The term potpourri (pot-pour-ri) is basically a French expression. When literally translated into English, it denoted 'fermented in a pot'. And this is what actually makes a damp potpourri - moist, aromatic, herb-like substance that is fermented, normally with salt and in a pot. The dry potpourri, a companion of moist potpourri, is a blend of dried up aromatic herbs, spices, flowers and additional bits and pieces. Majority of the dry potpourris do not contain any salt and the method of making them is easy in comparison to the process involved in making moist potpourris.

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The ingredients of any potpourri - dry or moist, largely depend on the preference of the individual making it. In fact, one has a great scope of experimenting while making a potpourri. Since the aptitude to distinguish scent as well as the individual reaction to aroma is an extremely delicate and private issue, there is no potpourri recipe, not even the one mentioned below, which would be precisely ideal for one and all. Every individual making a potpourri should actually have the freedom to intensify or restrain the fragrances included in recipes as per their individual liking. There is yet another truth - despite the fact that you may follow the same potpourri recipe precisely for two seasons, there will be a considerable difference in the end product both times. This is primarily owing to the fact that the potency as well as quality of the essential oils bought from suppliers will differ, so will the aroma of the herbs and flowers for every harvest is dissimilar - influenced by the soil, sunlight, rain as well as maturity. Similar to gardening and cooking, even making potpourri is a very personal endeavour, while the recipe is just a preparation and never the arbiter of the end product.

In ancient Egypt, people created potpourris using rose petals and biblical fragrances, for instance, myrrh and frankincense. Even the Romans and the Greeks had discovered that adding the powdered root of the herb orris to aromatic petals helped in fixing the scent as well as making the fragrance last for a longer period. During the end of the Dark Ages, people making potpourris started including an increasing number of herbs that were grown in the gardens of cottages and monasteries with a view to use them for therapeutic, culinary as well as aromatic purposes. After the people in the West once again discovered the spice routes to the Orient, they even started using spices into potpourris.

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Plenty of rose petals as well as lavender buds and leaves of herbs like rosemary, geraniums, the mints, sweet marjoram, lemon balm, sweet bay, lemon verbena, sweet basil, tarragon, sweet woodruff as well as other aromatic plants are some of the most common elements in potpourris. The potpourri maker adds spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice to these substances. In some older recipes, one may also find orange rind and lemon peel without the white pith. These are stuck together using cloves and dried up. Occasionally, the dried up rinds were also pulverized in a mortar into their powdered form prior to adding them in any potpourri.

Usually, the aromatic oils present in the flowers and leaves become faint somewhat quickly and, in order to preserve the scent, fixatives are included in the present-day potpourris. Majority of the fixatives used in potpourris are fragrant themselves. In the earlier centuries, people used civet, musk and ambergris as fixatives in potpourris. However, in present times we normally use the powder of orrisroot (which is available at several drug stores), oak moss, gum benzoin, vetiver root, Tonka beans and several others. In order to make the scent more strong, we often add essential oils. In effect, the essence of the fragrance of an essential oil is just very strong compared to the oily distillations that are included one drop at a time to the mixture of the potpourri.

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Proportions for potpourris

There are a few common principles that you need to follow to make your personal potpourris. Following the proportions mentioned below will help you in this regard.

Rose petals: In order to make a moist potpourri, you would be requiring almost twice the number of fresh rose petals, which is needed for this type of potpourri. Dry up the rose petals with the appropriate consistency, as a moist potpourri will lessen them almost by 50 per cent.
To prepare a dry potpourri, you will require approximately two times plus an additional 10 per cent of the number of fresh rose petals compared to the number needed to make a moist potpourri. These rose petals need to be dried up to the appropriate point required for preparing a dry potpourri. Remember, the appropriate amount is a reduction of 60 per cent from the amount of the fresh rose petals.

