How to Make Potpourri

Potpourri mix
Jennifer Levy/The Image Bank/Getty Images

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. However, 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.

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 an 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.

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. 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.