pink or blue antifreeze as glycerine alternative?

erasmus_gwOctober 30, 2002

I read about this and wonder if anyone can compare these methods of preserving leaves and stems of evergreens. Mainly I'm curious about the antifreeze in hopes that it doesn't turn leaves brown, and also might be lots cheaper.

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annemarie(6 MI)

You can use antifreeze, but use it carefully because it's toxic. It works just a well as glycerine, mainly because it IS glycerine. The main difference is that alcohol, rather than water, will be mixed with the glycerine.

Most antifreeze contains methylalcohol, which is very toxic. Prestone makes an antifreeze called "Low Tox" that has isoproply alcohol instead and it's much safer if you have children or pets.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2002 at 5:29PM
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Thanks, Anneb. Why did someone specify using pink or blue antifreeze? Is that the color of the low tox one? I wonder why you can't just get a cheap jug of anti-freeze grade glycerine. I got about six ounces for three dollars. Do you have to put green dye in the glycerine to keep the evergreens (cypress, pine, magnolia, boxwood) green? If so, food color, cold dye, or regular fabric dye?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2002 at 7:49PM
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annemarie(6 MI)

Low Tox is green. I don't think it matters which color you use, I asked a friend who owns an auto parts store about the different colors and he said it's just a brand thing; they all have the same ingredients.

I paid about a dollar more for the Low Tox, but it's still way cheaper than buying glycerin.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2002 at 7:09AM
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Thanks again, Annemarie. Do you dilute the antifreeze, and if so, are the proportions the same as for straight glycerine? How do you like the way the colors turn out?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2002 at 7:13AM
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Antifreeze is NOT glycerin, it is proplylene glycol, and yes it is very toxic. The reason that preserved plants turn brown is because the chlorophyl (which is the green matter in plants) dies, therefore you have to add a dye to retain the color. Very few dyes will systemically translocate up the stem of plants. There is a great web site of a company that sells dyes and glycerin in larger quantities at wholesale prices. They also sell fragrances. Check them out at

    Bookmark   November 2, 2002 at 9:56PM
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Thanks a lot, Greenhouse Guy. I checked out that website and was interested in the huge variety of dyes available, but I think it's too late for me to order any this year. The glycerine is certainly cheaper in bulk. I'm doing a project for my garden club about Christmas greenery, and as it takes a couple of weeks to preserve stuff I have had to start it already. I bought a little bottle of glycerine and also a jug of Low-Tox antifreeze, and will compare the two. I noticed on that website you mentioned that the glycerine was listed under "glycol". I think I'll write to Prestone and ask if they know anything about using their low-tox product for preserving greens. Am also going to experiment with using Wilt-pruf to make greens last longer as a surface spray. I wonder if paraffin would work too, or car wax, or armor-all. Maybe I should make a seperate topic about this. ANyway, thanks again.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2002 at 11:26AM
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Glycerin is a glycol, there are many glycols and a lot of them will preserve plants. The reason that florist use glycerin instead of the other glycols is because of all the various glycols glycerin has the lowest evaporation point and is not toxic as some of the others. Having the lowest evaporation point is very important. Other glycols like antifreeze will preserve plants but they will evaporate out in 6 months or so and the product will again become brittle. Glycerin preserved plants and flowers will last for many years. Also ALL glycols are hygroscopic (meaning that it will take up water from the atmosphere) so they can bleed, especially in humid climates like along both coasts and the southern United States. Therefore you certainly would not want to use a toxic glycol like antifreeze. Even "Low Tox" antifreeze can kill pets and humans for that matter. No retail or wholesale florist would ever touch any product preserved with antifreeze because of the poison risk.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2002 at 9:33PM
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Hmm, thanks for this information. I have written to Prestone as well for their opinion about the toxicity of Low-tox. Based on what you're saying I am going to go with the glycerine.
One search I did yielded a suggestion that Christmas greenery will last longer if a mere teaspoon of glycerine is added to a quart of water in which the greens are soaked. What do you think of that, Greenhouseguy? My aim is mainly to have long lasting greens for about a month, and am not that concerned about keeping them for years. Would such a small amount of glycerine do the trick for a month of freshness? Would a dye still be necessary?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2002 at 9:11AM
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When preserving plants the typical formula is one part glycerin and 4 parts water. One teaspoon of glycerin to one quart of water seems to weak to do much of anything. But it might work on christmas greens as a refresher, I really dont know. You probably would not need a dye. I notice I did make a mistake in a thread above in that most antifreeze products are actually ethylene glycol instead of glycerine. Some brands do use propylene glycol in an effort to reduce the toxic properties, but then you must use almost twice as much to inhibit freezing.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2002 at 8:51PM
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I emailed Prestone about the Low-Tox product and just got a reply. He said that it does have a degree of toxicity to it and should NOT be used for preserving plants. I guess that settles it.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2002 at 1:20PM
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You can save and reuse the glycerine. My druggist ordered a quart for me over 10 years ago and it's discolored a little but still works. It sometimes will get a little mold in it or leafy bits...just pour thru sieve. Keep in labeled bottle well capped.

Also, it's important to use very warm water and stir well before adding your material. I'm not sure why, but most books mention must aid in the plant taking up the solution more quickly. If I submerge Ivy or individual leaves, I rinse well with warm water after I remove them. Otherwise I just rinse the stems which were in the solution.

One caution: don't store the plants preserved with glycerine in airtight container. A cardboard box with airholes is okay. I use wax paper or tinfoil between each layer. It's also a good idea not to store in same container as your material dried without glycerine. jo

    Bookmark   November 6, 2002 at 12:24PM
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Hi There,
Several years ago I cut cedar branches and had two 5 gallon buckets going. You have to cut in Sept. Early Oct. It takes about 4 to 6 weeks. I put glycerine, red food coloring, water in one bucket, and glycerine and green food coloring, water in the other. I kept wreaths for several years. The red is very pretty. I mixed both colors for wreaths.Cheerio, Bev

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Web

    Bookmark   December 8, 2002 at 7:57AM
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Hi to all and this is in response to Bvrly's post...Bev, how much glycerin and dye did you put in YOUR concoction? It sounds very interesting, especially the red. Was it a dark red? Sounds very cool....also, would like to commend Greenhouse Guy for being so prudent about the whole glycerin vs. antifreeze... i am now pro-glycerin, despite the extra cost.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 1:54AM
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sylky00(z6 KY)

Many of the sites for bath & body & soap crafting supplies carry glycerin in different sizes at reasonable prices. Sometimes, you can even run across a free shipping offer. Some that I've ordered from w/ excellent service: (OR),, You can turn up other suppliers on Google. Prices vary, so check around- a gallon of glycerin was $19-$30, depending on the site. As Josh noted, it can be re-used, so that helps reduce the expense.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 12:32PM
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I was wondering about preserving smaller flowers with glycerine, I'm having a hard time finding info, any tips??? I was also wondering about the feasibility of doin magnolia blossoms or petals????

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 6:58PM
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Anti-freeze can be many things.

I cannot speak to the interaction with leaves, but being in the chemical business, maybe help clarify these posts.

Color means nothing. Any chemical can be colored.
Most automotive antifreeze is still ethylene glycol based. this is toxic to animals (kidney failure) and an environmental pollutant. please do not use, ever.

Others, like RV antifreeze, are typically propylene glycol based, (non-toxic), but some contain an alcohol portion.
The alcohol will do nothing good for leaves.

Glycerin is a food ingredient, and probably the safest for plants, though in very low humidity (Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 5:23PM
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