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DIY: Homemade Potpourri

By Linsibrownson @CleverSpark

Finished Potpourri

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. - William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Interestingly enough, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of rose petals is Lester’s dream sequence from the movie American Beauty. Since seeing that movie I have never looked at roses the same way again. A close second in my rose-related recollection, however, is potpourri.

In 17th Century France, “pot pourri” (or “rotten pot”) was made by drying flowers, herbs and fruits to dry along with a mixture of sea salt to enhance the drying process. Through the growing season, more and more layers would be added to the mixture until the height of summer, when it would begin to mold and ferment. In the autumn, fixatives and spices were added to create a pleasant fragrance.

Jars of dried rose petals have been excavated from Egyptian tombs, and in the Middle Ages women would use “stewing herbs” as a solution to a foul and musty-smelling home, due mostly to poor ventilation. Herbs such as lavender and sage were tied in bunches and hung in doorways or stored with clothing to counteract the musty smell of the wooden trunks in which they were kept.

In the 17th century, modly things around the house weren’t necessarily considered unhealthy. Today, however, we are aware of the hazards of mold so most people opt for a ready-made version.  However, if you take great care to dry your herbs, fruits and flowers properly, you can create a home-healthy potpourri for a fraction of the price of the designer mixes sold in stores.

I won’t go into the details of the drying process because there is a wealth of knowledge available on the internet. Just be sure that you monitor your mixture carefully and discard it if any mold appears.

And now on to the DIY!


Only a few things are needed to create a lovely potpourri for your home.

The idea for this DIY came to me when a co-worker walked into my office with a bag full of dried rose petals. He and his wife have several different varieties in their yard and she was saving the petals for a project of her own. Apparently there was such an abundance they decided to share some. Lucky me!

The most time-consuming part of the process is drying. Since I received my petals pre-dried, I got to skip this step. After that, all you have to do is add your choice of essential oil(s) and put into a bowl or bag it up and give as gifts.  It’s really as simple as that.

Feeling the need for a little interest, I decided to add some berries that I had been saving from a batch of potpourri that I purchased last autumn. They were completely spent and devoid of any fragrance so I wasn’t worried about mixing them in with the roses.

Adding the Oil

Essential oils are very concentrated to be sure not to overdo it!

I chose to use lavender for it’s calming properties. Rather than a pure essential oil, I used a room spray that was diluted with water. This way I wouldn’t have to drop as much cash on oils (which can be expensive) and I could regularly refresh the bowl with a couple of mists.

I stirred gently but thoroughly, making sure to distribute the spray evenly. Note: Be sure to replace your oil or spray cap tightly. I managed to spill half of my brand new bottle all over my kitchen counter (and myself). Just call me Grace. I did smell good, however. Strong, but good.

Mixing the Potpourri

Use only non-porous bowls such as glass or a food-grade ceramic. Plastic containers will absorb the odor and metal could interfere with the essential oil's properties.

After that I just poured into a ceramic bowl and put on display in my living room. I think it turned out beatifully! I still have most of the bag of petals and I plan to make another batch for Mother’s Day. I will try adding dried fruits and a more complex combination of oils (including a fixative for staying power).

The process is simple and it would make a great project to do with children. It can be made at any time of the year using flowers grown in your yard, the garden of a friend, or from store-bought flowers. It’s also a great way to create something lasting from those beautiful gift bouquets that get tossed in the trash when the blooms fade. Potpourri also makes great housewarming or hostess gifts, and I have also seen them given as thank-you gifts to wedding or shower guests.

I would love to hear your take on making your own homemade potpourri.

Happy crafting!


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