For Party-Friendly Centerpieces, Mix Flowers with Plants

May  5, 2016

Setting the table with flowers is one of those decorative tasks that's lovely in theory but trickier than it sounds. Centerpieces can't be too fragrant, since that might overwhelm the meal, nor too tall, lest your guests have trouble seeing each other over them, nor so delicate that they wilt before dinner's done.

Mugs, herbs, pint glasses, and flowers can become much more than the sum of their parts. Photo by James Ransom

A whole table's worth of blooms (and vases, and tools for arranging them) can also get expensive quickly. A solution for all these constraints: This coming Sunday, if you're having sit-down brunch with your mom—or even if you just want your home looking spiffier—look around the house before going to the florist.

Here are three springy, easily-adaptable floral centerpieces that rely heavily on things you might already have:

1. Ranunculus + Houseplants + Glass Bottles

Tiny blue tweedia play off the blue glasses and succulent. Photo by James Ransom

Don't be afraid to move your houseplants right to the tablecloth, which will impart sun-dappled, happy, patio vibes to the meal even if you're eating on the coffee table. Green, nature's neutral, can be played up with any color flower you like—but if any of your succulents have a blue or pink (or purple!) cast to them I suggest using them as a guiding color palette.

Pulling it off: Barely blush ranunculus, with their tissue-thin tutus and sculptural stems, are slipped into tall tinted glass bottles (use several vessels of varying heights to help spread the centerpiece out), picking up undertones and adding refinement to a table of friendly, spindly plants. (Don't be afraid to let a little dirt fall off for a casual touch.)

2. Lilac + Potted Herbs + Copper Cups

That far right copper vessel is actually a saucepan! Photo by James Ransom

If, in the name of spring, you do want a flower with some fragrance to it, try the twiggy, top-heavy lilac that's cropping up in a frenzy of violet everywhere you look right now. Their scent is spicy-sweet but subtler than, say, hyacinth—so, dinner table appropriate in cautious numbers—and their woody stems can be clipped to any length.

Pulling it off: Baby sage plants add soft, leafy volume next to the barky lilac stems—and they can be popped into copper Moscow Mule mugs for a little warmth to counter all that purple fluff (and you can use them in your cooking later). If you're low on low vases, look to any glassware with a narrow, tapered top: Since the lilac stems are lightweight and sturdy, just a few will stand up straight without filling out the whole vessel.

3. Clair de Lune Peonies + Porcelain + Moss

Pale green hellebores fill in between the peonies. Photo by James Ransom

One of the more lightly-scented and unique-looking peonies—with gracefully springy stems, silky greens, and yolk-yellow centers—Clair de Lunes bring a lot of elegance and cheer to a tabletop. (And you could swap in something like anemones or even daffodils if you can't find them.) Paired with porcelain of all shapes and sizes and a rich blue linen, that bit of sunshine in them really pops.

Pulling it off: Sticking to vessels in a uniform color family ensures that all different shapes and sizes will look at home together—and height can be toyed with if you introduce cake stands and mugs to the mix. That little furry green plant above isn't a moss but it could be; planted right in a cake dish with a bunch of potting soil, it's almost like a bed of grass in the arrangement (you could even spread some out across the tabletop).

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Orchids! Buy a whole stem, clip off the blooms and float them in a large porcelain tray filled with water.”
— Coco E.

What are your go-to flowers (and tricks!) for setting up a floral centerpiece? Let me know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Linda Lloyd
    Linda Lloyd
  • Jane Katz
    Jane Katz
  • Olivia Bloom
    Olivia Bloom
  • Coco et Cocoa
    Coco et Cocoa
  • Amanda Sims
    Amanda Sims
Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


Linda L. October 1, 2017
Beautiful, i love the Copper containers
Jane K. May 9, 2016
This is gorgeous!
Olivia B. May 5, 2016
Oh, these pictures. Be still my heart. Brava, Amanda + James.
Coco E. May 5, 2016
Orchids! Buy a whole stem, clip off the blooms and float them in a large porcelain tray filled with water.
Amanda S. May 5, 2016
Um YES please!