Preserve Fall Leaves — Naturally

Fall just falls too fast. It’s like Mother’s Nature’s grand finale—a way to send summer off with a big display of color that will hopefully tide you over until spring. Only it doesn’t. As soon as the leaves float to the ground, I miss them, and start looking forward to next year. That got me thinking there had to be a way to preserve the fall leaves and hang onto them a little longer.

How to Preserve Fall Leaves

I tried pressing leaves in a book, but their color disappeared, and they were incredibly brittle. With kids and pets, my leaves didn’t last as long as it took to press. I found a recipe to coat them in paraffin, but I wanted something more natural. Then a friend told me about glycerin.

Glycerin is a colorless, sweet, sticky humectant that is a by-product from making soap. It offers great skin-softening properties, but most commercial soaps remove the glycerin to use in lotions and other skin conditioners. If you know a local soapmaker and wondered why those soaps were easier on your skin, it’s at least partially due to the fact that the glycerin has been left intact. As a humectant, glycerin naturally attracts water from its surroundings. On glycerin soap, you might notice little beads of water forming on the bar long after your shower. On your skin, glycerin helps you stay soft and hydrated longer. On leaves, it lets you enjoy the fall well past winter.

Vegetable glycerin

vegetable glycerin pouring

how to preserve fall leaves

how to preserve fall leaves

Fall themed dining table

DIY Leaf Preserving with Glycerin

  • ½ cup organic glycerin
  • 1 cup water
  • Large glass baking dish
  • Small, shallow glass baking dish
  • Leaves – choose the brightest colors since they will fade a little
  1. Mix the glycerin and water in the large baking dish.
  2. Place the leaves in the dish, making sure the edges aren’t folded over and the leaves are just covered in the mixture.
  3. Place the smaller dish on top as a weight to make sure the leaves stay flat.
  4. Set aside in a safe place for a week a two while you go outside and enjoy the real leaves.
  5. Remove leaves from the solution and pat dry.

Because the glycerin replaces the natural moisture in the leaves, and continues to attract moisture, the leaves will stay soft and pliable. Place in a bowl as a centerpiece, or scatter on a long table runner. To really capture the essence of autumn, try adding them to a basket of pinecones scented with essential oils to extend the aroma of fall a little longer, too. Here’s one of our favorite fall blends:

essential oils for fall

Enjoy the season and remember, while you’re out gathering fall foliage, red looks beautiful on the the leaves, but not on your skin. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

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