which keeps its bright colours
Confetti made from dried flowers is beautiful, colourful and eco friendly because it is biodegradable. It’s wonderful to celebrate your special wedding day while showing kindness to the planet.
Some venues, including churches and wine farms, have bans on artificial confetti because it is such a pain to clean up from between brick pavers, gravel or lawns. Natural confetti is lighter and softer so it sweeps up more easily and can just be raked or brushed into a nearby flowerbed. If your wedding ceremony is in a garden, on a farm, or near the ocean, it will just biodegrade without doing any harm.
Another advantage of bougainvillea petal confetti, is that, unlike many flowers (including fresh colourful rose petals) the colours do not tend to bleed into carpets or fabrics when they get squished underfoot.
Hot tip: you can also adapt this drying process for convenient, gorgeous make-ahead floral decorations and arrangements for other parties and celebrations. Scatter dried whole bougainvillea flowers on table cloths and picnic blankets, put them in glass vases and run a needle and thread through the thickest part of the dried flowers (or tie around stems of small bunches) for charming hanging arrangements.
Best of all, bougainvillea flowers are not heavy on pollen, or tiny little bits of fluff that can make some flowers an allergy nightmare for hay fever sufferers. In fact, you’re going to be removing the one bit of the flower that has any pollen at all, so you and your guests should hopefully be blissfully sniffle free!
Side note: The part you use for making confetti is actually not the true flower, but a bract, or outer casing for the true, skinny flower within. To avoid confusing people, I’m going to call the skinny little bit inside that you will remove in Step 2 the ‘stamen’ and the bracts ‘petals’.
I’m sorry to be botanically incorrect, but it’s easier to write that way, or perhaps I’m better at going with what looks like a flower petal to me. I hope the people who are annoyed by this can overlook it just this once, possibly after a stiff drink.
Indigenous to South America, Bougainvillea flowers abundantly nearly all year round in warmer climates around the world, such as South Africa to Greece. If you or a friend have a bush or tree, chances are you won’t even miss a large branch or two of flowers cut off for making your flower confetti. It is a vigorous, strong plant that thrives on being cut back.
Unlike with roses and other colourful cut flowers, your cost is really your time, or perhaps a gift for the neighbour who allows you to prune their bougainvillea hedge (I’m not joking – we gently ‘pruned’ the hawthorn and pyracantha hedges of an entire small town in Mpumalanga for our wedding… with permission, of course!)
Bougainvillea petals come in a variety of gorgeous colours ranging from bright hues of pink, red and orange through to pale pink blushes and white. They can keep the full intensity of their colours if you dry and store them correctly. Simply Sparkles have tested this out a few times.
If you want them faded for some variety, or to go with a toned-down colour scheme, then don’t worry about sunlight in the process. If you prefer the intense colours, then there is a bit more to the confetti making process.
There are so many types of boungainvillea that botanists can’t quite agree on how many there are. We have three in my garden, one has smaller, spikier flowers which are very pretty but a bit more hard work. We dry and use them whole. For this post, I used the larger petaled varieties, which are easier to use and give a good volume of confetti.
Follow Simply Sparkles‘ step-by-step guide to making gorgeous, colourful bougainvillea confetti. If you read our DIY guide and think you don’t have the time, then by all means get in touch and we’ll gladly make it for your special day (our bougainvillea is completely organic into the bargain!)
1. Hang your flowers up to dry
An old trick when drying any type of fresh flower is to hang them upside down from their stems. This allows air to freely circulate, drying the flowers evenly while the flower petals keep their shape. You should pick them on a dry day so there isn’t any additional rain or dew moisture to contend with.
In the case of bougainvillea, it is easiest to pick and hang them in biggish branches. Just watch out for those big thorns when you’re harvesting – there aren’t many near the flowering parts, but the minute you’re in the leafy bits, beware!
The important part for keeping the gorgeous intensity of the bougainvillea confetti colours is to make sure you hang the flowers to dry where there is no direct sunlight. We hang our branches from a roof beam on our veranda, but on the side closest to the house, so even low morning or evening sun doesn’t shine on them.
Leave the flowers to dry out for a week or two, depending on your climate. Check the petals from time to time by gently touching them to feel how dry they are. They should feel very dry and papery in texture (in Brazil, one variety of Bougainvillea is known as paperflower!).
The smaller flowers dry the slowest as the petals are so close together. However their colour is the most intense, so I think it’s worth the time to dry these little guys out – we add an extra step in for this in the next bit.
If you live in a humid climate with a lot of air moisture, consider drying the flowers inside somewhere. If you live in a dusty environment, consider very loosely covering your branch of flowers with very open weave muslin or fine netting, or even a brown paper bag with LOTS of holes punched in it. The important thing to remember is good air circulation or your flowers won’t dry quickly, and not to squash them.
2. Remove the stalks and stamens
You want your bougainvillea confetti to be soft and without little sticks and any pollen, so this is a step we highly recommend, though not everyone takes it. It’s a bit more effort, but worth it, and it actually increases the volume of confetti you get from your bougainvillea flowers.
