Homemade potpourri is a delightful way to add a personal touch to your home and allows you to unleash your creativity while preserving the treasures blooming all around you during the growing season.
From soothing floral bouquets to invigorating spice medleys, there is an endless palette of aromatic treasures to experiment with and this crafty botanical mix couldn’t be easier to make.
The best part is most of the ingredients can be found in your summer garden and your kitchen pantry!
How Do You Pronounce It?
Some say “Pot–Poor–EE,” but it’s actually “Poe–Poo–Ree,” and it’s a French word that means “Rotten Pot” (if you try the Moist Method, you’ll know why rotten pot applies).
On this tip sheet, you’ll discover the importance of ingredient selection and blending flowers, herbs, spices, and essential oils to create captivating, custom scents that will fill your home with delight.
Did you know there are two different types of potpourri you can make?
One is wet; the other is dry. I’ve included details and instructions for both, but I’ve mainly focused on how to make the dry variety.
Homemade Potpourri 101
The three main components of potpourri are botanical fillers, aromatic fixatives, and fragrance elements. First up is a brief introduction, and then we’ll go into more detail with specific suggestions and recommendations.
- The dried flowers, herbs, leaves, wood shavings, wood chips, and spices (both fragrant and non-fragrant).
- If you’re using fresh items that need to be dried first, plan on four times the amount you need.
- For example: if you want 1 cup of the final product, prepare 4 cups of fresh items to be dried to account for the shrinkage.
- These do the best job absorbing the different fragrances so things keep smelling nice for longer. Fixatives are things like oak moss and orris root.
- Essential oils or fragrance oils. These are applied to the fixatives, so they’ll retain the scent longer. Add more fragrance to the fixatives when the batch needs to be freshened up because it’s losing its smell.
Tools Needed To Make Potpourri:
- Use plastic, wood, ceramic, glass bowls, and plastic or wooden spoons when preparing.
- Do not use metal items.
- A mortar and pestle will also come in handy when crushing the ingredients.
- If a recipe calls for salt, use Kosher salt because it has no additives.
Once you’ve mixed your ingredients and the batch has had time to cure, place the potpourri in a decorative bowl or sachets and let its delightful aroma fill your home. You can also experiment with different combinations and themes, like creating a calming blend for your bedroom or a zesty citrus mix for your kitchen.
Recipe Base & Ingredient Suggestions
This isn’t a hard ‘n fast rule; experiment and mix as you prefer.
General Rule of Thumb Ratio
|2 parts||dried flowers|
|1 part||dried herbs & leaves|
|1 TBS per 1 cup dried flowers||fixative|
|2 drops per 1 TBS of fixative||fragrance|
Remember, these quantities are approximate and can be adjusted based on your desired fragrance strength and the size of your container. It’s always a good idea to start with smaller batches and adjust the ingredients to achieve the desired scent and visual effect.
Feel free to experiment and find the perfect balance that suits your preferences.
Potpourri Component Suggestions
Dried Flowers and herbs are the main ingredients that provide fragrance and visual appeal. Aim to use a variety of them, such as rose petals, lavender buds, chamomile flowers, or any other aromatic botanicals of your choice.
Depending on the size and density of the dried flowers and herbs, a total of 3 cups to 4 cups can be a good starting point.
|Rose (petals, buds, rose hips)||Lily of the Valley|
Instructions for drying flowers from your garden can be found here: Pretty Floral Keepsakes: How To Dry & Preserve Flowers. The herbs tip sheet is here: 10 Methods For Preserving A Bounty Of Herbs.
Spices add warmth, depth, and a touch of the exotic to blends. Here are some good spices commonly used:
|Cinnamon Sticks||Ginger Slices|
|Vanilla Beans||Cardamom Pods|
A nice range of fruits can be used in potpourri to add a touch of natural fragrance and visual appeal, including:
When using fruits in potpourri, it’s important to ensure they are properly dried to prevent molding. Additionally, you can enhance their fragrance by adding essential oils.
