Preserve Your Favorite Fall Leaves

I love the changing seasons.  The cooler temperatures in the fall are always welcome after a hot summer.  This time of year, we like to take a drive up into the mountains to see the changing colors.  The vibrant colored fall leaves amaze me every time.  I take pictures each year, but somehow the pictures just don’t do the colors justice.

I always wish I could preserve the beautiful leaves so I can scatter a few on my table or to make a pretty Thanksgiving centerpiece.  Now, I have found a way to preserve them and keep the leaves pliable.

When gathering the colorful leaves, try to find the most perfect.  Look for leaves that are not brown or dry on the edges.  Make sure that their stems are still attached and that they don’t have signs that they have been eaten by insects.  (Don’t feel bad about pulling a few leaves off of a tree; they’re going to fall off anyway!)

After you have gathered up a nice variety of colors, rinse them off and put them into a zipper seal bag.  Mix up a solution of:

½ c. water

¼ c. vegetable glycerin

Pour the solution over the leaves in the bag making sure they are laying flat, not folded or bunched up.

leaves in solution

It’s only necessary to have enough of this solution to cover the leaves.  (If I have a lot of leaves and need more, I just double or triple the recipe accordingly.)  Then, press out the excess air and seal the bag so that all of the leaves are covered in the glycerin solution.  Keep the bag of leaves in a cool place to “marinate” for 3-4 days (be sure to keep away from pets and small children.)

I have found that any blemishes in the leaves will become more apparent after soaking in the solution.  This is why it’s important to be choosy with the leaves I want to preserve.

Remove the leaves from the solution and carefully blot them dry with a paper towel.  (Don’t rinse them.) You will notice that the colors have changed slightly.  The yellow leaves have become more intense.  The orange and red will have turned more of a rusty color.

DIY Preserved Fall Leaves

The leaves in the photo above were soaked in the solution for 3 days.  They will stay pliable and soft for a good long time.  You can use them for all kinds of crafty things like table decorations or making fall wreaths!  They are beautiful tied to the outside of a clear glass candle. The colors really glow!

Try to grab some colorful leaves while the leaves are at their peak of color.  At Thanksgiving time, you’ll be glad you did!

19 thoughts on “Preserve Your Favorite Fall Leaves”

  1. This sounds really easy and effective, and the leaves are so pretty! Two questions: Where might I look for vegetable glycerin? Just how long would you say “a good long time” is?

    1. Vegetable Glycerin can usually be purchased at health food stores or on I have seen it on the health food aisle at my local grocery store too. To answer your other question, “A good long time” can mean months! It depends on the the conditions, like the humidity, etc. You can always make new ones every Autumn if you want to! They are fun to do!

      1. I used to press them with a warn iron between two sheets of wax paper. They for sure lasted throughout the season. Your Idea may make them last longer. Thanks!

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    1. Yes. Just make sure that each leaf is completely submerged in the solution so that they can absorb it evenly.

  3. Forgot about this. I’m going to try preserving leaves for next year. I’ve had a difficult time finding nice quality silk leaves for the wreaths I make. Thanks for the reminder!

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  6. I haven’t tried this method yet, but I found that giving each side of a pretty fall leaf a few coats of mod podge works very well to preserve both the flexibility and the color of the leaves.

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  8. I have used this glycerine method twice now but been unsuccessful as the intense reds and orange fade out after 4/5 days. Any ideas?

    1. You will notice that the colors have changed slightly. The yellow leaves will become more intense. The orange and red will have turned more of a rusty color.

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