Magnolia plants are delicate, with blooms and foliage that wilt easily. Often the only way to preserve wreaths made with fresh magnolia leaves is by using a desiccant, which is a drying medium that aids in preserving the plant material and preventing the leaves and blooms from shriveling into an ugly mess. Several desiccants can be used to preserve a wreath. Silica gel or a mixture of sand, borax and salt are two drying methods ideal for preserving a magnolia wreath.
Borax, Sand and Salt Preservation
Mix two parts borax with one part fine sand in a container large enough to hold the wreath and to cover it without crushing the leaves and blooms.
Add about 3 tablespoons of non-iodized salt to each quart of the borax and sand mixture you make. This aids in retaining the color of the blooms.
Pour the mixture into your container until the bottom is covered by a 1/2-inch layer.
Lay the wreath face-up in the container and sprinkle more of the mixture over the leaves and blooms. Make sure that each flower head and leaf is covered with the mixture.
Cover the container and store where it will not be disturbed. Check the wreath every three or four days to check for dryness.
Remove the wreath when the blooms and foliage are dry. Gently brush away the drying agent from the foliage and then hang it in a dry space such as a closet or a cabinet to let it finish drying. Depending on the size of your magnolia wreath, drying typically takes between four days to two weeks. The blooms may turn brown even with the salt additive, but the leaves change to varying shades of green and brown.
Silica Gel Preservation
Pour a 1/2-inch layer of silica gel crystals into the bottom of a container that is large enough to hold the wreath and that enables you to cover it without crushing the foliage. Silica gel can be purchased at most craft supply stores and florists.
Place your wreath into the container on top of the crystals. Cover and store it in a place where it won't be disturbed. Silica gel crystals turn from blue to a pinkish-grey when they absorb moisture from your magnolia wreath.
Leave your wreath to dry for about two to seven days. Avoid opening the container during this time. Silica gel crystals are lighter than other drying aids, making them ideal for delicate blooms such as magnolias. Because this desiccant dries and preserves more rapidly than other materials, your wreath is likely to retain more of its natural color.
Remove the wreath when flowers and leaves are dry and hang in a dark, dry space to finish drying if necessary.