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Care Instructions, DIY and How To

Fresh Flower Leis: How to Preserve a Lei

Fresh Flower Leis: How to Preserve a Lei

In ancient Hawaii, people exchanged leis as a token of affection and a religious symbol. Today, the lei is an enduring tradition. But though the tradition lives on, the lei itself won’t last forever –unless you know how to preserve it.

Wondering how to preserve a lei? No matter what experience gave you the lei, it’s probably a special token that you want to keep as long as you can. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to maintain fresh flower leis — read on to learn more!

Why Preserve Hawaiian Flower Leis?

Wondering why the Hawaiian flower lei feels so special?

Hawaiian leis are more than just pretty decorations. They actually have different symbolic meanings, depending on the materials used. Here are just a few of the meanings a lei can have. Which kind of lei will you preserve?

Royal Accessory

Some leis were specifically meant for royalty throughout Hawaiian history.

Traditionally, the royal lei used materials more permanent than flowers. They often included polished kukui nuts, shells, feathers, or other natural materials. These long-lasting leis symbolize power and prestige.


A green flowering vine called maile can be twisted into a lei. This kind was once used as a peace offering.

These green-colored leis still thrive today at many modern events, though, including graduations and weddings. They can also be livened up with the addition of other colored flowers.

Leis of Love

For a blatantly romantic lei, carnations in shades of red, pink, or white work perfectly. These are also popular at weddings, anniversaries, and other events that call for romance. Other romantic leis might use the red and orange ilima flower.

Floral Appreciation

To show a gesture of gratitude or of welcoming, orchids are the flower of choice. These leis tend to come in vibrant colors like green, purple, or white. As a visitor to the islands, you might get this kind of lei as a welcome when you arrive.

Fiery Flower Leis

If you make the trek to the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, you might get a lei made of red or yellow lehua flowers. These leis represent the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele.

History of the Lei

Another reason leis are so special is because of their fascinating cultural history. Let’s take a look at how leis have been a part of Hawaiian culture through the years.

Historians think leis originally came from the Tahitians who sailed to Hawaii, bringing their local customs with them. Leis soon translated into the culture of the islands, taking on meanings like the ones described above. Some leis, like the royal leis and the peace-giving maile leis, had more serious meanings than others.

When the tourism industry started to take off in Hawaii, leis became an easy way for travel companies to welcome visitors with something local and unique. Although many of those travelers didn’t know the meanings behind the leis they received, flowers as a gift is an almost universally appreciated token.

For many years, almost every airport handed a lei to travelers once they arrived on the islands. While the custom is less common at airports now, Hawaiian visitors often get leis as part of events or ceremonies they might visit during their stay.

How to Preserve a Lei: Your Step-by-Step Guide

Lei etiquette means always accepting a lei when it’s offered, and not taking it off while the person who gifted it to you is still there. However, when the time comes to take off your lei, you won’t want to get rid of it right away. Here’s how to preserve real flower leis.

Short-Term Preservation

With these steps, you can keep your lei looking fresh for almost a week.

First, gently place your lei in a plastic bag. If it looks like it’s starting to wilt, gently spritz it with water first.

Place your lei in your refrigerator, towards the bottom. The perfect temperature for a lei is actually between 50 and 55 degrees, so if you can store it at that exact temperature range, that’s even better. Try putting your refrigerator on its highest temperature setting, and you’ll probably have the right temperature for your lei.

If you don’t have room in your fridge, you can also place your lei in a cooler with ice for short-term storage. Again, avoid temperatures that are too hot or too cold. Protect your lei from touching the ice directly — cover the ice with cloth or paper before adding your lei.

You can also help the lei maintain moisture by keeping it wrapped in damp paper towels. Mist your lei with water each day so it stays fresh as long as possible.

Long-Term Preservation

To preserve your lei in the long term, you’ll want to dry it instead. You can start this process right away, or after storing your lei as described above.

In fact, you should always dry out your lei, even if you plan to get rid of it. These special flowers don’t belong in the regular trash. Traditionally, they get dried and are either kept, burned, or scattered somewhere natural.

To dry your lei, just hang it up in a dry, dark area with plenty of airflow. Leis dry best by hanging up with the flowers upside-down, just like bouquets do. If your home has high humidity, run a dehumidifier or air conditioner in the room while your lei dries.

Your lei should be dry in a matter of weeks — sometimes as little as one week. You can then spray it with a floral sealer or a coat of hairspray so the dried flowers won’t break.

Ready to Go Get Your Lei?

Now that you know how to preserve a lei, the only thing left to do is to book your trip to get one!

Once you get to the islands, make sure you plan to see us for your real flower leis. High-quality leis last longer and hold up to preservation better. Check out our Hawaiian lei flower selection here!