How to Make Potpourri

potpourri making

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

In today's world of scented candles, air fresheners, and plug-in deodorizers, the art of drying flowers and using them to fragrance your home seems quaint. Making potpourri is an easy craft, the supplies are very inexpensive, and it's a way to reduce and recycle while limiting the chemicals you use in your home. Even if you don't grow all of the flowers you'd like to include in your potpourri mix, a neighbor might not mind handing over a few stems that are past their prime in the garden, especially if you promise her a homemade sachet in return.

Choose Potpourri Flowers and Plant Material

The best flowers for potpourri are those that retain their color and shape when you dry them. If they are fragrant too, that is a bonus, but you can always add fragrance. In fact, it's better not to use too many fragrant flowers, as the perfumes can clash when combined.

Annual flowers you can grow and harvest for potpourri include bachelor's button, calendula, gomphrena, larkspur, pansy, and scented geranium. Excellent perennial flower choices for potpourri are lavender, rose (especially in bud), dianthus, and chrysanthemum.

Half of the appeal of a good potpourri mix is visual, so consider supplementing with natural materials you gather from woods and fields around your home, like seed pods or small pine cones. Look to your pantry for fragrant and beautiful additives like whole nutmeg berries, whole cloves, dried citrus rind, whole star anise, and cinnamon sticks. Finally, no one will think you're cheating if you add a sprinkling of mixers from the hobby store, like sandalwood chips, eucalyptus leaves, and tonka beans.

Potpourri Making Supplies

Purchase a fixative to help your potpourri fragrance last longer. Orris root, made from the rhizomes of irises, is one of the most popular fixatives. The powdered root has a light floral fragrance. Other fragrant fixatives include vanilla beans, oakmoss, angelica root, and myrrh gum. Each of these exotic fixatives should make up about ten to twenty percent of the potpourri mix.

What Are Fixatives?

Fixatives are a natural or synthetic substance that reduces the evaporation rate of oil and water in the plants used to make potpourri so that it lasts longer. Here's how: The plants used to make potpourri naturally consist of oils and water that, over time, evaporate, making the potpourri less effective.

Small vials of essential oils are another fragrance-boosting ingredient. You can add oils at the initiation of the potpourri making process, or later when the mix begins to lose its scent. Oils are richly fragrant and should be used sparingly. In fact, too much of essential oil can impart a medicinal smell to your potpourri, which might be desirable for chasing insects from a musty closet, but isn't pleasing in the living room. Essential oils can mirror the ingredients of your potpourri, like a rose, lavender, or citrus.

potpourri-making supplies

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Moist or Dry Potpourri Recipes

For the most fragrant potpourri, start with freshly picked ingredients you've dried for a few days. The materials should be pliable and not yet brittle. Layer plant materials with coarse salt in a bowl, alternating layers. After a few weeks, stir the mixture and add your fixatives and oils. After six months, your moist potpourri will be ready to use.

The quickest way to make potpourri is with completely dry plant material. No salt is required; just add your oils and fixatives and stir gently with a wooden spoon. After a month, the scents will be blended together and your potpourri ready. 

Potpourri Display

Choose any type of non-metal container or vessel to display your potpourri, as metals can react with the essential oils. Baskets, jars, and bowls are common potpourri holders. Choose a container with a perforated lid if pets or small children can't resist picking through the dried flowers, which are a choking hazard. To create a sachet for scenting clothes and closets, tie or sew a scrap of pretty fabric or a lacy handkerchief together, and fill with your mix. You can even give Fido's bed a fresh spin through the dryer with a sewn sachet. 

displaying your potpourri

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Potera, Carol. Scented Products Emit a Bouquet of VOCsEnvironmental health perspectives, vol. 119,1, 2011: A16. doi:10.1289/ehp.119-a16

  2. Gautam, Meenu, and Madhoolika Agrawal. Influence Of Metals on Essential Oil Content and Composition of Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus (D.C.) Stapf.) Grown Under Different Levels of Red Mud in Sewage Sludge Amended SoilChemosphere vol. 175, 2017: 315-322. doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.02.065

  3. Choking Hazard Safety. Nationwide Children's Hospital.