedding floral displays and centrepieces that I am arranging. I’ve seen a salt method for the blossom but would that work for the branches (and twigs) as well? Anyone wise on this please. cheers.

  23. I have preserved rhodendron branches about 30 yrs ago in this mix. They turned dark brown and lovely leathery. I would think that any bush or tree that was green all winter would preserve well. Fall leaves should be laid flat as noted. I will be preserving dogwood branches with berries, bittersweet, ivy, holly, oak leaf hydrangea leaves (dark mahogany), cedar, goldenrod. I might try kale, as I still have some growing. And will keep a journal on how they progress. I keep the branches in solution in the cellar. I have been gardening for 60 yrs…….. Good luck to everyone. Pj

  24. I have Leyland cyprus trees…want to preserve branches for wreaths possibly to sell/donate. Will they last through the season(s) and beyond? Also, found 8oz bottles of glycerine at Hobby Lobby (cheapest @ $4/bottle) and with coupon, no larger amounts.

  25. I found some beautiful pine tree branches i want to preserve for our walls with our deer mounts, they are really big enough to cover our 16x9ft wall. How would i go about preserving them?

  26. Hello! I want to make Christmas Wreaths out of Bay leaf Tree branches. I read somewhere that you could pick the branches and then stand them in a bucket of glycerine mixture. Apparently the stem will soak the glycerine mixture up and the leaves will be preserved. Is this so?

  27. Hi! I am looking to preserve some leaves that I painted on. I’ve read a lot that fresh, still soft leaves do best when preserving with glycerin, but I can’t paint on them till they’re dry. Do you think using the glycerin method would work on already dry leaves? I’m not incredibly concerned about the color, more about maintaining the artwork. Thoughts? I’ve already done some on dried leaves but would painting on the leaves after I do the glycerin bath work too?

  28. Becca,
    I’m not sure about painting before or after the glycerin process. I have seen the paraffin wax method used for this delicate type process. You may try that, modge lodge, or even clear spray sealants on the painted side and paraffin wax on the back side to keep them soft and supple. This is my first year preserving fall leaves and branches, and berries. I still can’t find whether it’s best to keep them cool or warm. Anyone?

  29. Hello, thanks for your great post. I want to preserve cut branches of various plants and trees, i dont care about flowers, just the branch and whatever green there’s on it. And most important i would like this to keep pretty much forever (not just long) because i wanna use them on modelling layouts. Do you know if this method would do?

  30. I’m using my spruce tree bows for table centre pieces and I’m wondering how to clean them and what about sap that could still be running?

  31. Hello! I made some bouquets with preserved cedar branches, which required me to cut each branch into smaller pieces. I noticed a few branches starting to turn brown. Is there a way I can seal the tips once I cut them? Thank you for this great site!

  32. I see that this takes time. I have beautiful holly branches from the florist and want to keep the berries bright red, not getting that dark mottled look when they’re no longer fresh. Is it expected that the glycerin soak would preserve the holly leaves and NOT the berries? Also, I wonder if I were to start the glycerin soak tonight, would the branches have soaked up enough to make it thru Christmas looking fresh, even to New Year’s? Or maybe I should just crush the stem ends, place in water, and place the vase in a cool spot and not bother with this process that might not keep the berries bright. I’ve also learned you can condition your Christmas greens by soaking overnight in plain water, then spraying with an anti-desiccant to reduce moisture evaporation. Any learned advice???

  33. I paint wildlife and dogs on leaves. I preserve the large leaves in a mixture of glycerin first. After the leaves are completely preserved, I pin the edges to foam board to ‘relax’ them. I use oil paints. After the painting is finished, I spray the leaf with clear acrylic sealer (matte). I have a painting of a yellow lab which I painted over 12 years ago. It is loose and looks as good as the day it was finished. If preferred, you can frame them and place them under glass, they work perfectly.

  34. I found a “group” of maple leaves this spring. They are stuck together in a wreath shape. Some of the leaves are dried on the edges, but the centers a white and green with indentations in them. There is moss on the bottom of the “wreath” shape. I think it might have spent the winter on a branch in the tree and we have had a very rainy winter. I would like to preserve it, but am not sure glycerin would work as we did have a few freezes this year. Any suggestions? thanks

  35. For those of you asking for larger quantities of glycerin, you can buy it by the gallon on Amazon.com. A gallon is about 20 dollars.

  36. Gday to every one. I have a “Large” project I want to ‘try’ & preserve, unfortunately I can’t attach a photo to make it easier to explain (but if anyone could help I can send them a photo by email).
    It is a ‘large’ branch & seed pod from a Triangle Palm.
    It weighs about 8-10kg (has been off tree for approx 3 weeks thus far) but still has some incredible red, yellow & Green colors ‘at the moment’.
    I am going to have to get onto it asap, and after reading this article was going to use the ‘Glycerin in a large pot’ idea for the base to soak up, BUT has any one ever tried ‘spraying’ the Glycerine over the entire project? Not sure if it would absorb enough this way?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Granger

  37. Hi. Can I use Glycerine to preserve and harden the pineapple crown? I’m planning to make the pineapple crown a decor as for our project.Thank you!

