How to Make Potpourri: 5 Simple Steps

We detail the best methods for making homemade dry and moist potpourri.

Homemade potpourri with dried flowers in decorative crock

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Overview
  • Working Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 - 8 weeks
  • Yield: 1 jar of potpourri
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 - $30

Potpourri is a cleaner, greener alternative to toxic chemical-based fragrances used to perfume your home. It's often made from natural plant materials like dried flowers, herbs, spices, fruit, seeds, leaves, cones, and essential oils. The aromatic medley is commonly sold in stores, but the most environmentally friendly version of it is usually the version made at home.

Making your own potpourri allows you to tailor the fragrance to your preferences. It also means making the most of food scraps from your pantry, flowers from your garden, and plant materials foraged locally. Here, we provide a classic dry potpourri recipe you can easily customize with whatever ingredients you have on hand—including expired spices and fruits past their prime.

Personalizing Your Potpourri Scent Profile

Dried pink flowers with leaves in close-up of potpourri mix

Adrienne Bresnahan / Getty Images

Potpourri—literally meaning "a mixture of things"—is endlessly customizable. Fans of fruity scents may base their mixture around apples, lemon, pears, or cranberries. Those partial to floral fragrances might rather prefer dried roses, lavender, sage, or jasmine. Maybe you want to craft an autumnal scent with apples and cinnamon or a springy scent with lemon, rosemary, and vanilla.

Here's what you can use to design a scent profile of your own.

  • Flowers and leaves: Lavender, roses, jasmine, and strawflowers are beloved for their fragrance and some of the easiest to dry. Often their leaves are also fragrant and add earthy flair to the mixture.
  • Fruit: Oranges, lemons, limes, apples, pears, and cranberries smell sweet and give potpourri a fresh look.
  • Herbs and spices: Rosemary, mint, thyme, sage, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom are common.
  • Essential oils: Eucalyptus, cassia, bergamot, sandalwood, cedarwood, fir, and vetiver add a citrusy, spicy, or earthy aroma.

How to Dry Fruit and Flowers

The most efficient way to dry flowers and fruit for potpourri is with a dehydrator, but you can also make do with just an oven. Pull apart petals and leaves from flowers and cut fruit into slices about an eighth of an inch thick. Place on a wire rack and heat at 200 degrees for about two hours, turning every 30 minutes.

What You'll Need

Tools/Supplies

  • 1 airtight container
  • 1 decorative container (optional)

Ingredients

  • Orris root powder or vetiver grass roots
  • Dried fruit (optional)
  • Herbs and spices (optional)
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • Dried flowers and leaves (optional)

Instructions

  1. Start With a Fixative

    Vetiver grass in a wooden bowl on blue background
    Vetiver grass is a common fixative for potpourri.

    mirzamlk / Getty Images

    A fixative is a preserving agent. In dry potpourri, it's used to preserve the scents of other ingredients by reducing the evaporation rate and, therefore, slowing the release of their aroma. Orris root powder is common for this, but you can also use something more substantial and aesthetically pleasing like vetiver grass roots. Both these are commonly sold in craft stores.

  2. Add Spices and Essential Oils

    In an airtight container, mix your fixative with any powders or liquids you've chosen, including spices and essential oils. The idea is to thoroughly coat the fixative with these ingredients, perhaps best accomplished by sealing the container and shaking it up.

  3. Mix in Flowers and Fruit

    The second most fun thing about making potpourri—the first is playing perfumer—is choosing flowers, fruit, and herbs that look good together. Rose petals, for example, make orange peels pop, and dried leaves—like lemon balm—balance out the abundance of color. Like blueberries to muffin batter, these bigger bits should be added at the end.

  4. Set Aside to Cure

    If creating scents and aromatic artwork with your homemade potpourri is the best part, then practicing patience as the fragrance matures is the worst. For potpourri that properly lasts, you need to let the mixture cure in a sealed, airtight container for four weeks minimum. Eight weeks is better. Keep the container in a dark, dry place throughout this step.

  5. Transfer to a Decorative Container

    Autumnal potpourri in a decorative bowl

    Oksana Verkhola / Getty Images

    Once your potpourri has marinated for a month or two, you're safe to transfer it into a decorative container—a Mason jar, a thrifted fishbowl, the ceramic dish you bought on vacation in Morocco—and enjoy the fruits of your labor. The scent should last about three months.

How to Make 'Moist' Potpourri

Moist or "wet" potpourri is an older method of potpourri making that doesn't require you to dry out ingredients first. To make wet potpourri, fruit is best avoided. Plants are fine, and they can be wilted. Start by creating a bed of plant matter in an air-tight jar or crock—no metal—then layer essential oils, then non-iodized salt, and repeat the process.

Once the container is mostly full, compress the potpourri with a weighted object and seal the container. Allow the mixture to ferment for three or four weeks, stirring every few days to break the crust that might form at the top. Do not add spices or fixatives until the two-week mark.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How long does homemade potpourri last?

    Homemade dry potpourri can last three months, and wet potpourri can last even longer.

  • How do you make potpourri smell stronger?

    Two trusty ways to make your potpourri smell stronger are to add more essential oil to the mixture every so often or to agitate it. Shake the container or stir the potpourri to release more scent.

  • What is a fixative for potpourri?

    A fixative is an ingredient in dry potpourri that's used to absorb essential oils and other moist ingredients and retain their scent. Orris root powder and vetiver grass roots serve this purpose.