How to Cut a Bouquet of Flowers

How to Cut a Bouquet of Flowers

Store-bought flowers can't match the freshness and cost-effectiveness of seasonal blooms picked right from your own cut flower garden. Draw inspiration from floral designers on how to cut a bouquet of flowers to add color, style, fragrance and beauty to any environment.

To create professional-looking bouquets, follow some of the same floral design principles experts use and take their lead on how to cut flower stems to make your blooms last.

How to Cut a Bouquet of Flowers to Make Them Last

You've planted, pruned and picked beautiful blooms from your cutting garden and are ready to arrange them into an artful bouquet.

Choose long-lasting flowers from the cutting garden like chrysanthemums and zinnias over short-lived varieties like peonies that will wilt much sooner. An abundance of cosmos, zinnias, dahlias, calla lilies, gladiolus, gerberas and alstroemeria in the garden will have you enjoying more flowers than you can use and provide several months of bouquets.

Follow these steps to make your seasonal blooms last longer:

Cut the Stems and Trim the Foliage

It's essential to know how to cut flower stems to create long-lasting bouquets. With a clean, sharp knife, clippers or shears, cut 1 to 2 inches off the stems at a 45-degree angle. Cutting at an angle increases the surface area to enable greater water intake. To reduce decay, strip the stems of leaves that will fall below the waterline.

Use Lukewarm Water

For most flowers, place them in a clean vase filled with fresh lukewarm water. Warm water lets flowers absorb water and nutrients more quickly. Bulb flowers, however, such as hyacinths and tulips, need cold water.

Add a Preservative

Once they're cut, flowers lose their natural ability to create sugar, and they begin to fade. Following the label instructions, add a commercial flower preservative to increase their longevity. These solutions contain sugar for nutrition, bleach as a bactericide and an acidifier to lower the pH of the tap water. Alternatively, you can mix small amounts of homemade preservatives, such as 2 tablespoons of fresh lime or lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of bleach per quart of lukewarm water.

Refresh the Water

Change the water every two days. If the water turns yellow and cloudy, wash the vase with soap and water and refresh the water and flower food. Re-cut and rinse the stems before returning them to the container.

Remove Fading Flowers

Some flowers last longer than others. Remove flowers that begin to fade or wilt, and if desired, transfer the longer-lasting flowers to a smaller vase.

Keep Flowers Cool

Cut flowers last longer if kept in cooler temperatures and away from direct sunlight and heat.

Avoid Placing Flowers Near Ripening Fruit

Avoid placing the arrangement near ripening fruit as fruit releases tiny amounts of ethylene gas that can cause flowers and leaves to age more rapidly.

How to Design a Professional-Looking Bouquet

Select a Container

Once you've mastered how to cut a bouquet of flowers, choose a container. You'll want one proportional to the size of the location where it will be displayed and appropriate for the type of flowers it will hold. Tall stems with top-heavy blooms need a heavy or weighted container, while thick-stemmed flowers like daffodils, hyacinths and tulips do best in a straight-sided, slightly flared one that tapers downward to hold the stems firmly in place at the base.

Choose a Color Scheme

A bouquet can contain a single type of flower or a combination of different flowers. Create a monochromatic scheme of a single color in a spectrum of shades, or one with all warm or all cool hues. For pops of color, pair up complementary colors such as yellow and violet, orange and blue, or green and red.

Consider Proportion

As a general rule, a bouquet should be taller than its vase with a proportion of 2/3 flowers to 1/3 vase. Designers generally agree on the following proportion principles: The plant materials should be 1 1/2 times as high as the height of a tall container or 1 1/2 the width of a low container.

When adding blooms, consider both height and width to create balance. Add long foliage or branches to help provide width and structure. Flowers like phlox with large flower heads and fluffy blooms will add bulk and fill out a bouquet, while flowers with erect, tall stems like alliums provide height.

Begin With the Foliage

Start with the foliage to establish a base, help create the infrastructure of the piece, and determine the shape and size for the arrangement.

For added texture and color, experiment with different types of foliage, stems, berries and herbs, such as eucalyptus, ferns, hosta, rosemary and basil. Include buds in the arrangement. Unopened blooms provide contrast and texture, and cutting them back in the garden encourages the plant to produce more flowers.

Create Structure

Use an eco-friendly floral base to secure the foliage in place, then begin adding flowers.

Avoid floral foam, a formaldehyde-based material that contains the same amount of plastic as 10 plastic shopping bags and doesn't break down in landfills. Consider securing flowers in place with environmentally friendly choices like pebbles, gravel, marbles, sand, clay, straw or moss. Use waterproof tape to create a grid pattern at the top of the container or roll chicken wire into a ball to create a grid. A reusable flower frog will do the trick as will a lattice of twigs or curly willow or a bunch of biodegradable shredded wood excelsior.

Create a Focal Point

Establish a focal point — the area that dominates the design and draws the eye to the center point. Create the focal point by designing the bouquet around an odd number of "hero blooms" — the largest, darkest, brightest or most unusually shaped stems in the bunch. Add smaller accent blooms of varying shapes, tones and textures all around, arranging them to radiate out from the central point to create balance and unify the arrangement.

Selecting and Combining Flowers for a Bouquet

Flowers with solid blooms and erect, long stems, like alliums with their hefty globes on slim stalks, provide good structure. Consider dramatic tall blooms such as purple-tinged blue delphinium, gladiolus or liatris.

The most versatile bouquet flowers are typically roses, lilies and daisies. Roses pair well with pincushion scabiosa as well as double-petaled snapdragons and calla lilies.

'Queen Anne's Lace' makes a great airy filler and looks great combined with cornflowers, delphinium, poppies and ranunculus.

Capture the spirit of summer with sunflowers paired with Gloriosa daisies.

And don't rule out herbs — basil adds a fresh fragrance and its sturdy stems help support more delicate flowers.

A garden with a plentiful mix of annual and perennial flowers will provide blooms for bouquets all season long.

Check out Burpee's wide selection of flowers to create swoon-worthy bouquets.

Written by Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens

Robin Horton is a home and garden writer and publisher of the award-winning and Webby-nominated design, lifestyle and travel blog, Urban Gardens.

May 19, 2022
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