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What Are the Best Tips for Arranging Flowers in a Vase?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 17, 2024
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The best tips for arranging flowers in a vase center on both aesthetics and practicality: one must choose the most appropriate vase, trim flowers and arrange them according to height, and pay attention to water quality. Flowers can be arranged in vases in a variety of ways to create a host of different effects. There is no right or wrong way to arrange flowers in a vase, but planning out how the arrangement should look before getting started is often beneficial.

Arranging flowers in a vase typically begins with the vase. Ideally, the vase should complement the flower arrangement, both in shape and in style. A robust bouquet will need a vase with a wide neck, for instance, while a more minimalist bouquet may be better suited for a bud vase or a tall cylindrical vase. Arrangements that are mostly monochromatic often benefit from brightly colored decorative vases or colored glass vases, while bouquets that are already bright on their own are usually best displayed in more neutral flower vases.

Vases can also influence the tone of the arrangement. Roses in a cheery springtime vase exude youth and happiness, while the same flowers in a cut crystal vase convey romance. Choosing a vase of not only the right size but also the right style is an essential part of flower arranging.

Organizing and sorting the flowers comes next. Many bouquets combine floral stems with foliage, such as leaves or decorative sprays. These should usually go near the back or bottom, and as such should be set aside. Remaining flowers should be organized by height, bloom size, and color. The goal is to create a dynamic arrangement that highlights the individual features of each bloom.

For flowers to last a long time in a vase arrangement, they will need to be trimmed so that their stems can continue to receive moisture. Flowers that have been cut for some time tend to dry out at the ends of their stems, which can impede the flow of nutrients and shorten a bloom’s vase life. The best way to trim stems is with a sharp pair of floral scissors or a paring knife. Stems should be cut at upward angle, at least ¼ inch (about 6 mm) up.

Flower longevity also depends at least in part on the water quality. Water should ideally be warm to the touch, but not hot, and should contain some form of plant food or bloom fertilizer. This fertilizer often comes with store-bought bouquets. White sugar is an easy at-home substitute. Adding about a teaspoon of sugar or bloom solution to a vase will help optimize the life of a vase arrangement.

Arrangement tools like foam blocks or wire forms should be added next, if they are to be used. Many florists mount or otherwise fix the stems of flowers in a vase to ensure that the arrangement is stable and to prevent flower stems from shifting and altering the arrangement. These tend to look best in opaque vases, where they cannot readily be seen.

When it comes to how the flowers in a vase are arranged once these preparations have been made, the options really are limitless. Bouquets can be arranged to be front-facing, with the majority of the blooms facing the same direction, or they can be rounded. They can be minimalist, or brimming over the edges.

In all cases, stems should be added to the vase one at a time, beginning with the tallest and progressing in order of stem height. Many home florists begin by finding a photo of an arrangement that looks like what they want to achieve, then experiment with different placements and arrangements until they get the desired look. Stems can always be removed, rearranged, and trimmed down to change the look.

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Discussion Comments
By MrsPramm — On Jun 14, 2014

@pastanaga - The arrangement is the fun part as far as I'm concerned. There's nothing more satisfying than getting a bunch of flowers to sit right and look stunning in a beautiful vase.

I agree that sometimes it looks good in a jar, but sometimes you just have to have a big, solid vase, or the arrangement just won't look right. You don't have to have ten thousand vases handy, but two or three in different shapes and sizes will serve for most people.

You can always fill them with potpourri or seashells or something when you aren't using them for flowers.

By pastanaga — On Jun 14, 2014

@umbra21 - I like using jam jars and other glass jars or bowls, personally, because at least then you can use them for other things when they aren't holding flowers.

And it can look surprisingly attractive to see a collection of different sized glass jars with wild flowers in them. There's something spontaneous about it and you don't have to worry too much about the arrangement.

By umbra21 — On Jun 13, 2014

If you want to find a unique vase you're best bet is to have a look in thrift shops. They always seem to have dozens of them in all different kinds of shapes and sizes. I suspect flower vases are something that aren't all that useful, but don't seem like the type of object that can really be thrown out because they don't wear out.

I know a couple who went to a whole bunch of thrift stores in order to get the vases for the tables at their wedding and it worked out beautifully, as well as quite cheaply.

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