A Complete Guide: How To Arrange Flowers

A Complete Guide: How To Arrange Flowers

Over the past fifteen years I’ve spent my career as a floral designer practicing the art of arranging flowers. I’ve designed flowers for large, lavish weddings, intimate gatherings and possibly my most favorite practice of displaying flowers at home as a weekly ritual.  All of these experiences have led me to a deep appreciation for the meditative nature of arranging flowers and it’s something I take pride in sharing with others.   

In this article we’ll explore the most important tools for arranging flowers, the various types of styles to arrange flowers in and discuss the best floral varieties for each type of arrangement. You’ll also find my most coveted tips, tricks and resources to help you achieve your vision and explore this practice at the end of the article. Happy arranging!

    Essential Flower Arranging Tools

    The Floral Society Vase with Netting and Frog

    There are a few must-have tools and floral arranging supplies you’ll want to stock your toolkit with for arranging flowers. For a complete guide to flower arranging tools check out The Floral Society’s Floral Dispatch. Below we’ve highlighted the most important tools you’ll want to consider using when arranging flowers in a vase.  

    Floral Netting:  

    Floral netting is a coated stem stabilizer made by forming a ball shape and placing it in your vase. It’s reusable and a more environmentally friendly tool than the one time use floral foam, which when disposed turns into a micro plastic. Floral netting also allows you to use water in your vase, which will allow your stems to hydrate more easily and last longer than floral foam. Our rolls of floral netting are paired with waterproof floral tape creating an easy to use combo product.  Martha Stewart’s The Most Essential Flower-Arranging Tools outlines best practices when using floral netting.  

    Floral Stem Tape:  

    Essential for making bouquets and boutonnieres. Floral stem tape becomes sticky from the heat of your fingers, so make sure to pull it taut while wrapping your designs. 

    Waterproof Floral Tape:  

    Waterproof floral tape is used to secure a cage from or a floral netting wire in a vessel. It is also used to create a grid on top of a vase to hold stems in place.  

    Floral Pillow:  

    Use in place of your floral netting to stabilize stems. Floral pillows are reusable and a more eco-friendly tool than floral foam.  

    Pin Frogs:  

    A unique stem stabilizer used for centuries in Japanese ikebana styles, pin frogs are one of our most coveted tools in our kit. Pro tip: place the pin from at the bottom of your compote vase or bowl before adding floral netting for extra stem support.  

    Floral Clippers:  

    Floral clippers are the primary tool for angled and sectional cuts. A high quality pair of floral clippers should last you a lifetime and will keep your flowers more well hydrated with its precise cuts.  Pro tip: keep the clippers in your hand while you arrange flowers for a quicker, more seamless experience.  

    Flower Food:  

    Flower food keeps bacteria from forming in your vase and increases the life of your flowers. Visit page 13 of The Floral Dispatch for an easy at home recipe.

    Explore Vase Styles

    Your vase will influence the style, size and shape of your arrangement, so it’s important to consider the vase you’ll be working in first. For example, if you’re more drawn to round, symmetrical flower arrangements you’ll want to focus on a low, bowl-shaped vase. If you’re more drawn to an organic, asymmetrical styled arrangement consider an oval-shaped vase. If you are planning to place simple flowers in your wash room or kitchen windowsill consider a flower frog vase. Explore our Complete Guide: How to Arrange Flowers in a Vase for more tips about arranging in a compote vase.  

    ​​​Low Vases & Compotes​​ ​​ 

    The Floral Society Compote Vase

    If you’re arranging in a bowl-shaped vase, compote, short or wide mouth vase you’ll likely want either floral netting or a floral pillow inside your vase to create an armature that will hold your stems in place. Both floral netting and a floral pillow can be secured inside your vase with waterproof floral tape.  A floral arrangement composed in a low vase such as a bowl or a compote styled vase will yield a low, lush arrangement. When you’re arranging flowers in short vases you can choose a round, symmetrical style or a looser, more organic asymmetrical style.  