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Essential oils: You need approximately four to six drops of the essential oils for every six to eight cups of rose petals to get a very potent aroma. While you are making any potpourri - moist or dry, add a small number of drops of every essential oil at one time and ensure that you would like the fragrance to be strong even before you add more of the essential oil. It may be mentioned here that the essential oils of rose and lavender are most widely used while making any potpourri.

Salt: Ensure that when you are making a moist potpourri, you should always use unprocessed salt. The proportion of salt should be in the ratio of one cupful for every three filled cupful of the rose petals.

Spices: While making any potpourri you should use approximately one tablespoonful of dried up, pounded spices for every four cups of rose petals.

Fixatives: Normally you will require approximately 1/3 cupful of fixative/ adhesive while making a potpourri. Usually, orrisroot powder is used in the proportion of 1/3 cupful for every four to six cups of rose petals.

Making a moist potpourri

Irrespective of the ingredients used, the fundamental steps of creating a moist potpourri are the same. And when you have understood these steps properly, you may even invent your personal potpourris using the materials available in your garden and those that are at hand.

While making a potpourri, you need to pick two times the amount of rose petals that you would actually need. Mid-morning, the time before the sun becomes too hot, is the most ideal time to pick the petals. Next, you need to dry out the petals placing them on screens in a room away from light and moisture and that is airy. The petals need to be dried one layer deep. When the total amount of petals collected has been reduced by about 50 per cent, they will usually have a rubbery surface. To reach this stage, the petals need to be dried for approximately 10 days at a stretch. In effect, the petals required to make a moist potpourri should have a leathery texture.

When the petals have been dried to the desired level, place them in layers in big earthenware or a glass crock along with unprocessed salt, preferably kosher. The right proportion is using approximately one cup of salt for each three cups filled with leathery textured rose petals.

Next, keep the earthenware or glass crock in a place that is away from light and moisture, plus is well ventilated. You will observe that after some time, the contents of the glass crock will begin to form bubbles and finally, will form a mass akin to a cake. When the petals have formed a caked mass, which will take about 10 days' time, crush it. This will serve as the basis of the potpourri.

Blend the dried scented flowers, petals and leaves of the herbs, spices, fixatives and the essential oil to form a base for the potpourri. Now close the lid of the crock tightly and leave it for treatment for about four to six weeks in a dark, dry and airy place. When this is done, put all the mixed ingredients of the potpourri into an attractive container having an airtight stopper. It is advisable that you always keep the potpourri potted and uncover the lid only when you wish to perfume any room.

Making a dry potpourri

There is a significant difference between the moist as well as dry potpourri. The basic difference is that the rose petals used for making a dry potpourri ought to be bone dry.

In addition, when making a dry potpourri, you need to have two times plus another 10 per cent of the number of rose petals compared to that required for moist potpourri, as this recipe needs, and you require setting them to dry up on screens in an arid, shady, temperate and ventilated place. When these petals become dry akin to brittle cereal in about 10 to 15 days, they are ready to be used for making a dry potpourri.

Subsequently, mix the dried up rose petals along with the other ingredients in a big crock having a broad mouth. Then seal the crock and store the mixture to cure for about four to six weeks. In the meantime, keep shaking the mixture from time to time.

Finally, store the mixture in an attractive jar having a tight fitting stopper.

Pillows and pouches

There are various other ways in which you may make use of the potpourri mixtures. For instance, you may use them to stuff an assortment of cushions and sachets that are meant for use for dissimilar purposes. While closing the opening of the cushions and sachets after filling them with potpourri mixes, you need to use loose stitches or completely seal the opening using Velcro. Doing this will help you to open up the cushions and sachets whenever you wish to refresh them by removing the old stuffing and stuff them with new mixes.

Place mat

Use a piece of quilted cotton padding plus a piece of an attractive cotton material to make a place mat. Fill the mat with the potpourri mixture of your preference. The mixture inside the mat will release its aroma when you place any hot dish or a teapot on it.

