How to Arrange Flowers Like a Florist

Flowers being arranged on a table

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Whether you're seeking a simple-but-effective way to freshen up a room in your home or you're looking for a thoughtful gift to share with a loved one, there's nothing quite like a bouquet of fresh stems. There's nothing wrong with picking up a pre-made bouquet at the grocery store or ordering from a florist, but crafting your own custom bouquet is a thoughtful way to infuse your arrangement with personality. (Plus, you'll save on pesky delivery fees.)

Luckily, a DIY flower-arranging project isn't as hard as you think. Of course, you'll need the right supplies, but experts say floral arranging is more of an art than a science. In other words: don't overthink it. "I encourage people not to think like a professional floral designer," says Joseph Marino, a pro florist from St. Petersburg, FL. "I find it only serves to cause anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. Floral arranging at home should be fun and creative."

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Ready to make something beautiful? Here's how to arrange flowers like a florist would.

A floral arranging a floral bouquet

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Things You'll Need:

  • 25-30 stems of fresh flowers
  • Greenery
  • Sharp shears or a floral knife
  • A flower frog, chicken wire, or a clear tape grid
  • A vase or other vessel
  • One gallon of water
  • Bleach or hydrogen peroxide
  • Lemon juice or white vinegar
  • Table sugar

Step 1: Procure Your Blooms and Greenery

Before you do any arranging, you'll need to obtain some flowers and greenery. Marino suggests starting with the freshest flowers you can afford. "Whether sourced from a floral market, grocery store, farm, or farmer's market, using quality materials always makes arranging flowers more fun," he says. If you decide to cut items from your garden, Marino says it's best to do so early in the morning and allow them to hydrate for a few hours before creating your arrangement.

Step 2: Choose Your Flowers

Now, it's time to choose the flowers and greenery you want to use in your arrangement. Mario says it's easier to work with a color palette that's soft and similar in shades rather than bright, bold colors with high contrast. In general, he recommends sticking with a maximum of three colors in an arrangement for a cohesive look.

Try to use a variety of textures and forms. "If you are choosing to use store-bought roses or chrysanthemums which have stiff straight stems, complement them with something softer and a little more relaxed in nature, like hydrangeas or tulips," Marino says.

Nsombi Woodson says it's also helpful to choose a variety of sizes; large, medium, and small-sized blooms will make for a more layered look in your creations. For a 5 inch-wide vase, you will need around 25-30 stems of flowers, plus some greenery. "Foliage adds texture and movement to an arrangement, so think about collecting a couple of varieties of different greenery," Woodson says.

Step 3: Cut Your Flowers

Lay your flowers and greenery on the counter by type of flower or foliage. Then, use very sharp shears or a floral knife to cut the stems at an angle, which Marino says will help them absorb the most water. Your flowers and greens should be about 1.5-2 times the height of your chosen vessel. For example, if your vessel is seven inches tall, Marino says the height of the flowers should be about 10-12 inches. For a less precise approach, Woodson says you can also measure your stems by holding them up to the face and cutting them to your desired length.

Now is also a great time to trim off any damaged buds and leaves on the stems. Marino recommends trimming off all but the top layer of leaves. You can always trim off more later if your arrangement looks like it has enough foliage in it.


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Step 4: Hydrate Your Flowers

After cutting your chosen flowers, hydrate them for at least one hour in tepid water. Woodson says this process prevents the cut end of the stem from taking in air bubbles and blocking water absorption. 

Marino encourages new floral enthusiasts to use non-clear vessels. "You won't have to worry about how the stems look in the vessel, and if the water becomes murky from working it too much or a few leaves fall in by accident, you won't feel defeated," he says.

Step 5: Make Your Floral Preservative

To keep your flowers fresher, longer, Woodson suggests making a DIY flower preservative that helps counteract bacteria buildup and feeds your flowers. She combines one gallon of water, 4 teaspoons germicide (bleach or hydrogen peroxide), 4 tablespoons of acid (lemon or white vinegar), and 4 tablespoons of table sugar. Add some to the water in your vase and keep it on hand for future arrangements.

Step 6: Add Mechanics to Your Vase

After choosing your vessel, use a flower frog, chicken wire, or a clear tape grid to give structure to the arrangement. To build a clear tape grid, add strips of tape about 1/2 inch apart across the vase in both directions to create a checkerboard pattern. Use a strip of clear tape around the perimeter of the vase to hold down the tape grid.

Step 7: Add Your Greenery

Next, use greenery to build a frame in the vase to map out the diameter and height of your arrangement. "Add greenery around the perimeter of the vase to get the diameter and then add greenery to the center of the vase to build the height," Woodson says.

Step 8: Add Your Flowers

Finally, it's time to add your flowers to the arrangement. Marino suggests starting with 6-8 stems, then slowly adding more. It's best to add your foundation flowers first, then fill in with filler flowers. Stick them all down securely into the floral frog, chicken wire, or tape grid if you're using them.

Fresh white tulips on living room coffee table

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As you go, turn your arrangement often. "Constantly turning and evaluating arrangement from all sides will allow you to control the overall shape," says Woodson.

Step 9: Enjoy Your Creation

Once you're happy with your arrangement, it's time to enjoy it. Marino suggests keeping flowers in a cool spot out of direct sunlight. If you're entertaining and need your arrangements for tables that are outside in sun or humidity, be sure to use flowers that normally thrive in full sun, such as sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, or roses.