13 Professional Flower Arranging Tips That Will Help You Create a Better Bouquet

Florists share their tips for making your best flower arrangement yet.

flower arrangement on pink background
Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson

Martha has been growing and arranging flowers since she was a little girl. And there is no lack of them at Bedford Farm, her 150-acre property in Katonah, N.Y. Over the years, she's cultivated a garden filled with all of her favorites: peonies, lilac shrubs, hydrangeas, clematis, shade plants, and tulip beds.

If you, like Martha, are inspired by your outdoor garden in full bloom, you may want to use your flowers to create a beautiful bouquet for your next dinner party, house visit, or summer party. And while you can always freestyle an organic, asymmetrical arrangement that serves as your very own work of art, there are some tried and true rules for creating a floral arrangement that looks fresh, vibrant, and even lasts longer.

Here, we cultivated the best tips and tricks from our most trusted florists for you to use in your next floral arrangement, ensuring a memorable result.

01 of 13

Decide on Placement

Cut Above Soft Palette flower arrangement
Thomas Loof

First, determine where you will display the arrangement and what you're going to be using it for. Your choice of vase will be dependent on where you intend to place the arrangement: tall vases are great for entryways, mantelpieces, desks, and dressers, whereas shorter vases are ideal for floral arrangements that will be featured on a dinner table.

"When someone comes into a room or a space and they see a great floral arrangement, they're taking in the flowers and the composition, but what they don't know they're noticing is proportion," says Christopher Graham, owner of Artistic Manner Flower Shop and Greenhouse. "That's something that's part of the wow factor, which you really don't know you're noticing, but you're like 'man, that looks great!'"

02 of 13

Measure Vase Height

blue and white floral arrangement
Louise Hagger

If you're using a tall vase, the entire arrangement from the very top to the bottom should be two and a half times the height of that vase. "Different designs bear different heights and widths, but what is most appealing to the eye—what looks the best, what's most accepted, what you'll find in a book—is two and half times," Graham says.

So, if your vase is 10 inches tall, the height of your entire arrangement should be 25 inches tall. For smaller vases, like a cube, you should be looking to accomplish one and a half times the height of the vase and two times the width. This is so that guests can see over the floral arrangement.

03 of 13

Keep Flowers Front-Facing

orange and white floral arrangement
Johnny Fogg

Instead of trying to create an arrangement that wows from all angles, it's perfectly okay to focus on just one "face" of the arrangement. "If you're on a budget, which normally is the case, and you're going to have your arrangement on a mantelpiece or against a wall, have every flower front-facing," Graham says. With the flowers you save from skipping a 360-degree design, you could probably create two floral displays for the price of one.

04 of 13

Create Balance

Gabriela Herman

Most people strive to create symmetry in a floral arrangement, but balance can be just as pleasing to the eye and visually impactful. "You may have all your lilies on one side, but you have large-headed roses on the other. It's not symmetrical, but it's balanced," says Graham. Not only is balance more interesting to the eye, but it's also much easier to do, since finding symmetry between two flowers is virtually impossible.

05 of 13

Incorporate Texture


You want each element of your bouquet to stand out in its own way, rather than allowing everything to blend together. "You can put every color in the world in an arrangement, just as long as they're distinctive," says Graham. "You don't want flowers to lose their independent effect."

Monochromatic arrangements are best created using flowers with varying textures—that way you'll be able to see each flower without seeing just color. Pictured here, stems of delphinium and larkspur in blue-violet tones form an arrangement that's at once subtle and opulent. Greenery and stems are also a great way to add texture to an arrangement, says Graham.

06 of 13

Mise en Place

woman cutting and arranging flowers
Laurie Frankel

Clean and cut all of your ingredients before you begin your design—flowers, greens, and so forth—says Clover Chadwick, owner of Dandelion Ranch in Los Angeles, Calif. This way, you can observe the growth pattern of each stem.

Good prep makes designing a breeze, as you can choose the angle of each stem before you place it in the arrangement. This is tremendously helpful for Pave-style arrangements, wildflower arrangements, whimsical garden arrangements, and especially anything involving asymmetrical styles.

07 of 13

Arrange by Bloom Size

peach floral arrangement by max gill
Ngoc Minh Ngo

All plants compete for the sun when growing, and flowers are no exception, with buds shooting up to the sky and falling to the ground when they develop and get heavier. That's why you want to save your tighter (or smaller) blooms for last, and use your larger headed blooms lower and earlier. This gives your arrangements natural movement and it helps them last longer.

08 of 13

Save Unused Materials

Flowers in vases on a table
Ngoc Minh Ngo

When you're designing a lot of arrangements, start with your larger arrangements, and save all of your scraps or breakage. The small bits are great for building smaller arrangements, and the very smallest can even be used for little bud vases to spread around the house or cluster around larger arrangements.

09 of 13

Water Certain Bulbs Delicately

pink dahlias arranged in clear vases
Annie Schlechter

Bulbs like peonies, ranunculus, tulips, and anemones will last a lot longer if you keep them in 1 to 2 inches of water, says Chadwick. You just have to make sure they always have the right amount to drink. If you give them too much, too early, they go to pieces. Note that this isn't true for all cut flowers—some prefer the vase to be at least 5 inches full of water.

10 of 13

Get to Know Your Flowers

Sang An

It is important to know your flowers' personalities and care needs. For example, when creating bouquets with poppies, burning the ends of the poppy stems helps seal in moisture and avoid wilting, says Victoria Monsul Singolda, founder and creative director of Iris & Virgil in Brooklyn, N.Y. Doing so will also prevent other flowers in your arrangement from deteriorating prematurely as a result of the milky substance that may leak out of the poppy stem, says Singolda.

11 of 13

Use Floral Tape

brass flower vase lid
Raymond Hom

If you are one of those people who are particular about placement, you can make a quick and easy grid on any vessel or vase using clear florist tape. This will allow you to position the stems and have them remain in place, as well as prevent tangling of stems should you decide to rearrange them. Simply create a grid across the top of any vessel by applying two or three vertical lines of florist tape across the top, then the same number horizontally.

Finally, to secure your tape and make it adhere well for even the most dramatic stem gestures, wrap a layer of tape around the diameter of the vessel to secure the grid tape endings. Disguise any visible tape with green or floral elements in your design.

12 of 13

Cut Stems to Different Heights

green apples and branches arranged in a white vase

When arranging stems, it is a good idea to play with different heights to create dramatic negative space in your arrangement. "This will not only create depth and interest but allow you to sculpt your way into a fresh look and design that is bound to catch eyes for those that see it," says Singolda.

Stems should be cut at a sharp angle, using a good pair of shears (1 to 2 inches from the end of the stem is a good rule of thumb). Here, a voluminous and eye-catching still life of apple and crabapple branches rests in a guest bedroom.

13 of 13

Don't Be Afraid to Improvise

blueberries and roses floral arrangment
Laurie Frankel

If you see something eye-catching growing naturally around your area's landscape, snip it and use it in one of your arrangements. At her family's centuries-old home in New Hampshire, floral designer Amy Merrick's bouquets often involve more than just flowers, as evidenced by this romantic arrangement of blueberries, roses, and begonias. "I keep a pair of clippers with me, just in case I pass particularly pretty roadside wildflowers," she says. "I leave a lot of room for the unexpected."

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