Scented pads

This intelligent and traditional recipe not only produces just one final product, but two - scented pads to scent cupboards and drawers, and aromatic oil for toiletry purpose. The ingredients required to prepare this aromatic recipe include:

  • Freshly obtained fragrant flowers and leaves of your preference
  • Olive oil
  • Cotton wool/ wadding

First, immerse the wadding or cotton wool in the olive oil till it is completely soaked and becomes heavy with the oil. Place a layer of the soaked cotton wool or wadding in an earthenware jar and swathe it with one layer of herbal flowers and leaves. Continue doing the layering with the soaked cotton wool/ wadding and the flowers and leaves till the jar becomes full. Subsequently, seal the jar and place it in a sunlit location for about a week. After a week, discard the flowers and leaves and also squeeze the cotton wool/ wadding to remove the oil, which is saturated with the plant aromas by now. Pour this perfumed oil into a clean bottle and seal it. You may make use of the cotton wool and wadding to scent the chests and drawers.

Sweet bags

While making sweet bags, you should generally use a blend of dried fragrant flowers and leaves. These bags may be kept inside cupboards and drawers to perfume them. In addition, they may be placed under the pillows and will release their fragrance when you put your head down. However, the most pleasurable use of these sweet bags is dangling them on the top of the back of chairs and they will release their fragrance when you sit on the chair and apply the pressure and warmth of your body on them. You may use muslin or any lightweight material to make these bags in shapes of your choice. While making these bags, remember to leave an opening for filling in the mixture of dried scented flowers and leaves. In addition, you need to add loops to the bags for hanging them. Fill these bags with the potpourri mixture of your preference and, subsequently, stitch the opening loosely or use a Velcro to seal the openings.


Sweet bags can be made in a number of different ways and with different aromatic fillings. For instance, lavender bags are also made in a similar manner, making use of dried up aromatic flower heads as fillings.

Sleep pillows

Making sleep pillows with potpourri mixes is an ideal and pleasurable way to ensure sound sleep. You may make small cushions and pack them with potpourri mixtures comprising dried up flowers of chamomile and lavender and also add dried hops to them and use it as a scented sleep pillow. Using this pillow will definitely make your sleep all the more soothing.

Wreaths and table decorations

While the majority of the dried arrangements usually make use of flowers and herbs, some of them having beautiful flowers, even seed-heads all by themselves may be used to create ornamental arrangements. These decorative arrangements are not only attractive, but are also aromatic.

Potpourri and posy ring

Potpourri and posy ring is an ornamental wreath that makes use of the hues, texture as well as the fragrance of flowery potpourri blends and converts them into an appealing attractive decoration. The ingredients required to make this particular floral arrangement include the following:

  • Potpourri mixture
  • Collection of dried aromatic flowers
  • 15 cm/ 6 inches of straw wreath form
  • 1 meter/ 1 yard of velvet ribbon, which is 2.5 cm/ 1 inch in width
  • Thin-gauge floral wire
  • Average-gauge florist's wire
  • Glue gun and glue sticks

Provided you plan to hang the wreath, you need to start off by winding some medium-gauge florist's wire over it to prepare a modest ring. Assemble the dried flowers into a posy bunch and cut the stems keeping them short. Subsequently, fasten them using a piece of thin-gauge of floral wire. Now, apply a dense layer of glue on a little area of the wreath form - fore of the wire ring, and press some amount of the potpourri mix tightly on the glue. Take some more of the medium-gauge florist's wire and turn it into a V-shaped staple, put the bunch of flowers on the potpourri mix and once again press it firmly on the wreath form using the staple. Keep on applying glue to the potpourri mix to bind it to the wreath form. At one time, work in a small area till the entire form is covered up. When it is done, use the glue to fix the satin ribbon to one end of the form, preferably the back, and softly twist it all around the wreath. Use more glue to attach the loose ends of the ribbon and your potpourri and posy ring is ready.

