October 20, 2018

Florist secrets for a perfect Mother’s Day arrangement

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, which means many people will be making a trip to the florist. Or, because of the lower cost and greater convenience, some of us will be picking up flowers at the supermarket instead. That’s what I do. But rather than presenting the flowers in the cellophane bag they come in, I arrange the blooms in a vase so it looks like I ordered them from a high-end florist. 

Creating your own floral arrangement from supermarket flowers can save you a lot of money. The flowers for this project, which I bought at Trader Joe’s, cost about $20, and the glass vase from Michael’s was less than $3. Yet the finished arrangement could easily retail for $80 to $100 — or even more — at a florist. 

If the thought of putting together your own floral arrangement scares you, don’t worry — it’s pretty easy. I learned by sticking my fingers into arrangements florists delivered to the office where I used to work to analyze how they were assembled. I’ve also had the privilege of working with several top-notch florists in Los Angeles, who have shared their tricks of the trade with me. They swore me to secrecy, so, naturally, I’m passing their tips on to you. 

Get the right proportions

One secret very few people know is there’s an ideal proportion of vase size to number of flowers. I usually work with a 1:4 vase-to-flower ratio, meaning the diameter of the flowers should be approximately four times the diameter of the vase. For example, I wanted the flowers in my arrangement to be about 12 inches across, so I selected a vase that is a little more than 3 inches in diameter. This ratio makes your arrangement look full. If you use a larger vase with the same volume of flowers, the arrangement can appear skimpy. 

Create a support grid

Go monochromatic

Mix textures

Prepare the stems

Separate flowers by type

Another trick I use when arranging flowers is to keep the different types of flowers separate. Like the child at mealtime who won’t let his potatoes touch the peas, I keep each kind in its own section in the vase. This makes floral arranging so much easier, because it takes the guesswork out of how to combine the arrangement. And again, I find this type of arrangement also looks more modern and high-end.

Fill in gaps with greenery

After you’ve filled the vase with flowers, you might still see a few empty spots here or there. Fill these gaps with greenery, using leaves or succulents from your garden. (Just be sure that only the stems are submerged in water.) Bushy blooms like hydrangeas also make great fillers. 

Hide the stems

If your vase is transparent, you will see the stems in the water, and seeing submerged stems is a no-no in professional arrangements. They need to be covered up. One florist friend calls this “hiding the underwear.” Many florists cover the stems by lining the inside of the vase with large leaves. It’s a great look, but the leaves will contribute to bacteria growth. The simplest solution is to wrap a ribbon around the outside of the vase, adhering it in place with double-sided tape. Of course, if your vase is opaque, you don’t need to hide your stems. Still, wrapping a ribbon around the vase can add a nice finishing touch.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at