Floral Arrangements: How to Arrange Your Vase

When you get your flowers home, make sure to put them in water if you’re not going to cut them and put them in a vase right away. If needed, you can tie a small bag of water to the end of the flowers with a rubber band (this works well for a long car ride or carrying them around a farmer’s market before you go home).

To arrange your flowers, you will need a vase, kitchen scissors or small garden shears, and counterspace to work. The kitchen scissors or garden shears are thicker than normal scissors and are better for cutting through produce. I like that the kitchen scissors come apart for easier washing as well. In general, you want to choose a vase that allows your flowers to sit about 50% taller than the top of the vase. Your typical upright vase around 8-14″ tall will work great to start. Shorter or wider vases are more difficult to arrange and may require tape or a foam block to hold the flowers at the desired angle.

Unwrap the Flowers

Remove any plastic or paper wrapping from your flowers. I like to cut this along the length of the flowers and lay out the plastic to use as a tablecloth for my work space. The bottoms of the stems will usually be taped or rubber banded. Remove this from your flowers and set aside any packets of flower food that come with the flowers.

Prepare the Vase

Open one packet of flower food and pour it into your empty vase. Fill the vase about halfway with water in your sink. Stir to dissolve the flower food (I usually just use my scissors or a sturdy flower stem).

Prepare the Flowers

First, you will need to remove most off the leaves that are attached to your flower stems. Set the greenery aside for now. You do not want any leaves submerged in the water of the vase, as this leads to rotting and other gross conditions that will shorten the life of your entire arrangement. There is also not a lot of space inside the vase for both the stems and those excess leaves to fit.

Remove all the leaves from your flower stems (non-greenery) that are more than about 4 inches from the top where the flower is. Some of them you may be able to easily pluck off by hand (carnations, daisies), but otherwise you should snip them off with your scissors. Be careful not to nick or cut the stem. Err on the side of having a bit of the leaf stem still attached. At this time, if you see any spines or thorns on roses you can trim those down as well. If you see any wet, rotted leaves or flowers, wipe those off or pick them out of the pile to discard.

Cut the Flowers

Start with your “star” flowers. Hold your flowers up next to your vase to determine how much length you need to cut off the bottom. You want your flowers to ultimately sit in the vase about 50% taller than the vase. A great way to do this is to put the vase near the end of the countertop and then hold your flower stem against the side of the counter so you can actually move it up and down.

Once you’ve determined what length you like, cut the stem at a 45 degree angle. Put the stem in the vase. If you want them to be a bit shorter, trim a little more. As you fill the vase, you may want some stems to be slightly taller or shorter in order to sit in different positions (typically the tallest ones are in the center). Imagine the top of your vase is a circular clock. You will want to add flower stems at different angles (hours) to distribute them throughout your arrangement.

Repeat this with your filler flowers. As the vase gets fuller, you may need to gently wiggle the stems in place to get them all the way inside the vase. I like to rotate my vase around frequently to make sure I am filling it evenly and the arrangement looks balanced.

Adjust and Finish the Arrangement

Once all your stems are in place, I like to pick them all up as a bunch and give it a small lift and drop to “fluff” the bouquet. This helps the stems get in better position inside the vase and redstribute a little bit naturally. If any flowers need to be moved around, or pulled up or down vertically, make those adjustments to your liking!

Finally, take your greenery pieces. To cut these to size, you will want to focus on the length of leaves you want visible in your arrangement, plus enough leafless stem underneath that to anchor the piece in the arrangement. The bottom of the stem for greenery does not need to be all the way in the water like the flowers. Add individual pieces around the outside of your arrangement as well as one or two to pockets in the middle of the arrangement.

When arranging a pre-made bouquet, you’ll still need to do the trimming steps. Take a photo of the flowers before as a good guide for distributing the variety of flowers.

