With the arrival of autumn usually comes a refresh of our home accessories and an influx of fall decor. We bust out the cozy blankets, plush pillows, and scented candles in an attempt to ramp up the hygge effect as we prepare to hunker down for darker, cooler days. But while scented candles have plenty of upsides and a devoted fan-following (us included), they have some flaws, too. Whether you avoid candles for safety reasons, health concerns, or potential environmental issues (or your living situation doesn't allow them), there are plenty of flame-free alternatives to add an autumnal air to your home without the wick and wax.
This trendy alternative to fresh floral bouquets is perfect for fall, and Helen Ellis of Shida Preserved Flowers assures us that many of their bouquets come complete with a scent. Lavender and eucalyptus are particularly fragrant, and they're full of naturally scented oils that can last a while, she says.
Unlike candles, dried flowers can also offer a visual reminder of fall, while also scenting your home. Best of all, they’re cost-effective compared to fresh flowers, and their long life span means that their scent can last for much longer, Ellis says. "Traditionally, dried flowers were always used towards the autumnal seasons after harvesting, and their natural golden hues make them the perfect home accessory for fall," she says.
To make the most of your dried flowers, Ellis suggests you keep them out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources. "Sunlight will heat up your flowers and make their natural scented oils evaporate, leaving them scentless," she says. If that does happen, don’t panic! “To boost the scent of your dried or preserved flowers over the autumnal months, you could add scented beads to your vase with your favorite seasonal scent," Ellis says. "You can also pick up dried flower scents to add to your flowers, but use them with caution, as your flowers are bound to outlast the season!”
For scented flowers that will naturally last a while, look for flowers that are strongly scented whilst growing, Ellis says. Think scented roses, lavender, and eucalyptus.
If fresh flowers are more your preference, Michal Kowalski from Blooming Haus has tips on exactly which flowers will be the most effective for scenting your home.
“Planted geraniums are wonderfully fragrant, especially the Citronella variety, which smells like a sweet lemon,” he says. “It grows perfectly indoors in light and smells gorgeous throughout the year.” But for something truly autumnal, Michael suggests going herbal. “Oregano will grow well indoors,” he says. “Basil and mint could be placed around kitchen or dining room windows. Eucalyptus, whether fresh or dried, is always a great choice.”
If you’re looking for a natural way to go, essential oils are your answer. Tara Gangadharan, founder of the essential oils brand THARA SACRA, says that “essential oils are the result of isolating a botanical's oil through methods like distillation or expression. They contain the aroma and essence of the botanical and are a wonderful way to usher seasonal energy into your home.”
Ideal scents for fall include anything that’s “warm, spicy, and sweet,” Gangadharan says—think cinnamon bark, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg to bring those autumnal vibes home. Alternately, if you want something a bit different this season, Gangadharan says certain scents can help brighten up your days, too. “As the days are getting darker, it is also nice to add a bit of sunshine and glow into your essential oil blends with citrus oils like sweet orange, lemon, and bergamot,” she says.
Another benefit of essential oils allows you to pull from the energy of the season. “Autumnal energy calls us to turn inward and reflect,” Gangadharan says. “Essential oils that pair well with this energy are grounding and balancing. My favorites are ginger, vetiver, and patchouli. Also, wood essential oils like cedarwood and black spruce."
Tara suggests using an aromatic diffuser to effectively scent your home with essential oils, and she offered this customized recipe for the perfect autumn scent: “Three drops of sweet orange, two drops cinnamon bark, and one drop clove. The sweet orange adds a bit of brightness and joy to the warm and spicy notes of cinnamon bark and clove. It reminds me of the potpourri my Mom used to simmer on the stove on cool, crisp fall nights.”
Along with classic arrangements, there’s another way to use flowers to freshen up your home. “Use flower water, such as orange or rose water, and spritz it around your home,” Kowalski says. “It’s super simple to make."
Using perfumed petals or herbs, Kowalski says to wrap the mixture in cheesecloth and leave overnight. "The following day, squeeze the petals or herbs through the cheesecloth into water and boil," he says. "Continue to reduce until you are left with 1 to 2 tablespoons of essence. Wild and foraged flowers will normally be more fragrant unless you purchased a flower or plant cultivated for fragrance, such as David Austin roses. You can also add cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, orange, grapefruit, or lemon peel. They are all perfect to mix in.”
Whichever option you choose, as Gangadharan points out, “It is important to remember scent is a very personal experience. Play around with different aromas to find the one that fits your energy and space best.”