To some, arranging flowers simply involves placing a few garden-picked hydrangeas in a vase. While this approach offers a simplistic look, why not step it up a notch by using multiple varieties to create a stunning floral display? To find out all you need to know about arranging flowers, read our beginner’s guide below.

What is a flower arrangement?

Flower arrangement involves artistically arranging flowers to create a decorative display. With most varieties differing in colour, texture, and shape, flowers give you the ability to achieve a range of different looks. Whether you’re after a rustic centrepiece or a simple romantic display, flower arranging is your chance to get creative.

Why do people arrange flowers?

The history of flower arrangement dates back to ancient Egypt. During this time, flowers were primarily used to celebrate the dead by being placed at the tombs.

Although flowers often continue to be apart of the bereavement process, flower arrangements have also become a form of creative expression and a popular decorative piece. Therefore, many people display their floral arrangements at celebratory dinners and family get-togethers. That said, these stunning decorative pieces aren't just reserved for special occasions. So, you'll find plenty of floral arrangements displayed on kitchen benches, coffee tables, and office desks all year round.

Can I arrange my own flowers?

Although florists, like ourselves, live and breathe floral arrangements, that doesn't mean that you can't give it a go too.

By following a few simple steps, you'll soon be able to create many stunning flower arrangements for your home or office. 

For more information, read our article “Flowers and Plants for the Office”.

Once you've got the hang of the basics, you can begin to experiment with different types of containers, varieties, and arrangement styles. For now, let's start by covering the most commonly asked questions when it comes to arranging flowers.

Should my arrangement have a theme?

Depending on the occasion, you may want a theme for your arrangement. Whether that’s romantic, rustic, or festive, the choice is up to you.

Regardless, you’ll want to think about the colour scheme of your arrangement. Although there are no rules about what colours to use, there are certain elements that you may want to consider, such as using complementary colours. 

From a red, orange, and green combination to pink, purple, and white arrangements, it’ll be amazing to watch your display come to life. For more information, you can use an online colour calculator to see what colour scheme will work best.

If you’re stuck for ideas, you may want to pick one colour and get many varieties in that colour. This approach is commonly used to create wedding bouquets, in which our Fresh Whites Market Bouquet uses only white blooms.

Alternatively, you can choose one variety and create an arrangement using multiple colours of that one flower - such as our Hot Colours Rose Trio Bouquet.

Nonetheless, you have the freedom to adjust your display until you’re satisfied. Therefore, don’t be worried about starting with one idea and later swapping to another.

What flowers should I use in my arrangement?

With endless varieties to choose from, it can be overwhelming deciding what flowers to use in your arrangement. To make it easier, we suggest using our categorised list below to guide your decision-making process.

Foundation flowers

You'll want to include durable varieties with large blooms to ensure that your arrangement has a strong foundation. Popular foundation flowers are hydrangeaspeonieshyacinths, and dahlias.

Focal flowers

These flowers are the 'showstoppers' of your arrangement. Therefore, you'll want to pick aesthetic varieties with reasonably firms stems. Accordingly, tulips, freesias, roseslisianthus, ranunculus, lilies, carnations, and anemones make for great focal flowers.

Floater Flowers

Last but not least, we have floater flowers. These varieties will be used to fill in the gaps in your arrangement - so they should be the lightest in weight. Ideal floater flowers include pansies, sweet peas, poppies, cosmos, and fritillaria.

By picking at least one variety from each category, the arrangement is more likely to look complete.

When picking your flowers, it’s also a good idea to consider what varieties are in season. By choosing seasonal varieties, you’ll save money on purchasing your flowers. 

For more information, check out our article “The NZ Flower Calendar from January to December”.

What materials do I need to arrange flowers?

Before you begin the flower arranging process, there are a few essential materials that you’ll need to gather. Accordingly, flower arrangement generally requires the following:

A clean container to display the flowers

Depending on your desired look and the size of your flowers, your choice of container may vary. You can pretty much choose any container, as long as it’s suitable for the weight and height of the flowers being used. If you know where you want to place your arrangement, it’s useful to test out what the container looks like placed in that space.

Vases are always a go-to option, in which long, thin vases are best for delicate varieties and wide, short vases are better for larger flowers. In addition to standard vases, you can use glass bowls, mason jars, old teapots, or even old boots or candle holders. You may also want to check out a local thrift shop or weekend market to see if you can get your hands on some vintage vessels.

Floral foam or a flower frog

It’s usually best to secure your flowers with floral foam or a flower frog. Flower frogs are particularly useful if you’ve chosen a shallow container or one that you don’t want to scratch. If you don’t own a flower frog, you can also use chicken wire to create a structured base. Alternatively, if you’re using foam, you’ll need to soak your brick of foam in water for 15 minutes before cutting it to fit the size of the container.

