How to Pick The Right Flowers for the Vase You Have

A handy guide to the perfect flower pairings.

August  3, 2021
Photo by Ty Mecham

We usually buy flowers based on what looks best—the mere premise of bringing freshly-cut blooms indoors is about joy, after all. But the problem is that once we prep and plop them into vases, they don’t always look...right. Tulips look floppier in short vases and tall stems look a little sparse in wide vessels—sound familiar?

Instead of shopping for flowers based solely on looks, let us suggest an alternative: shop with your vases in mind. Choosing stems according to the vase ensures that your arrangement feels well-proportioned and thoughtfully composed. It’s a simple way to give your DIY-bouquet pro-level vibes.

Below, our easy guide for using your vases as your muse when picking out flowers. It’s also a handy checklist—if you have one of each, you’ll have your bases covered.

If you have a bud vase

When it comes to mini vases, which are ideal on bedside tables or bathroom vanities, you only need one to three stems. To keep the proportions balanced, tiny clipping from your yard or cast-offs from a bigger bunch you might’ve picked up at the store can work here. If you’re drawn to bigger blooms, like garden roses, one solitary flower should do the trick. For smaller varieties (like ranunculus or wispy wildflowers), go with three sprigs—and be sure to cut them at varying heights. This tip applies to all arrangements as it gives them a more organic, plucked-from-nature look.

Swirled Movement Glass Bud Vase, Tall | Shop on Terrain, $20 Photo by Terrain
White Ranunculus Flowers | Shop on Blooms by the Box, $37.81 per bunch Photo by Blooms by the Box

If you have a short vase with a wide opening

A short vase can hover somewhere between four and six inches tall, and will usually have a wide opening. And the larger your vase opening, the more flowers you’ll need to fill it. This type of vessel can benefit from the help of a flower frog, a spiky contraption that gives you more control over flower placement. Or for a more DIY route, use some clear floral tape to make a grid at the top of your vase, or a balled-up piece of chicken wire fit snugly inside. Then, fill it with focal flowers like peonies, dahlias, and anemones, and maybe mix in some greenery if you’re inclined.

Michiko Shimada Medium Kado Vase | Shop on Bloomist, $158 Photo by Bloomist
Magic Number | Shop on Farmgirl Flowers, $83 Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

If you have a medium vase

A medium vase that’s about six to eight inches tall is the most versatile style. Tall and short flowers alike generally all work and can be trimmed to fit perfectly. Just stay away from extra-tall flowers (like gladiolus) or heavy flowers (like sunflowers or some weighty blooming branches), which might be so big that they’ll tip your vase. This is a workhorse, so if you only have one vase around at home, this should be it.

Raawii Strøm Vase | Shop on Design Within Reach, $118 Photo by Design Within Reach
The Peony | Shop on UrbanStems, $85 Photo by UrbanStems

If you have a tall vase

For a tall vase that’s nine inches or taller, and regardless of a wide or narrow mouth, the most important factor is stem height—you’ll want blooms that clear the top of the vase by at least a few inches (generally, hydrangeas and sunflowers are sold with long stems). However, you have the flexibility to use reaching blooms as well, like delphiniums and foxgloves—or even just tall greenery clipped from your yard or foraged (responsibly and safely!) from the side of the road.

Enamel Tube Vase | Shop on West Elm, $38-$80 Photo by West Elm
Marshmallow Delphinium | Shop on Flowerbx, $120 Photo by Flowerbx

If you have a tall vase with a narrow neck

This is the ideal vase to showcase a solitary statement branch. Find something gestural that stands out on its own and it’ll act almost as a sculpture in your space. If you can’t grab something from your backyard, a palm leaf or two works equally well (it's also a super-low-maintenance option that lasts a long time).

Gradient Vase | Shop on Anthropologie, $32 Photo by Anthropologie
Dried Cycas Palm (32-36" Tall) | Shop on Afloral, $32 Photo by Afloral

If you have a patterned vase

Depending on your vase shape and size, follow our tips above, but choose flowers that are all one color or choose greenery only. It's the best way to let both the flowers and your vase’s fun design be the star of the show in equal measure.

Painted Elza Vase | Shop on Anthropologie, $32-$68 Photo by Anthropologie
Fresh Olive Branch Bunch | Shop on Terrain, $68 Photo by Terrain

Tips for all cut-flower arrangements:

  1. No foliage below the water line to keep the water clean.
  2. Trim your stems at an angle with sharp scissors just before putting them in fresh, clean water.
  3. Change the water every other day to help increase the lifespan of your arrangement.
  4. Pull out blooms as they reach the end of their lifespan to ensure what’s left stays more fresh.

What are your fav floral arrangements? Drop some inspo below!

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Cat Dash

Written by: Cat Dash

Design editor & prop stylist—on the hunt for beauty always