    Our favorite flowers for low floral arrangements: 

    Peonies, ranunculus, dahlias, cosmos, zinnia, geranium, spirea, blueberry, and hellebores

    ​​​Tall & Cylindrical Vases

    The Floral Society Bud Vases

    A multitude of options for arranging flowers in a vase exist. ​​​If you’ve chosen a tall or cylindrical vase to arrange your flowers in you may not need any other materials to go inside your vase depending on your floral materials. Tall branches tend to fit well in a tall vase and can also create a natural armature for smaller or more delicate flowers that you may add to the vase.  

    You can create a grid on the top of your vase with waterproof floral tape before you begin to arrange your flowers. This will help keep flowers in place and will likely be hidden by your materials by the time you’ve finished arranging in the vase. Alternatively, you can carefully peel the tape off after you’re done arranging if any is showing.  

    A tall vase such as a cylinder vase will likely create a more column shaped arrangement. If the opening is wide enough, you’ll be able to create some lateral movement in your arrangement. Tall vases are often best when adorning a mantle, entryway table or kitchen island.   

    Our favorite flowers for tall floral arrangements: 

    Branches such as dogwood, cherry, forsythia, and privet. Wildflowers, grasses and long-stemmed flowers such as, delphinium, stock, sunflowers, tulips and rudbeckia are all perfect varieties for tall vases.

    Ikebana Vases

    The Floral Society Ikebana Vase​​​​

    An ikebana vase is often a part of creating an ikebana arrangement. It will require that a pin frog is placed in the bottom of the vessel to hold stems in place. The word ikebana comes from the Japanese words ikeru (to arrange, be living, or having life) and hana (flower). This style is thought of as minimalist, precise and adhering to a strict set of rules. Negative space is an important part of an ikebana arrangement, so each bloom can breathe life and be viewed individually. An ikebana arrangement will likely yield an emotional expression of flowers that resemble art more than a casually designed mixed flower arrangement. Any low dish or bowl you have at home can be used alongside your pin frog to create an ikebana floral arrangement.  

    Our favorite flowers for ikebana floral arrangements: 

    Delicate branches, fritillaria, hellebores, tobacco flower, lily of the valley and bleeding hearts.

    ​​​​​Flower Frog Vases

    The Floral Society Flower Frog Vase

    ​​​​Using a flower frog vase will require no other materials or supplies. Typically flower frog vases are designed to hold the stems within the vase with no extra help creating an easy and fun way to arrange flowers. When working with a flower frog vase you don’t have to fill each hole with flowers. Remember that these vases look best when there is negative space for each flower to shine. 

    Our favorite flowers for flower frog floral arrangements: 

    Typically small, delicate blooms work the best in flower frog vases since the stem openings tend to be small. Lily of the valley, violas, bluebells and sweetpea are typically perfect for flower frog vases. Flower frog vases are also a great way to hydrate stems of herbs from your garden before you cook with them.  

    There are so many ways to arrange flowers in a vase, but it doesn't need to feel overwhelming. Keep it simple and use what inspires you!

    ​Picking Your Flowers 

    What should you look for when you shop for flowers? To begin, you’ll want to choose a color palette. The simplest way to do this if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the selection is to choose one flower you like the most and base your color palette off of that flower. For example, if you spot a vibrant coral charm peony you must have then you’ll know that your other flowers should compliment that coral color to work in your arrangement. Second, seek out a variety of textures and shapes when choosing your flowers.  

    If you’re a novice or still new to floral arranging, you will want to figure out where the best spots for local flowers are and ask which days they harvest their flowers for sale. 

    Local farmers markets are our favorite place to pick up local, seasonal flowers. If you have one nearby, we’d suggest starting here. Once you learn the farmers markets in your area ask if the farms allow direct pickup for the freshest cut flowers. Some will even allow you to cut your own blooms. Find your local farmers market in the National Farmers Market Directory. 

    Trader Joes and Whole Foods tend to have a great seasonal selection of flowers, branches and berries to choose from. They also carry plants and herbs at certain times throughout the year and source from local farms for some of their locations.  

    Foraging is a fun and interesting way to practice how to arrange flowers. If you live in a rural area, you’re likely to find roadside wildflowers, grasses and flowering branches blooming at various times of the year.

    Once you’ve found your flowers and brought them home, give all of the stems a fresh cut and place in clean water. Add flower food to the water to keep your flowers lasting longer. If you have the extra time, let your flowers hydrate for a few hours before arranging with them. Martha Stewart Magazine has provided a flower food recipe you can easily make at home.

