How to make homemade potpourri

Humans have used natural scents for 6,000 years.   People used flowers and spices in their homes, and carried them around.  In the middle ages, people carried around bouquets so that they could sniff them when they smelled the odors from the gutter where people emptied their chamberpots.  Herbs and flowers were also used underfoot in dirt floored homes.  Pomanders were made and hung.

Today, in the US, most people buy artificial fragrances.  Many home fragrances used today involve lots of waste packaging and must be replaced fairly often, resulting in more waste and expense.

Instead, Ecoetsians, make your own.  The dry method of making Potpourri is easy and economical if you grow your own flora.  These recipes use 2 purchased ingredients which are available from etsy sellers, as well as coarse salt.

1. Choose your ingredients.

Flower gardens yield many fragrant blooms:  lavender, rose petals, carnation, and chamomile make a wonderful combination.   Lilacs, lilly of the valley, gardenia, wall flowers and mignonettes have wonderful aromas as well.  Herb growers can also use their bounty in potpourris.  Try mint, rosemary, lemon balm, marjoram, sage, and thyme.  You can also use woodland finds as potpourri.  Cedar twigs and bark scrapings, pine needles, sandlewood bark scrapings, myrtle cones, larch or alder cones are frequent choices.

2. Dry your ingredients

Now that you have gathered your ingredients, dry them in single layers out of the sun.  I have baking sheets dedicated to non-baking uses.  If you have screens, cover them with muslin so the ingredients don’t fall through.  Food dryers and ovens set on low are energy users, but time savers.   Unless you have already decided what you will put together, keep your ingredients separate.  Another traditional way to dry them is simply to hang the plants upside down from the rafters.  Or curtain rods, or ceiling fans, or coat racks.  Dry until crisp, and put into jars with lids until you have all your supplies.  Layer each inch of plant material, (2-3″  if you are using small jars) with 1/2 tsp Orris Root powder.  Label and store for at least 3 weeks.  If you don’t want to retain the color of your potpourri, also add 1/2 tsp. salt with the Orris Root. (Click the picture below for the listing)

Orris Root from MisticalAcScents

Orris Root from MisticalAcScents

You can buy handmade potpourri on Etsy, of course, but where’s the fun in that?

3. Supplement your scents

You may want to buy some fragrance oil to add to your potpourri.  The oil is concentrated and will help the fragrance last longer.   When I searched Etsy for fragrance oil, I got 9,401 results.  By searching for “aromatherapy lavender fragrance oils”, it dropped down to only 381, so choose the scent you want before searching for the first time.  Some sellers have small samples for small amounts of money.  You can also buy some dried flower buds on Etsy if you didn’t dry your own and want to make potourri anyway.

4. How to store potpourri

You can seal up your potpourri for later use or gift giving.  Or, you can put it right into  your bowls or whatever you will be using to hold it when you set it out.  Searching for Potpourri jars on Etsy yields 37 results;  you can dig into your own Vintage stash and use bowls and containers from that;  or, Eco Etsy team member VintagebyAlexKeller has this little box listed that would be perfect for Potpourri:

Making the potpourri itself couldn’t be easier.  Open the jars and mix to your nose’s delight.    Use a large container.   You may be surprised at how much volume you will have.  Add more Orris Root, about 2 tbsp for 2 cups of potpourri.  You can add more salt, if using it.  It helps preserve the dried material.

This would be when you would add fragrance oil if you are going to use it.  Start slowly, about 1 tsp to start.  You can always add more.  Different fragrance oils have different concentrations.  “The New Age Herbalist” recommends using Oil of Rosemary and/or Oil of Thyme with herb potpourri, and Sandlewood and/or Cedar Oil for a forest potpourri.

You can also add other fragrances to the potpourri.  Lemon, orange and lime peels are a nice addition.    Cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and allspice berries all have luscious scents.

I like to do this on a rainy or a cold, snowy day.  It would be a great time-in activity with kids.

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  1. In making a dry potpourri, I have found the cut orris root to look far better in the mixture than the powdered. In the old still room books, the layering idea came from the creation of the original wet potpourri, which was fresh plant material layered with salt. That technique works far better for smell, but looks nasty. (The original French means “rotting pot.”) Make sure you give your orris root plenty of time to imbue and fix the essential oils you’ve selected.

    Orris root is a fabulous appropriate technology that is completely natural and hypoallergenic, and used to be incorperated in everything from body powders to perfumes to crafts. I’m a dedicated to reviving the interest in some of these almost forgotten heritage solutions. Thanks so much for mentioning it, as well as posting my pic…