How to Make Fancy Floral Arrangements From Basic Bouquets

These tips promise almost effortless, totally stunning florals.

9 min read

We’re sharing the Valentine’s Day flower secret all entertaining experts know: Simple bouquets can easily be transformed into giftable gold — if you know what to do. Next time the occasion calls for floral flair, follow our tips below, and watch your florista skills blossom.

1. Assess The Flowers


These tips are so foolproof, it doesn’t matter what kinds of flowers you work with. Your bouquet can be one type of flower, such as hydrangeas or roses, or a large-, small-, or medium-size mixture of basics (think gerber daisies, lilies, roses, and sunflowers; filler flowers like statice, snapdragons, baby’s breath, and poms; plus greens such as myrtle, leather fern, and baby blue eucalyptus). Whatever bouquet you start with, remove it from its packaging, set it out on a clean workspace, and take a good look at what you’re working with — size of blooms, lengths of stems, colors, and amount — so you’re ready for the next step:

2. Pick Your Vessel(s)


Vessels are the secret to a great arrangement. As Monica Melsness, owner of San Francisco’s Niche and Nook Flowers, wisely advises, “What you put your flowers in is more important than the flowers.” She continues, “A wide ceramic vase or bowl is super elegant, so any flowers you put in them are going to look good. But you can use anything you have in a home.” 

Joan Hand, event designer for City Flowers Tommy Luke in Portland, Oregon, says, “There are a lot of ways that make it more upscale without having the knowledge or expertise.” Her suggestion: First, choose a vessel that’s proportional with the size of your flowers and consider different containers you already have. 

Then consider the context. For a single “ta-da!” bouquet, decide whether the flowers will look best standing tall and proud or trimmed for a shorter presentation, perhaps compact in a tight bunch or spaciously arranged in a low, wide container. Once you decide, look for a container that is proportional with the flowers; huge blooms won’t look great in a tiny vessel, and ditto vice versa. 

If you’re not loving the look of your vases, you can wrap them with ribbon, using double-sided tape to secure it, or tie it in a bow. You can also wrap them in paper or cloth napkins (or other fabric) and tie them close to the rim with ribbon or twine. 

3. Divide and Conquer

A clever trick that floral designers use is to group flowers by type, color, or both to deliver a bigger visual impact. Use this knowledge to your advantage: Separate your bouquet’s flowers and greens into groups based on type and color. Then decide how to rearrange them in the selected vessel(s). 

If you’re going for one fab bouquet and bought a bunch of one type of larger flower — hello, hydrangea or lily — then your work is easier since you need only focus on arranging them in your chosen vessel. For a dramatic Valentine’s Day tablescape using monochromatic, large flowers, place one large bloom each in several containers; multiple containers with clusters of smaller flowers, like roses or daisies, also work. 

If you bought a mixed bouquet, group two or three color blocks of flowers in your vessel(s); think roses, tulips, or gerber daisies all clustered together then accented with filler flowers of a contrasting or complementary color. You don’t have to use all the flowers you bought in your arrangement; ditch any ugly ducklings and step back from your arrangement as you build it to see what should stay and what needs to go, if anything. 

For table arrangements, each grouping doesn’t need to look the same or even contain the same flowers. Just aim to create bursts of color. You can get even simpler if your flower selection demands it. Hand says, “You can always do little bud vases or other vessels going down a table. You don’t need a ton of flowers in a vase. Just one or two with a sprig of greenery, like sword fern, can draw a series together. You can use loose greenery on the table too, provided you have some available from your bouquet.”

4. Cut to Size


Once you have an idea of how you will group your flowers, it’s time to trim them to fit your vessel. The most important thing, says Hand, is that your flowers and their greenery — i.e. leaves — are above the rim of the vase. “You don’t ever want to see leaves in the water,” she says. “It looks sloppy; it’s important to trim the greenery before you put it in the vase.” 

How much you trim the stems is at your discretion. “All the rules about proportion are out the window,” says Hand. Just keep in mind the proportion between the vase and the flowers, and if you’re unsure what will look good, trim conservatively. Like a haircut, you can always trim more, but you can’t grow back what you’ve already chopped off.  

5. Secure Your Style


It’s easy — and perfectly fine — to snip your flowers, tuck them into a water-filled vessel, and call it a win. But if you want help keeping flowers in your desired position or to create more space between blooms, you can use a frog (a metal device with metal needles that secure stems where you want them) if you have one. Or hack your way there: Chicken wire that is cut to the size of your vessel opening works well, as does clear tape secured in a crosshatch pattern inside the dry walls of your vessel. Even the bottom of a plastic strawberry basket cut to size will work. Once it’s securely in place, gently stick the leafless stems of your flowers through the holes in your desired arrangement. 

6. Embellish If Desired

With your flowers in your vessel, you can be proud of your efforts and move on — or you can guild the proverbial (and literal!) lily. Got a few pretty glass beads and push pins around? Secure a bead in the center of some or all of your flowers. Add marbles, glass beads, or river rocks to the water. Get creative with what you have around the house if you want. Or don’t. You’ve already nailed the assignment!

7. Spread the Joy

Finally, to make the most of your budget blooms, take worthy leftover flowers and greens, arrange them in other small vases — even super tiny ones — and scatter them around the house, perhaps in the bathroom or by your own bed. With that, you’ve officially done everything you can to let love bloom, all from an everyday bouquet! 

Photographer: Natassja Ebert

Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez