How to Make Skeleton Leaves

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Today, I wanted to share with y’all how to make skeleton leaves. When I was about 12 years old, I got to visit my grandparents for two weeks.  During this particular visit grandma and grandpa took me on a picnic lunch at an isolated spot on the St. John’s River. While exploring I found a pretty leaf that I wanted to keep but wasn’t sure how I would get my treasure home.

Once back at the house my grandfather handed me a bible and told me to put the leaf in the middle of it.  He told me that I shouldn’t disturb the leaf by taking it out and looking at it. Grandpa told me I would be surprised at what would happen over time, if I were patient.  This is that leaf today:

This leaf and its wonderful memory have been in my Bible for over 40 years

I love that I still have this leaf, bible and wonderful memory and am afraid to move the leaf or display it in a frame – for now it will stay in  my bible unless you have a suggestion for me.  Definitely am open to any solutions that you offer.

I became curious if there were a quicker process to skeletonize leaves without having to wait for years for nature to take its course. After doing research online that became more and more contradictory and confusing. I decided to throw caution to the wind as I like to do 🙂  and decided to do it this way:

I purchased Super Washing Soda…

Super Washing Soda used to skeletonize leaves for decorative display

I collected this variety of  leaves as i wasn’t sure which ones would work.  The leaves I used were magnolia, maple, camellia, galaxy and holly.  I snipped them right off of the trees and bushes.

For skeleton leaf process i collected a variety of leaves to use

I placed the leaves in a large pot with 8 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups of washing soda wash.  You may need to add water to your pot as it evaporates when boiling.

I did a test check after one hour – none of the leaves were ready. After two hours  this is what the pot looked like – Yuck!

After two hours of boiling the leaves are ready to reveal their inner skelton - the water becomes pretty gross

I placed the leaves in a cool water bath.

Place the boiled leaves in a cool water bath to begin the skeleton process

 And used an old toothbrush to remove the waxy outer layer – this came off very smoothly.

To reveal the leafs skeleton you begin rubbing off outer layer with an old toothbrush

Then rinsed them off under cool water and scrubbed off the outer layers until the skeleton of the leaf started to show through.

To reveal the skeleton of the leaf rinse under running cold water and gently rub with an old toothbrush

The magnolia leaves were the hardiest and most forgiving.  I was also able to use holly and camellia leaves.  All of the others disintegrated 🙁

The skeleton leaves are drying

I found these perfect frames at Hobby Lobby – 50% off.  Double sided glass makes them perfect for displaying the leaves.

Double-sided glass frams are perfect for displaying the skeleton leaf

 In a frame…

How to make a skeleton leaf - ready to be displayed …ready to be displayed. I love looking at the intricate veining – amazed that a leaf has an interior skeleton.

The skeleton of the leaf really stands out in this displayThe leaves that survived the boil are not delicate at all.  The magnolia leaves feel like artificial fabric. For now they are displayed on my fireplace mantel but with the double-sided glass I can move them around and use in different rooms.

Thanks for letting me share this fun and easy project…and a wonderful childhood memory.

How to make skeleton leaves. Easy DIY Fall craft.



  1. Thank you for the very nice write up of your process. It is not intuitive what steps to follow so this is helpful. leaving a little green in the magnolia leaves made them sublime. Nice job!

  2. I wonder if Rubber plant leaves would work? No Magnolias available to me

    1. Hi Sue-

      This is a great question. We have never tried this method with rubber plant leaves. It certainly can’t hurt to try…add some other leaves to the mix so that you don’t waste your total efforts. Also, we would love to hear back from you on how the rubber leaves worked out! Best wishes!

      Vicki and Jenn ~ 2 Bees

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