Growing up, I remember my best friend’s mom used to tuck bowls of potpourri all around their house. They were pretty, with shells and seed pods and other oddities mixed in, but they smelled like—to 8-year-old me, at least—old lady. With the overpowering fake scents of sea breeze and spiced chestnut, I couldn’t get away from them fast enough. But let’s just say this DIY potpourri isn’t the potpourri of yesteryear.
You start by drying fresh flowers from the garden, then customize the scent with essential oil (or fragrance oils, if you like) to suit your mood, the season, or what have you. It’s gorgeous, subtle, and completely customizable, just like potpourri should be.
How to Dry Flowers
The first step in making homemade potpourri is drying the flowers. But even if you don’t plan on making potpourri, you can still use this method to dry flowers for a whole host of other DIY or decorating projects.
Just make sure to choose the right flowers. Flowers with sturdier petals will hold up better to heat than more delicate blooms.
If you have a dehydrator, then you can dry just about any flower you like. Simply set your dehydrator to the lowest heat setting (usually reserved for herbs), and let the flowers dry slowly. But since most of us don’t own a dehydrator, we’re going to use the oven, which is quicker but hotter.
Some of the best flowers for drying are:
Admittedly, you’re not going to find a lot of those at the grocery store or garden center. So use whatever you can find, either in nature or at the store, and be willing to experiment.
You can also use dried herbs. Rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon balm, and mint will dry beautifully.
Dried Flower Supplies
—A variety of fresh flowers
—An oven (or dehydrator)
Step 1 | Cut flowers
I like a variety of both whole flower heads and petals in my potpourri. But, depending on your project, you may just prefer one or the other.
Start by cutting the flower heads from the stems, and set some aside to be dried whole. Gently remove the petals from the rest, being careful not to tear them.
Step 2 | Dry in the oven
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees F, or your oven’s lowest setting.
Spread the flowers evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place them in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
Gently toss the flowers to help them dry evenly, then continue baking for another 30 minutes. If they’re not quite dry, continue tossing and baking in 30-minute intervals until they’re completely dry.
Step 3 | Let cool
You may notice that the whole flowers dry more slowly than the individual petals. If you think the petals are getting too dry, remove the whole flowers and continue baking them separately until they’ve had a chance to dry.
Once dry, remove the flowers from the oven, and let them cool completely.
Note: heat has a tendency to drain the color from flowers and affect their natural scent. This is normal! If it bothers you, you may want to invest in a dehydrator, so you can dry them more slowly.
How to Make Homemade Potpourri
This is the fun part! Since flowers get their fragrance from volatile oils, it’s likely there won’t be much fragrance left after the drying process. So, you’ll need to add your own fragrance. I prefer to use essential oils, but you can use fragrance oils or spices to boost the scent.
—Essential oils or fragrance oils
—Optional: Spices, like cinnamon, anise, or cardamom
Pour your flowers into a small bowl.
Add 10-15 drops of essential oil and toss to coat. You can use any oils you like, but I find that a blend of 2 to 3 oils is a good amount. Feel free to mix up the oils depending on your mood, the season, or whatever else is going on at the moment.
Feel free to add any other scent boosters you like. Or toss in some shells, seed pods, crystals, or other traditional potpourri tchotchkes to make it look like the decorative potpourri blends of yore.
When the scent starts to fade, add more essential oils to your DIY potpourri and toss to combine.
More Ways to Use Dried Flowers
Dried flowers make a great addition to a variety of DIY projects. If you plan to use them in homemade bath and body products, I only recommend using organic or home-grown flowers. Store-bought dried flowers are usually sprayed with pesticides, which you don’t want touching your clothes or skin.
If you have leftover dried flowers, here are a few fun ways to use them:
Dried Flower Potpourri FAQs
Can I dry flowers without using the oven?
Some flowers dry really well by simply hanging them upside down to air dry naturally. Roses, hydrangeas, and lavender are great options if you would prefer to skip the oven.
Simply remove the leaves and foliage from the flowers, then cut the stems, so they’re approximately 6 inches long. Tie the stems together using twine or a rubber band, and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. They should dry completely in about 3 to 4 weeks, at which point you can remove the petals and use them in potpourri or other projects.
Will dried flowers mold?
If they have dried out completely, no, they shouldn’t mold. You may run into problems if you get them wet or place them in a damp environment, such as the bathroom.
How long can you keep DIY potpourri?
Dried flowers should stay good for about one year. Make sure to keep an eye on them and throw them away if you notice bugs, mold, or they begin to smell.