Fillers play an essential role in adding volume, texture, and stability to the mixture. They help bulk up the blend and provide a base for the fragrant ingredients.
|Wood Shavings & Chips|
|Dried Botanicals (twigs, seeds, leaves)|
Fixatives add bulk, help retain scent, and act as a binder for the ingredients. The potency varies, so experimentation and careful blending will help achieve the perfect balance.
|Orris Root||Tonka Beans|
|Oak Moss||Cinnamon (ground)|
|Calamus Root||Lavender (ground or whole)|
|Benzoin Resin||Clary Sage|
|Frankincense Resin||Vetiver Root|
|Powdered Gum Arabic||Patchouli (dried leaves)|
Essential Oils (EOs)
Essential oils offer a wide range of scents, from floral and citrusy to earthy and spicy. You can use them individually or create unique blends by combining different oils to achieve your desired fragrance.
Select an EO that complements the existing scent of your potpourri or one that you find particularly appealing.
Suggested Varieties To Try
Remember, essential oils are concentrated, so it’s important not to overdo it. Start with a small amount and gradually increase as needed.
Fragrance Oils (FOs)
I’m personally not a fan of using these in potpourri but they are certainly an alternative to essential oils. Remember that FOs are synthetic and specifically formulated to mimic various scents, including floral, fruity, and spicy aromas. They offer a wide range of options and often have a longer-lasting scent compared to EOs.
When using FOs in potpourri, it’s important to ensure they are safe for use in this type of application and follow the recommended usage guidelines provided by the manufacturer. It’s always a good idea to test a small amount of FO in your mixture to assess the strength and compatibility before adding more.
Dried Floral & Herbal Teas
If you have loose or bagged tea on hand, it can certainly be incorporated with your other ingredients to make custom blends of potpourri.
Some floral teas are highly aromatic, but even regular spiced teas, such as chai, would also be a lovely addition to your blends.
Simply open the bags and pour the contents into your potpourri batch being made.
I have come across mentions of people saving their used, already steeped tea leaves, drying them in the oven and then using the dry bits as filler since they still hold plenty of fragrance.
Doesn’t Smell Nice Anymore? Here’s How To Refresh The Fragrance
Over time, the scent of potpourri may fade. To revive it, gently shake the batch or add 2 or 3 drops of essential oil (any scent that will complement the original blend). Mix it well with a spoon or chopsticks to distribute the EO throughout. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave overnight for the fragrance to saturate the pieces. This will help rejuvenate the aroma.
DIY Fragrant Spritz Refreshers
You could also make a scented mist with a bit of vodka, distilled water & a few drops of your favorite essential oil blend. Shake the bottle well, lightly spritz the batch and allow to dry fully. This will leave behind a lovely, diffused scent.
Floral Garden Mist
1 cup distilled water
2 TBS vodka
15 drops lavender EO
10 drops rose EO
5 drops ylang-ylang EO
Cozy Spice Spritz
1 cup distilled water
2 TBS vodka
10 drops cinnamon EO
8 drops cloves EO
5 drops vanilla EO
Another option for reviving a batch is to work in some ground cinnamon (or sticks), whole cloves, dried rosemary, sprigs of dried lavender, or anything else you have on hand that is still very fragrant.
Cotton Ball Trick
Add a couple of drops of essential oil to a cotton ball or two (depending on the size of the batch), let them sit for a few minutes to saturate, then place the balls on top of the potpourri. Cover the jar (or bowl) opening, leave overnight, then remove the lid. Tuck the balls into the center of the mix so they’re hidden, but the aroma they hold will still freshen things up.
If it’s on its last legs and you’re ready to toss for a new, fresh batch, keep the old stuff and use it one last time in simmering pots. The heat will generate the scent again and fill your home with its final farewell fragrance.
For freshly made mix, allow to cure for about six weeks before using. You can use it sooner, but the longer it’s allowed to cure, the stronger and longer-lasting the fragrance will be. Shake the container or bag regularly during this stage to blend the ingredients (about every other day).
- Ensure proper drying: Before storing, make sure your potpourri is thoroughly dried. This helps prevent the growth of mold or mildew during storage. Allow the batch to air dry for a few days in a well-ventilated area until all the moisture has evaporated.
- Seal in an airtight jar: A crock, airtight container, or Ziploc bag until it’s ready to use. This helps to maintain the fragrance and prevent exposure to external elements like moisture and air.
- Avoid direct sunlight: Store your potpourri in a cool, dry, and dark place away from direct sunlight. Sunlight can fade the colors and degrade the fragrance of the dried flowers and herbs.