Floral tape

Regardless of whether you choose floral foam, a flower frog, or chicken wire, you’ll want to secure your arrangement base with floral tape. It’s also sometimes useful to use floral tape or rubber bands to hold your flowers together - particularly in narrow, tall vases.

Floral scissors

You’ll need scissors to cut your floral foam as well as your flowers. If you own a pair of garden clippers, you can use these for your flowers instead.


Picking your flowers is a core part of the material gathering process. You may also want to mix it up by finding greenery to add in your display.

Flower food

To help keep your arrangement looking fresher for longer, you’ll want to add flower food to the water. If you’re using flower foam, this will need to be added to the water that will be used to soak your floral brick. You can even make your own flower food by mixing a tablespoon of white vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar, and four cups of water.

Garden gloves

If you’ve picked varieties with sharp edges or thorns, you may want to wear a pair of garden or rubber gloves to protect your hands.

How do I arrange my flowers?

Once you’ve gathered the needed materials, you’ll want to find a clean, spacious work surface and line it with newspaper. 

As part of this preparation process, you’ll also want to do the following:

Clean the container

Use a cloth or sponge to clean your chosen vase or bowl. You’ll want to make sure that there’s no dirt or residue left inside or on it’s exterior.

Cut the flower’s stems

Your flowers will absorb water better if their stems have been freshly cut. When doing so, it’s best to cut them diagonally about 2.5cm away from the end of the stem. If you aren’t going to place them in the container immediately, you’ll want to give them another snip when you do.

Remove leaves below water level

Any leaves below the water level will need to be removed. Doing so helps to avoid them rotting and contaminating the water.

Add water to your container

As mentioned earlier if you’re using floral foam, you’ll need to soak it in water for 15 minutes before cutting it with a sharp knife or scissors. If you’re not using floral foam, you’ll want to fill your chosen container with water before you begin arranging. 

Make sure to add flower food so that your arrangement lasts longer. If you have buds that are closed, you can encourage them to bloom sooner by filling the container with warm water - this works best for ranunculus and roses.

Now, it’s time for the arranging process to begin.

  1. Start by adding your foundation flowers to the container.
  2. Then add your focal flowers to the arrangement.
  3. Finish off the display by adding floater flowers until you’re happy with the finished look.

Adding the flowers in this order helps to ensure that the most delicate flowers will be added in after the more robust varieties. As a result, you will be less likely to damage the fragile blooms.

What should I keep in mind when arranging my flowers?

When arranging your flowers, there are several key things you’ll want to keep in mind.

  • One of the main rules in floristry is to use odd numbers of each variety. For instance, placing five hydrangeas, seven tulips, and nine sweet peas in a vase. Having these uneven amounts helps to make the arrangement appear more organic.
  • It’s best to add single flowers at a time to create a balanced arrangement. Doing so also helps to create a textured look, rather than placing each variety in as small bunches.
  • It can be useful to work in circles when arranging your flowers. Therefore, you’ll want to start by filling the rim of the container, before placing flowers in the middle. Essentially you’ll be continuing to make circles inside one another until the entire container is full.
  • Turning the arrangement as you work will help you ensure that you are creating a balanced display. Likewise, it’s useful to arrange the flowers at eye level.
  • For those using floral foam, you may find that the stems don't go into the foam easily. If this is the case, you can use a sharp object to make a small hole. When doing so, be careful not to make the hole too wide as this won't keep the flower secure.
  • You can create a domed arrangement by keeping the stems of inner flowers longer.
  • Remember that if you make an arrangement mistake nothing is permanent. Therefore, don’t stress about making it perfect the first time - you can always readjust the flower placement.
  • Keep in mind that you don’t have to always need to have an exact plan of how your arrangement will look. Instead, it’s fine to go with the flow and let your creativity run free.

How do I keep my flower arrangement looking fresh?

Once you’ve finished creating your arrangement, you’ll naturally want it to last as long as possible. By using our tips below, you can help your display stay fresh for longer.

  • Place your arrangement away from direct sunlight or heat sources such as a fireplace.
  • Your flowers will last longer if they’re not near drafty areas such as a fan.
  • It’s best to trim the stems and replace the water at least every two days. When replacing the water, remember to add more flower food as this will also help to preserve the life of the arrangement.
  • Remove any debris or leaves that fall into the water to avoid contamination.

For more information, check out our article, “Everything You Need to Know About Keeping Flowers Fresh”.

We hope that this guide has helped you feel more confident about arranging your flowers. Don’t worry if your display doesn’t turn out the first time; practice makes perfect. If you need further help see us in-store at 28 Ethel St, Sandringham, Auckland or call us 09 357 6161.

You may also want to check out our articles, “What to Look for When Buying Fresh Flower Bouquets” and “Ultimate Guide to Buying Flowers Online”. 

Tags: diy