Essential Floral Design Tools

Crafting beautiful flower arrangements, bouquets, and vase designs requires very little to begin with – a good pair of secateurs or sharp scissors and a vase will give you a decent start. However, some essential floral design tools and supplies will take your artistry to the next level. I’ve been crafting floral designs for over 20 years, and in this guide, I’ll share some of my favorite floral design tools.

Basic Floral Design Tools

Cutting Tools

Flower Scissors

Unlike the general kitchen or regular scissors, flower scissors are designed specifically to be sharper so that the delicate stems of flowers can be clean-cut and not damaged. You want clean cuts because damaged or crushed stems cannot draw up water properly, and they will start to deteriorate too quickly. Flower scissors can be used on soft and woody stems and for different types of flowers that are used in floral design, usually up to a diameter of about half an inch thick.

Secateurs

Some people may suggest that a good pair of sharp secateurs is unnecessary, but I believe you cannot walk around a garden without a pair. They are good for quick deadheading, pruning, and cutting flowers for the vase. Keep them cleaned and oiled, and they will last a lifetime. 

Sharp knife

A simple kitchen knife is useful for many things, including cutting stems and removing thorns and leaves from stems.

Containers

Fresh cut flowers sitting in a pink plastic bucket
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

Buckets

Having a few buckets on hand to hold flowers in water before arranging them is essential. General-use buckets will do if the handles are not used to carry them. These can damage the flower heads. There are buckets with lips and two handles on the side for carrying that are specifically designed for flowers.

Vases 

From the choices in the containers section, it is clear there are many from which to choose. But for a basic kit, you can use anything from a pot cover to a casserole dish from the kitchen to arrange flowers in. For variety, start with a large hourglass shape and a few smaller containers of differing sizes.

Mechanics

Wire cutters used for floral design projects
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

Floral Foam

One of the best inventions for flower arrangers has been floral foam. This invention, known under the brand name Oasis, is attributed to V. L. Smithers, who invented it in 1954. Bricks of floral foam take about 30 seconds to soak and can be cut to size and shaped for any container.

Wire

Floral wire comes in various thicknesses or gauges to do different tasks. Wire packs are primarily available in 18 – 28 gauges – the higher the number, the thinner the wire. When choosing a wire to use, consider that the thinner the wire, the less damage it will cause to a flower or leaf, but some heavier things may need a stronger gauge wire or multiple wires, like pine cones, for instance. A selection of light and heavy wires is best for a basic kit.

Wire cutters

Some secateurs and scissors will cut wire, but it’s best to have a tool that specifically does the job. Round nose pliers are a perfect choice to bend, manipulate, and cut wire. 

Skewers, Cocktail Sticks, Stones and Sand

Many times, there are things around the house that can be used to significant effect for support. Wooden skewers and cocktail sticks are perfect for heavy things like fruit to give them a stem to secure into floral foam or netted mechanics and for joining items together. These often replace wiring and will often create less damage to the items. 

Skewers and cocktail sticks
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

Stones have a decorative function and can be used to stabilize flowers in a container.

Damp sand can be used to make a base heavier for added support, especially for long thin containers. Flowers can be placed directly into the sand or a frog or pin holder can be placed on top of the sand to arrange the flowers.

Advanced Floral Design Tools

Thorn Strippers Tools for Floral Design

Some would consider a pin frog or floral tape as a basic necessity in flower arranging and once they are part of a collection of floral art goodies, you might agree. Let’s look into the extra bits and pieces that are perhaps not essential, but that we all want to try out.

Thorn strippers

While a knife will do the job, there is something immensely satisfying about a thorn stripper that grabs a stem between pincers and, in one movement, can strip the stem of leaves and thorns.

Watering can

A black watering can and water spray on a wooden table
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

A watering can with a thin spout is ideal for watering indoor plants and topping up water in a vase. It is designed to provide a targeted flow of water into the vessel and not on the furniture or floor. Misters are good for keeping flowers fresh and these antique ones can also function as décor.

Vases

A selection of vases and containers
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

A collection of vases starts with the basics but can be added to with lovely shapes like urns, cups on candlesticks, or building a mechanical structure from scratch. From simple to ornate, a fancy kit has a bit more choice.

Floral Foam

Nowadays, you can get various types of density in the original green versions. Black floral foam (noir) is considered easier to hide than green and there is also dry Oasis that is used for stiff dried flowers and artificial flowers to hold everything in place.

While the idea is to hide the mechanics of the arrangement including floral foam, you can now get it into a rainbow of colors that can be used in full view and forms part of the design.

