Guide to Buying Flowers: How to Choose the Right Arrangement

Nail the color, meaning, and vibe no matter the occasion.

8 min read
Cx Blog_DoorDash-Flowers_Feature

Fresh flowers are the perfect gift for any occasion. They’re colorful and beautiful, and who doesn’t love receiving a thoughtful bouquet? The popularity of online flower shops has made the process of selecting and buying flowers easier than ever. And yet, sending the perfect arrangement can be intimidating. There’s a lot to think about, from the reason you’re sending them to choosing a color palette that matches the moment. Here’s a primer for nailing blooms that are just right, every time.

Start with the person.

Flowers are personal, and the best floral gifts embrace that fact. That can make choosing the ideal bouquet difficult, but it also makes the selection process even more meaningful. Kevin R. McCarthy, Founder and CEO of is a third-generation florist. He revived the business his grandfather started with the idea that flowers can make everything “Be OKAY.” At McCarthy’s flower shop BOKAY, which ships next day, nationwide, customers can work with expert florists to personalize their own arrangements. “It’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears,” says McCarthy. “We are truly in a gifting business, and most of our flowers are bought as expressions of love for others.”

McCarthy knows that the best flower gifts are deeply personal. One Mother’s Day, he met a customer who was adopted and had just reconnected with his birth mother. “We guided him through the process of finding the perfect arrangement to show how happy he was that she was in his life again,” says McCarthy. “With his help, we designed a special bouquet of pink roses for joy and sweetness, hot pink roses for thankfulness, white roses for peace and purity, dendrobium orchids for tenderness, and pink Calla lilies for admiration.” 

Choose the perfect color.

“I often think about color palettes connoting different moods, rather than specific flower types,” says Kristen Jas Vietty, grower and designer at Philadelphia’s Lunaria Gardens. Sympathy arrangements often feature white or soft tones, and a birthday bouquet will likely feature cheery bright hues. If you know someone’s favorite color, that’s an easy win. 

“One memorable example was a request for a goth bouquet,” says Vietty. “I used dark burgundy scabiosa and copper beech foliage, spikey and weird blue eryngium, and toxic foxgloves and poppies, all of which might evoke the garden or medicine cabinet of a medieval European sorceress.”

Trending hues are another way to think about the color of your bouquet. “We see requests for certain colors when Pantone releases their color of the year,” McCarthy says. “We also have seen growing trends for all monochromatic schemes too, particularly all lavender, yellow, red, or white.”

Celebrate the season.

Many flowers are seasonal and available only at certain times of year. This can be both a challenge and an opportunity. “As a farmer-florist, I always take my cue from what’s in season,” says Vietty. “It's an opportunity to commemorate an event by capturing the unique time and place, the special blend of what’s blooming in your local region. Plus, I found that customers were craving specialty blooms that evoked seasonal gardens, rather than the same dozens of shelf-stable species found in traditional flower shops.”

Come springtime, choose something with peonies, lilacs, tulips, and garden roses. In the summer, opt for hydrangea, clematis, sunflowers, and zinnia. Autumn brings dahlias and chrysanthemums, along with foliage that provide stunning color and texture. Amaryllis, ranunculus, and anemone are gorgeous options for winter arrangements.

For seasonal inspiration, check out Maya’s Flowers in Miami, where the “Farmer’s Choice” features the freshest selects from their growers, a hand-picked abundant selection made of the flowers of the moment. In LA, The Bouqs Co. partners with local farmers to source sustainably grown flowers. Sourcing directly from the farm means the flowers spend less time in transit, staying fresher for longer.

Vietty recommends working with a designer, farm, or shop “with an ethos and style you trust.” If you love everything from a certain florist, you can bet on them delivering brilliant bouquets for different people, occasions, and seasons.

Nail the meaning.

Flowers contain all kinds of symbolism: dahlias and sunflowers translate to brightness, and nothing says romance like a red rose. “In Victorian times, flowers had very specific meanings for each variety,” says Brittany Sullivan, owner and creative director of Grace and Grit Flowers. “You could send a whole secret message through a bouquet.” For example, Abatina denoted fickleness, amaryllis represented pride, and pink carnations said, “I’ll never forget you.” However, these days, it’s okay to take symbolism with a grain of salt. Different cultures and traditions imbue flowers with different meanings, so there are rarely hard-and-fast rules. When in doubt, a trusted florist can help you perfect the right look and feel for the occasion.

FlowerFix, based in Boise, ID, helps gift givers select a spot-on bouquet with occasion-specific designs. If you’re proud of your bestie for a big promotion, send her a “U Rock,” which features radiant sunflowers and bright white selections, like white roses and lisianthus. For a birthday or bridal shower gift, opt for “Isn’t She Lovely,” an arrangement of pink garden roses mixed with  cream spray roses.

“I typically try to create something that invokes a feeling rather than using flowers for their meaning, because I think that varies from person to person based on their experience,” Sullivan says.

Plan ahead.

Vietty suggests planning ahead for busy times of year, like graduation season, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. “If you know a special occasion is coming up, talk to your florist a week or two ahead of time. For recurring holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries, consider placing a standing order,” Vietty says. That way, your florist can put something thoughtful together and you won’t have to pay an extra charge for a last minute rush.

In McCarthy’s words, sending flowers “enhances the emotions, love, and connections we have with one another, near or far.” The best flower arrangements make somebody’s heart happy, and there’s nothing better than that.

PHOTO CREDIT: Zoe Schaeffer and Matthew Nevins Bell on Unsplash