How to Make Pomander Balls

Easy and Fragrant Orange-Clove Pomanders

October 23, 2020
Orange Pomanders

Here’s how to make pomander balls, which are simply oranges pierced by cloves. As the fruit dries, it releases a lovely fragrance. Pomanders make beautiful centerpieces, gifts for friends, tree ornaments, and air fresheners.

What Is a Pomander?

Medieval herbalists used pomanders—mixtures of fragrant, dried herbs in cloth bags or perforated boxes—to ward off illness or bring strength and good fortune.

The word “pomander” derives from the French pomme d’ambre, meaning “apple of amber”—a reference to the round shape of the object and the occasional addition of ambergris (an aged substance from the bile duct of a sperm whale). Strongly scented pomanders of ambergris were used in Europe during the time of the Black Death to (unsuccessfully) cover up and purify “bad air.”

Today, pomander balls are usually a lot simpler; most consist of an orange or other citrus fruit studded with cloves and dusted with other spices. See our own recipe below!

Orange and clove pomander. Photo by Wendy Piersall.
Orange and clove pomander. Photo by Wendy Piersall/Wikimedia Commons.

How to Make Orange and Clove Pomander Balls

  • Take firm oranges and stud them with whole cloves. That’s it!
  • You can also use a toothpick to make pre-made holes; this is helpful for children because the cloves can hurt their little hands (and ours).
  • Be creative and arrange the cloves in diamonds, circles, or other patterns. As the orange dries, it will release a delicate, spicy fragrance.
  • For a stronger aroma, cover the entire orange with cloves, and then roll it in a mixture of spices such as: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, 1 tablespoon allspice, ¼ cup powdered orris root. Leave the orange in the mix for a week, turning once a day.
  • To hang your pomander, run a long wire through the orange; make a knot at the bottom and a loop at the top for hanging. Or, you can tie red ribbon around your pomander for a festive look!

How to Make It Last

If you want your pomanders to last, store in a paper bag for a few weeks. Use lots of cloves which are a natural preserving agent. The cloves will draw out the juices and they’ll shrink in size. Dusting with cinnamon helps, too, as cinnamon functions as an anti-fungal.

Ideas for Using Pomanders

  • Arrange the cloves in special shapes and patterns. For Halloween, make a jack-o’-lantern; for Thanksgiving, try a turkey; for Christmas, a Christmas tree!
  • Create a centerpiece for your next holiday meal.
  • Give to friends, teachers, and neighbors in a plastic bag with a red ribbon!
  • Try putting an orange pomander at the bottom of your Christmas stockings.
  • Use small oranges (or other small citrus) to create a fragrant ornament for the Christmas tree.
  • Once dried, hang pomanders in your closet or add to your drawers like a sachet.

If you have cinnamon left over, try making these Cinnamon Ornaments.

Want more fresh scents in your home? Check out our Old Rose and Lavender Potpourri or learn How to Make Lavender Sachets. See all of our Seasonal Crafts!

Let us know how your pomanders turn out!


Reader Comments

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Orange pomander balls

My Mother in law made and gave one in the nineteen seventies which I had hanging in my wardrobe up until recently well 2019 and it was just wonderful And I never got moths or such like get into my clothes & fabrics.
Over the weekend I am going to make for daughters and granddaughters who have been having trouble with I believe which seem to bad at the moment. Looks and smells great too and was a nice reminder of a lovely lady when I opened the door.

Clove covered orange still smells fabulous 40 years later.

Covering a medium orange entirely with cloves can make a fabulous Pomander ball. Years ago I worked on an orange with some whole cloves. It took lots of cloves to entirely cover the orange. I inserted them as close to each other as possible. Using a thimble is a good idea and I used nice looking whole cloves. I set the orange in a small cardboard box with some paper towels scrunched around it and actually forgot about it. About six months later I found it again.
WOW it smelled so wonderful. I put the orange in a small organdy sachet bag and then into the back of my linen closet. Twenty years later when I moved I found it again and it still smelled fabulous. It was totally hard and dry. I still use it in my sewing basket and it is in perfect condition. So have fun and the work to make one is worth it.

Never knew what these were called!

I LOVE these things! I 1st made them at a friends birthday party to give to our parents. It held up amazingly and it hung in their closet for a LONG time. When I tried to make them later in life to give with Christmas gifts I was never successful as they'd wind up getting moldy. Wonder what I did wrong? I want to get it right because I do love them. What's more festive than the scent of orange & clove around the holidays? Plus, they look festive too and are cheap to make with easy to find ingredients. I love the idea of having them in a bowl, would be a great centerpiece for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I always did the red ribbon to hang.


Very interesting recipies about orenge and clove pomander


I remember making the pomanders when I was a child in the 50's. My mom told stories of them being a favorite of her mom, They used so many natural decorations and the fruits and vegetables right off our farm. What great and meaning days!!

When I made these pomanders,

When I made these pomanders, in the past, I just used an orange and whole cloves. I covered the entire orange with the cloves (which preserved the orange without rotting). I then tied a sheer ribbon over the cloves. The scent lasted for years and the ball, itself, lasted even longer as a decoration. I hadn't heard of using the spice mixture before so, I think I will try that this year.

Orris Root is the dried root

Orris Root is the dried root of the Iris flower. It is used to fix the fragrance [as already stated]in many herbal sachets and perfumes. You can buy it on-line. I wouldn't suggest trying to make your own as it is specific to certain types of Iris.

I read alum powder at another

I read alum powder at another site for preservation. Have not done this before so -

I have made these oranges but

I have made these oranges but always soaked my cLoves over night in oils like rose or lavender. Then after orange is dry wrapped in two colors of tulle and tied with matching ribbons. The are wonderful and last for years.

wow. I didn't know oranges

wow. I didn't know oranges were once mummified! ;) lol

What is Orrisroot? I have

What is Orrisroot? I have neveer heard of it nor do I know where to find it..

I had never heard of it

I had never heard of it before either; I found this on the website I buy soaps & lotions from. Sounds like you could go to a local Herbal Store.
Copy & Paste. :)


Orris root is what helps

Orris root is what helps preserve the orange and prevent it from rotting. You really have to use orris power for the pomander to last. I've had pomander balls last for 5 or 6 years with orris root (although the spicy orange scent is gone after a few months). I stud the cloves all around the orange but leave exact space for me to tie ribbon. Then I sew a tassel or other little ornaments (like bells) onto the bottom. They look really pretty and make lovely Christmas presents. I'm making them this year to give to friends.

Orris root is a fixative that

Orris root is a fixative that helps retain fragrance. The cloves are what really preserves the orange and were used in ancient mummification processes.