Fun fact: wedding and party suppliers often sell flower confetti by the litre, as it’s an easier measure than weight for something this light. A standard amount of natural flower petal confetti (for larger petals like rose and bougainvillea) is 5l for a smaller wedding and 10l for more people, but you can ask your wedding planner for advice on quantities for your needs.
We tend to do this at a quiet time when our hands are free but our minds can be kept busy. So if you are a DIY bride or groom on a budget, this is a great job to do while you watch your favourite TV show or listen to an absorbing podcast. It’s quite a soothing and satisfying mindfulness activity, and just takes a little patience. Or daydreaming about your future Mr or Mrs!
We start by snipping off the flowers from the stalks right at the base of the petal so that there aren’t any sharp little sticks in your confetti. This is the bare minimum you need to do.
Then we peel the petals apart very gently. At least one will have a little stamen stuck along its inside seam. This can be pulled off quickly, but it will break off a bit of your petal. That isn’t a problem, as you aren’t aiming for perfect shapes in your mass of confetti, but if you don’t want to waste volume, it’s better to snip them out instead.
As this is a bit fiddly and messy, it’s best to work at a big, cleared table or on a cloth or newspaper. Just make sure the surface is clean – you don’t want stickiness or breadcrumbs in your precious confetti!
In the picture you can see the snipped out stalks and stamens. You can pop these into a flowerbed or flowerpot as mulch or throw them in your compost. I find them easiest to sweep up with a clean dustpan and brush after gathering up the lighter confetti petals by hand.
It’s also at this point that we add an extra step in if we want the lovely intense colours of those tiny flowers.
They tend to be a bit crumpled up and still a little moist at this point. So seeing as we’re in any case at the fiddly bit of the process, we peel these apart as well and smooth open the tiny petals with our fingers. We pop these into a separate basket or brown paper bag with holes in to carry on drying out for a few more days. If you don’t think it’s worth the trouble, just add them to the pile of stalks and stamens to throw away. Just don’t put still-moist smaller flowers in with your nicely dried bigger flowers or you’re going to invite mould into the mix – not what you are going for here!
3. Store your natural confetti somewhere well ventilated and protected from direct sunlight.
We store our confetti in a big bowl or basket with a cotton or linen tea towel over the top, if we’ve made it close to a wedding. You can stretch an elastic or tie a string over some cotton as well. We have also used a flat, fine-meshed kitchen sieve over a bowl.
You could also use a fine-weave basket with a lid, or a brown paper bag with small holes in it, a fine mesh gift bag from a craft store, or a muslin draw-string bag, if you are storing it for longer.
The important points to remember for your natural confetti storage:
- Keep your confetti dry and well ventilated. No plastic bags or sealed glass jars for freshly made dried flower petals (you can move to airtight containers once the petals are bone dry, which takes a bit longer).
- Protect your bougainvillea confetti from direct sunlight. It doesn’t have to be kept in the dark, but definitely out of direct sunlight or the colours will fade. It is great, of course, if you want to fade some of them to have a bit more colour variation.
- Make sure your confetti can’t be crushed. You will have noticed in the last step that your flower petals are becoming more brittle as they dry. They don’t break all that easily, but it’s best to keep them nice and open and loose rather than having them get crumpled squashed or crushed.
- Keep your confetti clean. You want to avoid dusty confetti at all costs. So large weave baskets and wide mesh/large-holed net fabric bags are not the best choi
For another week or so after putting the confetti in storage for a while, we like to open it up and toss it about gently with loose fingers. This ensures it is absolutely dry as a bone before we put it away (if you’ve made it a month or more in advance). It’s not that important to do this if you’ve made it under a month before your wedding day or party.
Is bougainvillea toxic or edible?
I’ve lived my whole life with large bougainvillea plants all over the place, as it’s used extensively in South African gardens, particularly as a protective and attractive hedge. Kids make flower crowns and posies out of the flowers and they are often used in celebratory flower arrangements on food tables. So, I hadn’t ever considered this question, but thought I’d better look it up. I cannot give any health advice, but here is a useful link if you are concerned.
From what I gather, it’s the thorns and possibly the sap that might cause skin problems for rare individuals, but there is no sap in the flowers to speak of, so this is hopefully not of concern. Please do your own homework on reputable botany or health sites.
Eating most flowers unless you know what you are about is best avoided, and I LOVE edible flowers. Bougainvillea are sadly most definitely NOT edible, despite their delicious berry colours. Bougainvillea has to be eaten in reasonably large quantities to have any ill effect, as far as I can see. We’ve never been to a wedding where the guests have attempted to nibble the confetti, let alone shovel fistfuls in, but who knows? Perhaps if the speeches are too long?
Small children are of course in their own special category when it comes to any small objects anywhere. Most parents of little ones are super aware of this issue.
We hope you find this post useful – feel free to share your own tips in the comments! If there is a cool climate equivalent of bougainvillea, please also share your ideas or your own blog post links for review. We’d be happy to link to them to help brides out!