If you find yourself with too many flowers in one vase, it is okay to take them out! I like mine very full and sometimes it’s too much for the vase. Put them in a separate vase or small jar for a second mini arrangement. Rotate your vase around and make any final adjustments, then enjoy your beautiful flowers!

To make the most of your flowers, be sure to check the water every two days and add more as they drink it up. After a few days, the edges of stems in the water may start to brown. Lift up your entire bouquet in one move, trim those off, and put it back in the water! If some of the blooms start wilting before the others I’ll remove those and if needed, transfer everything else to another vase. I can get most of my mixed arrangements to last almost 2 weeks!

Floral Arrangements: How to Choose Your Flowers

Fresh flowers are a splurge that can really brigthen up someone’s day and their home! A great way to save money locally is learning to arrange them yourself versus ordering delivery. I also like being able to pick the colors and variety in my flowers. Depending what is in season, you may save a little money selecting the individual flowers versus a pre-mixed bouquet.

Where to Buy Flowers

In my experience, Costco, Trader Joe’s, and farmer markets or flower marts offer the most affordable, high quality fresh flower options (for both bouquets and unarranged bunches). My local grocery stores (Publix in this example, and Kroger) also have a pretty good selection, and frequently run sales or BOGO deals that make them budget-friendly as well. Publix typically has a 3/$12 section and a “special” bouquet that is cheaper than the others. Kroger often has a clearance section of flowers – some are about to age past their prime, but I’ve found great steals for arrangements in excellent condition they are just trying to rotate out of the display,

Types of Flowers

This is astrolomeria

Think of your flowers in 3 different groups: stars, fillers, and greenery. The stars are the flowers that will stand out in your bouquet, typically from size, color, shape, or all of the above. These are your roses, sunflowers, stargazer lilies, etc. Typically this is the most expensive part of your flower arrangement.

The fillers are typically smaller flowers that are meant to fill the empty spaces around your arrangement so it looks lush and full. These are typically cheaper for the amount of flowers in the bunch. Common filler flowers include astrolomeria, mums, carnations, and daisies.

I used to dislike astrolomeria (or Peruvian lilies) because some of the colors are a bit softer and more subdued than I prefer for flowers. However, these are now one of my favorite filler flowers. They are very inexpensive, come in a ton of colors, and each stalk has multiple flowers and leaves so you get a bit of bonus greenery with these. They also sit really well in a vase – you don’t have to manipulate them a lot. Because each stem has multiple flowers, they fill in pockets really easily versus a single flower that you have to place with more intention to avoid holes in your arrangement.

Greenery is your literal green leaves or non-flower components that completely fill out your flower arrangement and provide extra color and texture for contrast to the other flowers. Common greenery in floral arrangements includes eucalyptus leaves, myrtle leaves, and fern leaves. I also count baby’s breath in this group. Even though it is white and can be used as filler, the way you can spread and almost drape baby’s breath makes it behave more like the leaf and green components.

Selecting Your Flowers

A simple formula is to pick one flower from each category above. If you’re feeling fancy or you want more volume to your flowers, select a second filler. In this example I picked roses from the star group, astrolomeria and carnations from the filler group, and some eucalyptus leaves for greenery. The roses were on BOGO at Publix, so half off since I just got one bunch!

For colors, I prefer to let my star flower have the boldest color (bright pink, purple, yellow, etc.). For fillers, I’ll either go with white flowers or a complementary pale pink or purple. This is an easy way to pretty much guarantee that everything “matches,” versus selecting competing colors or colors that are almost but not quite the same across the entire arrangement.

Most stores will have the filler and greenery grouped together. You can also look at the pre-made bouquets for a little inspiration or to see how different flowers look grouped together!

If you are going for a really big arrangement of one type of star flower, you may not need very many or any filler flowers (just greenery or something small). For example, a really large bouquet of roses, sunflowers, or peonies can look great with just some greenery or a bit of baby’s breath.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how to arrange those flowers once you get them home!