  38. Hello,

    I have recently started redecorating and am looking into preserving some leaves come fall and found this site. The instructions were very helpful but I have a few questions. First, I have some old, dried leaves from years ago that were pressed in a book, I was wondering if these could also be preserved by this method, having already been dried. Second, I was wondering if I would be able to add scented oils to the solution, or would that make the solution ineffective? I really like the idea of having preserved, scented fall leaves. Thanks so much, Sarah

  39. Wondering if leaves collected 2-3 weeks ago, now dry, would be able to be preserved with the glycerin technique? I have several loose leaves and a few still attached to a small twig. Or is there a spray of some kind to preserve all this…? Please advise- thank you!

  40. Hello I am wondering if i can do this will willow tree leaf branches and it will stay looking green ? i am wanting them for wedding bouquets for fall wedding.

  41. Cheyanne Lawson: Green branches preserved with glycerin often turn sort of a greenish-brown color, not quite as vivid as the fresh leaves but still pretty.

    As for how long they last, it’s possible that carefully-stored preserved leaves might last for years. However, if you’re preserving them for a wedding or special centerpiece, I’d recommend using leaves and branches that are as fresh as possible, preferably from the same season. Of course, you could always give it a try, with a plan “B” in mind in case they don’t last as long as you’d like.

    And several readers have asked about using preserved leaves in lamps, lanterns, or lampshades. Certainly I have seen lampshades using pressed leaves and flowers, and it stands to reason that a glycerin-preserved leaf would be more pliable and less brittle than a dried leaf in a project like that. However, as with any lamp project, be sure not to put the leaves too close to a heat source! I’d use cooler LED bulbs, and make the lampshade large enough that it did not become hot.

  42. I wouldn’t recommend trying to preserve already-dried leaves – my guess is that they would not soak up the solution as well as a fresh leaf. Intact branches must be fresh enough to actually take up the solution and circulate it.

    And I haven’t tried preserving berries using this method. Most berries preserved for crafts are sprayed with clear acrylic spray. I have seen suggestions to submerge the berries completely in glycerin solution (just as you would a leaf), rather than standing the branches in the solution, but I can’t guarantee it will work. Many types of hardy berries (such as holly or nandina) will keep for a month or so in a cool place – so if you cut them in late fall, you may be able to decorate for the holidays without doing anything special to preserve them.

  43. I am trying to preserve evergreen leaves. I Don’t want the needles to fall off. Should they be preserved after taking from the glycerin solution with some kind of spray?
    Will glycerin change the color of the leaves? Does it affect chlorophyll ?

  44. I found a beautiful piece of tree bark that is entwined with Ivy and tree vines and I would love to preserve it and hang it on a wall in my house. The slab of bark is about 1′ wide by 3′ long. Can you provide advice on how to clean and preserve it? Thanks!

  45. I have a huge magnolia tree! I would like to preserve the stems along with the leaves. How do I do this and how much glycerin to water do I need? Everything I’ve read only tells how to preserve the leaves! I want to do the stems too to add to some Cotten stems. Thank you!

  46. I was SOOOOO excited to find this site. I am hoping this will work next spring; my Mom loves dogwood and each spring I make cuttings for her to display in a vase; I also get Redbud and Dogwood for another vase to do a mix display. My daughter and I take the four-wheeler out where the road continues past our home; the electric ends at our home and their are no homes for nearly 3 miles, and just forests; old home sites where stone foundations sit with irises growing here and there, limestone, springs, and some overgrown pastures. MUDHOLES too. LOL. My daughter while teaching her how to make a good cut for the vase, has taken to the red bud; we had tried to preserve with spray acrylic, which I knew would not work, but she wanted it for her wall. Next year, I am hoping this is our ticket!! So looking forward to experimenting this summer !!!!!

  47. Hello. I used the glycerine method and preserved a few leaves from my grandfathers garden. But I notice them drying up a bit now. Can I re do the procedure on them?

    Thank you.

  48. Thank you so much for your help here! I was speaking to a few friends of mine that mentioned they’d buy them from a local business but really wanted to give it a go to compare! Will take all of your advice.

    Keep up the good work!

  49. Hi. I am going to use your preserving procedure for miniature leaves for modelling dioramas. The mini leaves are cut from real autumn leaves using a punch tool.
    My question is, can the diluted glycerin mixture be stored and reused again and if so for how long can it be stored.
    Thank you in advance.
    Best regards
    Dave

  50. Wanting to use red salt cedar twigs to form sombraje shutters. Does anyone have experience using glycerin for this species?

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