Floral foam now comes in a range of pre-cut shapes that make setting up of mechanics much easier. Some even have cages for extra stability. There are shapes in the form of cones, hearts, rings for wreaths, letters to form names, numbers, balls, rectangles, cylinders, bouquet holders, plus a host of designer frames covering animals, sports, special occasions, and more.

Floral Tape

When wiring flowers, it’s a good idea to hide the wires, and this is where Florist Tension Tape comes in handy. This stretchy tape comes in green, white, and brown and has a waxy finish that sticks together when the tape is stretched. It finishes the flower well, especially the green, which can mimic a stem. This is particularly useful for corsages and buttonholes that have short stems.

Pot tape

This type of tape comes in various colors, but I prefer the clear because it’s easier to hide. It has a very strong adhesive and is used to secure mechanics like floral foam into containers or it can be used to make a tape grid on the top of a container that will keep the flowers in place. What’s special about this tape is that once it’s stuck, it won’t unseal if it comes into contact with water.

Frogs

Floral design frogs placed at the bottom of a glass vase
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

Flower frogs, also known as pin holders, pin frogs, or, in Japanese floral art, Kenzan, are ideal for stabilizing flowers in a container that doesn’t provide much stem support. The alignment of pins made from brass or stainless steel provides a support structure with sharp ends to hold stems big or small. They come in various sizes and shapes. The heavy base gives it great support but sometimes requires floral putty to make it totally secure before adding the flowers.

A close shot of a floral design frog at the bottom of a glass vase
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

There are other types of frogs other than the metal pin frogs made from glass, ceramics or plastic, but the metal frogs are the most popular and easy to use.

Frogs are often used in Japanese floral design, Ikebana.

Chicken Wire

Chicken wire placed around the mouth of a vase
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

Galvanized mesh wire from DIY stores is useful for placing inside a container to stabilize flower stems. It can be cut to any size, manipulated to fit the space, and placed in a container, often with no other necessary mechanics.

What’s more, it can cover floral foam for large structural designs to hold the foam in place. I love that it comes in different mesh sizes, and some specialized flower shops will have plastic-coated mesh that is easier to work with. Chicken wire can also be used more than once.

Helpful Floral Design Tools

A selection of ornate floral arrangements

Floral Glue

A florist adhesive is a bonus for florists because it is specially formulated to not make fresh flower petals and leaves go brown as other glues will. It’s perfect for small work in corsages, boutonnieres, headpieces, hair bands, and securing ribbons.

Floral putty

An adhesive like putty is a helpful addition, especially to stabilize things like frogs or pin holders in a clean and dry container. It is also reusable and can often be used as a replacement for tape. It’s non-toxic and safe for flowers and foliage. 

Pearl Head Pins

For corsages and boutonnieres, pearl head pins finish off a buttonhole neatly and make it easy to attach and remove the flowers.

Water Beads

Small polymer beads that expand to about the size of a marble when soaked in water can be used to great effect in floral art. Glass containers packed with hydrated water beads can also be colored using food coloring, and they can be used as stabilizers for flowers.

A fun way to use them is to magically suspend waterproof items in a glass container by placing them between layers of beads and then adding water to make the beads ‘invisible’. It must be noted, however, that these beads are not edible and must be kept away from children.

Water tubes

As one becomes more proficient in floral art, the temptation is to do more, and this is where things like water tubes come in. They come in various sizes in glass and clear plastic and are used to provide water to flowers where they cannot get to the water source in a container.

Large floral installations often use water tubes, and floral artists who create their stylized mechanics will often not use containers but rely on tubes tied into their designs to water their flowers.

Rubber bands

For quick and more accessible mechanic securing, rubber bands will come in handy. Some preformed plastic containers come with hooks on the sides of the container to hold runner bands in place.

Mossing pins

These U-shaped pins are a quick and easy way of securing items into floral foam.

Candle holders

To hold candles in flowers that are designed using floral foam, handy plastic spiked holders are the perfect size for standard tapered candles and will do the job quickly and easily.

Glue gun

I think everyone should own a glue gun, but it’s not an essential part of floral design. It does, however, come in handy to build mechanical structures for floral art but should not be used for the actual flowers or foliage – rather use proper floral glue so the flowers are not damaged.

How to Select the Best Type of Vase

A selection of contemporary vases

The history of floral design can attest to the fact that vases have been around at least since the first storage vessels were made to hold grain and oils in the Bronze Age more than 5000 years ago.

These first rudimentary containers developed through time, changing shape and adding decoration, as we can see in the abundance of antique vases in museums and art collections.

Today, we have the best of both worlds – access to the beautiful designs of the past and the technological advances to make them affordable to everyone.

Anything that can hold water without leaking can be used as a flower container. Even one that does perhaps leak can be lined with plastic or have another container placed inside it to hold the water. The choices are many.