    Flower Arranging 101​

    Now that you’ve gathered your tools, selected your vase, and picked out your blooms you’re ready to begin arranging your flowers. The most important tip I can share with you is there are no wrong or right ways to arrange flowers, we each have our own unique perspective and style. Allowing this to shine in your arrangement will inevitably yield a better outcome.  

    ​​​Arranging in Low Vases

    The Floral Society Ikebana Arranging

    STEP ONE: To begin, add your greenery into your vase to create a foundation for your arrangement. This is where you can begin to create the shape of your floral arrangement. If you prefer a round, symmetrical shape you’ll want to have overall coverage that is even. If you prefer an organic asymmetrical shape your greenery can vary in heights.  

    STEP TWO: Let’s start placing your flowers. Your focal flowers will be placed first. Place a few on one side and rotate your face to add a few to the other side. Your focal flower is typically your largest sized bloom. As you begin to add flowers it’s important to rotate your vase as you work to make sure you’re addressing all sides.  

    STEP THREE: Next, comes your secondary flowers that can be nestled beside your larger blooms. At any time, you can add more greenery to take space or add more texture to your arrangement.  

    STEP FOUR: After your secondary blooms are placed, you’ll want to add your detail flowers. If you’re creating an asymmetrical floral arrangement these detail flowers can flutter above the others allowing some negative space in your arrangement.  

    STEP FIVE: Lastly, add in any other textures such as your berries or grasses to the arrangement. Don’t forget to keep rotating your vase as you arrange your flowers to make sure you haven’t missed any spots.   

    Arranging in Tall Vases​​ 

    STEP ONE: To begin, add your tallest flower or branch to the vase. This will determine the total height of the arrangement. Think proportions when choosing your tallest point and try to avoid your tallest point being any taller than half the height of your vase.  

    STEP TWO: Add in texture such as grass or berries to your mixed arrangement. This element can be shorter than your taller vase.  

    STEP THREE: Next, comes your detail flower which will likely be your shortest flower in your vase, but you can also choose to keep some of these stems a bit taller or as tall as your texture.  

    STEP FOUR: Lastly, don’t forget to fill your vase with enough water that all of your stems will continue to hydrate. You’ll need to replace or add water daily to replace the water that is absorbed by the flowers in the vase.  

    ​​​Arranging in Ikebana Vases​​​​ 

    STEP ONE: To begin choose a branch or your largest bloom and place it’s stem in the pin frog at your highest point.   

    STEP TWO: Next comes your secondary, smaller flower which should be placed lower than the tallest element leaving negative space for both elements to be seen.  

    STEP THREE: Lastly, add in another small bloom or textured flower, berry or fruit low to the dish.  

    Arranging in Flower Frog Vases​ 

    The Floral Society Flower Frog Bowl

    STEP ONE: Begin by placing your tallest flower in your vase as a guide for the size of your arrangement.  

    STEP TWO: Place a shorter stem in a different hole and continue that practice until you have a configuration of blooms that you like. Keep in mind that it often looks best to not fill every hole in your vase. Leaving some holes open will allow for negative space in your arrangement and your flowers will shine.

    Additional Pro Tips: Flower Arranging

    1. After you gather your flowers, give the bottoms a fresh trim and place them in a jar of water and flower food to allow them to hydrate before you place them in your floral arrangement.  
    2. As you’re working on your floral arrangement, trim your flowers longer than you think you’ll need it to be. This way you can continue to trim the stem until the desired length. You can always cut it shorter, but you can’t add length back onto the flower’s stem.  
    3. Choose a long-lasting, sharp pair of clippers and maintain them for a lifetime of floral arranging. Our favorite clipper is our Japanese Floral Clipper and we suggest wiping them dry between uses. They can be stored in a dry drawer when not in use or hung on a peg wall.  
    4. Gently pour the water out of your vase and replace it with fresh water every 1-2 days to keep flowers fresher longer. Adding flower food each time will help flowers stay fresh.  
    5. Keep practicing and enjoying the process of floral arranging by disassembling your arrangement every day or two and re-arranging it.   

    Useful Resources:  

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