- Check for moisture: Regularly check stored potpourri for any signs of moisture or mold. If you notice any, discard that portion to prevent it from affecting the rest of the batch.
- Label and date: It’s helpful to label the containers with the name of the blend and the date it was made. This allows you to keep track of the different varieties and their freshness.
By following these storage tips, you can make big batches of potpourri and enjoy its fragrance for an extended period.
Remember to store your batch away from pets and children to prevent accidental ingestion or contact.
Vintage Recipe For A Rose Jar
Source: These directions are from the Kitchen-Klatter Magazine, July 1952
Here’s a simple Rose Jar project that you can make using rose leaves.
Gather leaves when dry. Spread out in a dark room on paper and sprinkle with salt.
When thoroughly dry, put one qt. petals in a pan and put this mixture over them:
- 1 tsp. oil of cloves
- 1 tsp. cassia buds
- 1 tsp. lavender
- 1 Tbls. Orris root, powdered
- 1 oz. of any good perfume (not Lily of the Valley)
Keep in a covered jar. When you wish to use it, shake well and leave the cover off.
Optional: You can add a few Rose Geranium leaves or dried mint leaves.
How To Make “Rotten Pot” (aka Moist or Fermented Blends)
This is a unique and unconventional approach where the ingredients are intentionally allowed to ferment before being used to create a distinctive scent.
While traditional potpourri relies on dried and preserved flowers, herbs, and spices, this variation embraces the transformation of organic matter as it breaks down.
Over time, the ingredients undergo a natural fermentation process, producing unique scents that are quite different from the traditional potpourri.
- Made with partially dried flowers, leaves, and herbs that are layered with salt (use Kosher salt).
- It should be prepared in a large crock or bowl that is made airtight by covering it with a tight-fitting lid.
- Layer ingredients (petals, leaves, etc.) about 2″, then salt about 1/8″.
- Place a plate on the top layer to cover and weigh down the ingredients. Place a weight on top of the plate with something heavy (like a bowl or rock).
- Cover the container so it’s airtight.
- Stir daily and allow to ferment for 14 days.
- After 14 days, stir the mixture well, then re-seal tightly.
- Allow the mix to “brew” untouched for four weeks. Do not peek or allow any air in the crock. After four weeks, it can be removed from the crock and used.
Place in open bowls or containers in well-ventilated areas to release the fragrance (which can be earthy, musky, or even pungent, depending on the decomposition stage and the specific ingredients used).
- The salt is optional (this method is known as salt-fermented potpourri), but it helps to add an extra layer of preservation and fragrance to the process.
- The salt acts as a natural preservative, helping retain the ingredients’ scent and color while also preventing mold or bacterial growth.
Getting The Best From Your Potpourri Batch: Assorted Tips
- Layer scents for complexity: Instead of using a single dominant fragrance, layer different scents to create a more complex and intriguing blend. This can be achieved by combining complementary floral, herbal, and citrus notes.
- Add natural preservatives: Consider incorporating natural preservatives to keep your batch fresh. Ingredients like dried lemon slices, cloves, orris root powder, or powdered cinnamon can help extend the shelf life of your potpourri.
- Experiment with different textures: Along with various scents, incorporating a mix of textures adds visual interest to your potpourri. Try including ingredients like dried seed pods, pine cones, pine needles, or small dried flowers to create a visually appealing blend.
- Customize scents for different rooms: Consider creating specific blends for different rooms in your home. For example, use relaxing lavender and chamomile in the bedroom, energizing citrus blends in the kitchen, or invigorating herbs in your workspace.
- Use quality dried botanicals: The quality of your dried flowers and herbs greatly impacts the final result. Ensure that you properly dry your ingredients and store them in airtight containers to maintain their potency and fragrance. Using pesticide-free, organic florals for crafts like this is always best.
- Experiment with natural colorants: Enhance the visual appeal of your mix by adding natural colorants. To create a visually stunning mixture, try using dried flower petals in different hues, such as purple from lavender or yellow from calendula.
- Add a touch of sentimentality to your potpourri by incorporating small mementos or items with emotional value. This could include dried petals from flowers gifted by loved ones or herbs harvested from grandma’s garden.