Herb and spice wreath

While it may seem to be incredible, you may also make a fragrant and decorative wreath using stored culinary herbs for hanging it on your kitchen wall. You may use dried bay leaves as well as other herbs to prepare this particular wreath. In this case, the herbs should be attached to the wreath using fine-gauge florist's wire rather than glue to ensure that they remain edible.

The ingredients for this recipe include:

  • Selected herbs and spices, for instance, fennel stems and seed heads, bay leaves and leaves of purple sage, marjoram flowers, garlic corms, star anise, dried red as well as green chilies and cinnamon sticks
  • 25 cm/ 10 inches wreath form
  • Raffia for making the bow
  • Average-gauge florist's wire
  • Glue gun and glue sticks

Twist some medium-gauge florist's wire around the wreath to form a ring at the back, which will be used to hang the herb and spice wreath. Assemble the herbs in bunches, cut the stems, and fasten them with the wire by twisting the ends of it firmly towards the back of the form. Fasten the herb bunches with the wreath at some distance from each other by pressing the wire past the back of the wreath and winding it flat. Now, fasten the spices as well as the chilies in a similar manner, positioning them individually or in small bunches. Employ the glue gun to stick the star anise (provided you are using this spice) to the wreath. Finally, fasten the raffia in the form of a bow over the wreath.

Lavender basket

A lavender basket is an aromatic and attractive table or bedside decoration. To prepare a lavender basket, you need to pack a small basket with dried out lavender. Take some length of an attractive blue or purple satin ribbon and coil it around the basket's handle, and finish the length by forming a neat bow.

Suggested potpourri mixes

To create a potpourri, first you need to collect and dry the ingredients you wish to use. The ingredients should be dried in a similar manner as one would dry herbs for culinary and therapeutic purposes - first separating the petals of comparatively large flowers and retaining the smaller buds as a whole. It is particularly important to dry out the flowers in a dark or shady place, as this will help to retain their original colors. The flowers as well as the leaves are ready for use when they become crispy, but not crumbling. You can confirm whether the flowers and leaves have become crisp only by observing them while drying - in fact, their condition may differ in a day or a week or take a longer time to reach this stage.

The ratio in which the ingredients ought to be used to prepare a regular potpourri mix is given below. However, you are free to alter the proportions as you gain experience or to experiment with the ingredients.

  • One pound/ 450 grams of petals, leaves and whole buds
  • One tablespoonful of orris root powder
  • One tablespoonful of pounded spices
  • Three drops of any essential oil

As mentioned earlier, adding the orris root powder to the potpourri works as a fixative that helps to retain the fragrance of the flowers and leaves. Used together with the essential oil, orris root helps to blend dissimilar fragrances as well as stabilize the aroma of the potpourri itself. Mix the flowers, leaves as well as the spices in a big, hermetic jar, preferably earthenware, and never any metal container. Cover the jar and stir it at least once every day for four consecutive days. Subsequently, add the orris root and the essential oil, and cover the jar again and allow the mixture to infuse for about six more weeks. Preferably, stir the mixture every day during this period.

It needs to be emphasized that the selection of the ingredients for a potpourri entirely depends on the individual preference of the maker. However, to some extent, it also depends on what is available to you. Below are a few different combinations, which you may use to begin making potpourris.

Rose potpourri

Ingredients required for a rose potpourri are as follows:

  • Rose petals
  • Aromatic petals and leaves of geranium
  • Cinnamon and cloves
  • A little amount of lavender and rosemary herbs
  • Essential oils of rose and lavender

Lemon and spice potpourri

To prepare a lemon and spice potpourri, you require the following ingredients:

  • Rose petals
  • Leaves of lemon verbena
  • A mixture comprising equal portions of marigold, azalea and carnation petals
  • A small amount of thyme
  • Essential oils of rose and carnation

Mixed herb potpourri

The ingredients need to prepare a mixed herbal potpourri include:


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