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.

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Backed by his 40-year remodeling career, Danny served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. His extensive hands-on experience and understanding of the industry make him the go-to source for all things having to do with the home – from advice on simple repairs, to complete remodels, to helping homeowners prepare their homes for extreme weather and seasons.