As a general rule, a wider vase will be for arrangements with many flowers, as opposed to a slim-necked vase for fewer flowers. When deciding on a vase, choose one around a third of the height of your proposed arrangement. This ratio of a third vase to two-thirds flowers works well for balance and harmony.

But there are exceptions to this rule that will also be harmonious; this would be a basic rule of thumb. The shape of the vase also dictates how the flower falls for a natural look, and an hourglass shape works best. It gives the stems enough space, and the shape of the vase at the top allows the flowers to flow naturally.

For a table arrangement, always consider what people are looking at across the table and make sure that arrangements are not too big to block the ability to talk to the person opposite.

Smaller vases for heads of flowers or low bowls and containers are the best way to go, or have a thin tall structure with a vase on top so that the volume of flowers is over the top of the heads of diners.

Glass

A selection of glass vases
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

Glass vases are the most popular and for several reasons. There are countless shapes, sizes, and even colors available, from cylinders, fishbowls, and terrariums to any shape or design you can think up for a vase – from the simplest clear form to the beauty of cut glass and crystal made famous by master craftsmen in Venice.

They are durable and environmentally friendly; if a strong gust of wind does come past, they can also be sturdy. Mostly, they are elegant and timeless. Glass is a good choice when you are looking for something a bit light and reflective for your flower arrangement.

Practically, they are easy to clean, and you can always see if the water needs to be changed. On the other side of the coin, you can see everything, so using helpful stabilizing materials in glass is not an option.

Heavy Bottoms for Heavy Material

Ensure that arrangements will not topple over by ensuring the vase is heavy enough for the volume and weight of the flowers. A small-necked vase, for example, is perfect to hold a decorative branch of flowers, but it must have enough of a heavy base to hold up the arrangement. Just relying on the weight of the water may not be enough.

Ceramic and Porcelain

A selection of ceramic and porcelain vases
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

Those earlier vases from the Bronze Age were made from clay, and it has been suggested that because of their round shape, they were made using a potter’s wheel. From then on, the vases became more intricate, with civilizations like the Ancient Greeks adding intricate decoration to their terracotta-fired vases.

Chinese potters added the technique of firing mineral kaolinite at high temperatures, which we know today as porcelain, and decorating it with symbols of Chinese culture. Perhaps the most famous are the Ming Dynasty’s blue and white stylings.

These ancient artists have set the stage for what we can do today with ceramics. The choices are endless, the decorations simple or ornate, and the shapes abundant.

Plastic containers

A selection of white and green plastic containers
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

Floral suppliers have just about any shape, form, or size you can wish for in molded plastic. These are cheap and come in a variety of colors. Most florists tend to cover plastic containers with things like flowers, foliage, moss, bark, or fabric. However, the quality of the plastic manufactured today makes this sometimes unnecessary, depending on the look you’re going for. 

Specialty Vases

A selection of specialty vases used in floral design
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic
Ikebana Vases

Any vase can be used in Ikebana design; however, most commonly are the shallow bowls with a very small amount of water in the bottom, and the flowers are usually secured in place using a Kenzan (also known as a flower frog or pin frog. Tall ceramic vases are also used extensively in Ikebana.

Alternative Vessels

Anything that can carry water can be used as a vase for fresh flower arranging. That means that there is a range of containers that will do the job, like jam jars, candle holders, tableware like bowls and cups, teapots, watering cans, paint cans, tins, bakeware, silicon molds, plant pots, mason jars, and wine bottles.

Protective Gear

Protective gloves for floral design
Wendy Moulton / Petal Republic

For full-time florists, there is always an argument for wearing an apron to protect clothing and gloves to protect hands from cuts when using cutting tools and thorny materials. Some plants will cause skin rashes like stinging nettles, so gloves are a good idea. When dealing with toxic plants, a pair of gloves becomes essential. Many flowers are toxic, but the degree of toxicity of some, like hemlock can be deadly, causing severe illness and even death. Make sure to know your flowers and use some of them with caution.

Further reading: Types of Vases, Vessels, and Container Used in Floral Design, 9 Essential Principles in Floral Design, and 8 Essential Elements in Floral Design.

Senior Contributing Editor | wendy@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Wendy brings over 20 years of senior leadership experience in gardening magazine publishing. Today, she is the features editor for The Gardener magazine and Grow to Eat magazine. She is also the senior editor for Let’s Braai and Open Gardens of South Africa magazines, published annually by Lonehill Media.

Wendy has been involved in many aspects of the industry, including managing editorial and creative teams, writing and producing expert guides and articles on many gardening subjects, magazine design and photography, and developing recipes for publishing.

Wendy’s interests are very much in the arts – writing, design, cookery, and floral art. She also loves to spend time growing flowers on her small flower farm.

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