5 Tips for Better Flower Arrangements at Any Budget or Skill Level

Rules are meant to be broken.

April 24, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

My favorite part of spring is the vibrant flowers that start popping up everywhere you look. Maybe they’re along your street, or in your garden—but you can also find brilliant spring blooms at the grocery store and farmers market.

If you want to bring the joy of spring indoors, a fresh flower arrangement can brighten up any room. But, it can be tricky to replicate the perfectly balanced designs that florists make look so effortless.

In hopes of discovering the secrets to making better bouquets, I reached out to Anna Potter, owner of the UK-based flower shop Swallows and Damsons and author of the upcoming book The Flower Fix (out in May 2019). She was kind enough to clue me in on some of her top tips for creating unique and beautiful flower arrangements—and now, I’m sharing her insights with you:

1. Shun All the “Rules”

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A spring explosion. 💥

A post shared by Anna Potter (@swallowsanddamsons) on

According to Potter, one of the most common mistakes she sees people making is “thinking that there are strict rules to follow, or trying too hard to make flowers abide by our rules.” Instead, she recommends letting the flowers lead you—that’s how you’ll create stunning, one-of-a-kind arrangements.

“Every stem is totally unique; therefore, applying regulations is pointless,” Potter explains. “Learn to be led and work with irregularities, and abandon preconceived ideas, because a flower won’t sit exactly where you had in mind.”

2. Experiment With Color

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Remembering all the brilliant Mums 💛

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Flower hue is another area where there are lots of perceived restrictions: “I was taught so many rules about colors that should and shouldn’t go together—no pink and orange, always use complementary colors,” says Potter.

Again, she recommends breaking these rules and doing your own thing: “It’s something I would always encourage people to find [their] own way with. Play and experiment. Sometimes the most unlikely clashing colors on paper create something utterly magical and mysterious in a bouquet.”

Her favorite way to play with color? Using several variations of one shade. Like, she might make an entire bouquet just from pink flowers, all with subtle color differences.

3. Use Different Shapes and Sizes

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Actual sunshine for today’s wedding! 😮🌞

A post shared by Anna Potter (@swallowsanddamsons) on

When you’re picking out flowers to use in an arrangement, Potter recommends reaching for several different varieties to add texture and assortment to your creation: “Use four or five different varieties of flowers, and within those, look for different qualities in each flower.”

If you need a little more guidance, she recommends picking one type of flower from each of these categories:

  • A large headed bloom, like a lily, sunflower or chrysanthemum.
  • A smaller headed bloom, like a small rose or daisy.
  • A textured flower, like a carnation or astilbe.
  • Something with height that juts out of the arrangement.
  • A filler flower, aka a small-headed, more delicate bloom like baby’s breath, to use in empty spaces.

And don’t forget to incorporate some greenery, as well!

4. Create a Larger Scene

You can give your bouquet a little extra je ne sais quoi by making it part of a larger display, complete with props.

“Bring in other collected treasures and natural produce to create a still life scene at home,” Potter says. “Use fruits and vegetables, shells, coral on the table around the arrangement. Bring in candles, books and any other trinkets to complete the scene.”

Or set your arrangement apart by using an interesting vase: “Any vessel that hold water can be used for flowers, so think outside of the box,” Potter recommends. If you have any empty jars or bottles lying around, why not create a bouquet in those?

5. Make Cut Flowers Last Longer

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Went swimming and found colour inspiration at the pool

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After you put all that effort into creating a lovely arrangement, the last thing you want is for the flowers to die after a few days! Potter explains that the environment your flowers are in will ultimately dictate how long they last, but there are a few ways to extend their life.

“Cooler temperatures are best,” she says. “Clean the water every few days, and snipping off the bottom of the stems when you refresh the water will enable the flowers to drink more effectively.”

What are your tips for better bouquets? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


Mojo June 29, 2019
The secret to great arrangements is owning a vintage hairpin frog. Any vase will then work and flowers stay where you want them.
Jenica April 30, 2019
This list is more about picking out flowers than arranging them. I can pick out flowers like a champ, but when I put them in a vase at home, somehow they go everywhere and look a sad mess. Was hoping for more actual flower arranging tips (because I stink royally at this and would like to be better!).