How to Make Potpourri

potpourri making

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 2 wks
  • Yield: Large bowl of potpourri
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to $25

In today's world of scented candles, air fresheners, and plug-in deodorizers, the art of drying flowers and using them as potpourri to freshen your home seems quaint. But, learning how to make make potpourri is easy. The supplies are inexpensive, and it's a way to reuse 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 the gift of a homemade sachet in return. In fact, just deadhead faded flowers from your yard and read on to learn the next steps.

Tip

Depending on many factors, your potpourri's fragrance can last for a few months to a few years. It depends on the type of flower and fixative you use, and where you place the potpourri. If it's kept out of sunny spots at room temperature and kept in protective, covered glass containers when not in use, it may last longer.

Before You Begin

Choose your potpourri flower and plant material. The best flowers for potpourri are those that retain their color and shape when you dry them, such as rose buds. If they are fragrant, too, that is a bonus, but you can always add fragrance. 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 the following:

Excellent perennial flower choices for potpourri include:

Half of the appeal of a good potpourri mix is visual, so consider supplementing your flowers with the following natural materials you gather from woods and fields around your home or items from within your home, including:

  • Seed pods
  • Small pine cones
  • Whole nutmeg berries
  • Whole cloves
  • Dried citrus rind
  • Whole star anise
  • Cinnamon sticks

Finally, no one will think you're cheating if you add a sprinkling of mixers from the craft and hobby store, like sandalwood chips, eucalyptus leaves, and tonka beans. Here's how to turn your gathered materials into a scent-sational potpourri.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Garden scissors
  • Airtight container (optional)
  • Soft cosmetic or paint brush (optional)
  • Hooks or nails (optional)
  • Wooden mixing spoon
  • Baskets, jars, and/or bowls for display
  • Sachets and/or handkerchiefs

Materials

  • Dried flowers and gathered material selection
  • 1 container Silica gel (optional)
  • Twine, string, or rubber bands (optional)
  • Unscented hairspray (optional)
  • Fixative choice
  • 1 bottle Essential oil choice

Instructions

potpourri-making supplies

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  1. Dry Your Flowers and Materials

    Dry your freshly picked ingredients for a few days or at the most a couple of weeks. The materials that you plan to dry should be pliable and not yet brittle. Here are two popular ways to dry flowers and other materials:

    1. Silica gel: The traditional way of drying whole or large flowers with salt or sand preserves the color but it was messy and took weeks to accomplish. Today, silica gel (a drying agent) from the craft store is quicker. less messy, and reusable. To dry flowers with silica gel, first trim away stems and leaves with garden scissors. Cover the bottom of an airtight container with a thick layer of silica gel (about 1 inch). Carefully place plant materials face down in the container and gently press them into the gel. Cover the tops of the flowers with another layer of gel. Cover the container tightly and leave it undisturbed in a dark, cool area. Check flowers daily to make sure they aren't turning too brittle. Thin flowers take two to three days; thicker, larger flowers may take up to seven days to dry out. Remove flowers when they are ready and lightly brush (with hands or a soft cosmetic/paint brush) the silica gel off the petals.
    2. Air-drying: Air-dry flowers with foliage-stripped stems that are tied together in bundles with twine, string, or rubber bands. Hang the bunches of flowers upside down on nails or hooks in a space without humidity for about a week until they are dry. To keep the shapes of the flower heads, lightly spray them with unscented hairspray.

    Tip

    If you are harvesting and drying rose petals for your potpourri, make sure you take them from newly opened buds. Don't wait for them to naturally fall off or they will not have as much scent.

  2. Prepare Your Flower Mix

    When your flowers and other materials are dry and ready to mix for potpourri, trim any leaves and stems you may have left on them during the drying process. At this time you can also remove petals or keep flowers whole, depending on how much texture you like in your potpourri.

  3. Choose a Fixative

    Fixatives are natural or synthetic substances that reduce the evaporation rate of the oil and water that's in your potpourri plants.

    Purchase a fixative of your choice to add to your potpourri to help the fragrance last longer. Fixatives can make up to almost a quarter of your potpourri mix. Options include:

    • Orris root, a popular powdered choice made from the rhizomes of irises, has a light floral fragrance
    • Vanilla beans
    • Oakmoss
    • Angelica root
    • Myrrh gum
  4. Choose an Essential Oil

    Small vials of essential oils are another fragrance-boosting ingredient to add to your potpourri. Oils are richly fragrant and should be used sparingly, but an average bowl of potpourri may have about eight to 10 drops mixed in. Essential oils can mirror the ingredients of your potpourri. Consider these popular oils:

    • Rose
    • Lavender
    • Citrus
    • Cinnamon
    • Lemon
    • Honeysuckle
    • Bayberry
  5. Mix All the Materials

    Mix the dried flowers, natural materials, fixative, and oil in a bowl. Stir gently with a wooden spoon. After a month, the scents will be blended together and your potpourri will be fully ready, but you can use it right away, as well. 

  6. Display Your Potpourri

    Choose any type of non-metal container or vessel to display your potpourri, as metals can react with the essential oil. 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 choking hazards.

  7. Create Potpourri Sachets

    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 your pet's bedding 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.