Gardening How-to Articles

Create Your Own Floating Flower Arrangement

Floating flower arrangements provide a limitless opportunity for creative expression. Inspired by nature itself—think lily pads suspended on the water’s surface and lotus flowers emerging from dark pond waters—floating flower arrangements use water as a backdrop, rather than a standing vase. Water allows you to play with color, texture, movement, light, and reflection.

These creative displays can be small enough to fit on a kitchen counter or table, or large enough for a garden or backyard statement piece. And they can be made in any season. No matter what size or style you choose, floating flower arrangements provide interest, beauty, and an element of surprise for those who happen upon them.

SUPPLIES

A small grey bowl, black bucket, scissors, spray can, and glass jar with flowers sit atop a wooden surface.
Bowls with dark bottoms provide better reflection. Just make sure your bowl is waterproof. Photo by Lana Guardo.

Choose a vessel

A wide bowl works well; the larger the bowl, the more space you will have to design. Pick the vessel based on where you want to place it. If it is going on a table, opt for a low bowl that won’t block anyone’s view. Feel free to use something unconventional, like a large hollowed-out stone or tree stump you can keep outside. Just be sure it is leakproof, or has been waterproofed with a liquid rubber sealant spray. You might not even need to look further than your kitchen—a circular take-out container or salad bowl can also make great vessels. A bowl with a dark bottom allows for better reflection.

Choose your plant material

These can be collected from your own garden, or you can buy bunches of flowers from your local supermarket or greenmarket. When you’re looking for flowers, consider ones with fused sepals (like daisies, mums, geraniums, or hibiscus). These will be the best floaters.

A pair of blue scissors lays next to a small glass jar holding pink, red, and orange flowers.
Photo by Lana Guardo.

My plant material:

  • Gazania ‘Kiss Orange Flame
  • Bidens (Spanish needles)
  • Lantana (shrub verbena)
  • Lonicera twig (honeysuckle)
  • Geranium

You will also need a pair of scissors or garden shears and a floral bucket or jar to collect your plant material.

INSTRUCTIONS

Fill your vessel to the brim with clean water.

Cut the flowers very close to the knape of the bloom, leaving only a centimeter or less of stem. Then place them in the water to make sure they float and water doesn’t just fill the petal cup and sink the bloom.

Two bright orange daisies with red tinted petals float in a small bowl of water.
There are many ways to start your floating arrangement, such as by color, shape, or size. Photo by Lana Guardo.

You can begin your design in any multitude of ways. I started with the gazania ‘Kiss Orange Flame’ simply because the striping and colors are so striking. Then I added the bright pink lantana flowers and the burnt-orange bidens.

Bright orange daisy-like flowers with red stripes float alongside smaller red and pink flowers in a bowl of water.
Photo by Lana Guardo.

Use twigs or foliage to create structure. This will help your arrangement stay in place and prevent your design from floating apart. I’ve used a lonicera twig and placed flowers in between its branches. The bidens floating around the lonicera will float freely but are contained in little sections. This will help keep all the flowers from colliding together on one side of the bowl in case of wind.

Stems of green, ovate leaves float between bright orange, red, and pink flowers in a bowl of water.
Photo by Lana Guardo.

Work with reflection. If you keep your arrangement simple and leave negative space, you’ll be able to see the reflection of the flowers themselves, and maybe even the sky or trees above. The rubber sealant I used also darkened the bowl, which creates a clean, reflective look.

To complete my design, I added some lighter pink tones in the form of geranium flowers, and a few more hot pink lantana inflorescences.

Pink, orange, and red flowers float alongside green stems of ovate leaves in a bowl of water.
The completed floating flower arrangement. Photo by Lana Guardo.

PLAYING WITH LIGHT AND SHAPE

Pictured below is an arrangement with a much simpler palette. The hellebores and daffodils are “doubled” by their reflections, and the sunken citrus branches can be seen both below and above the waterline.

Yellow and pink flowers float alongside half-submerged, thorny branches in a large urn of water.
Floating or submerging your plant material can create different effects. Photo by Lana Guardo.

Remember, some plants look different when they are submerged. The first time I put smoke bush foliage under water, it turned silver right before my eyes (this is a must try!). There are lots of leaves and flowers that you can spotlight by keeping them submerged or semi-submerged. To do this, you can use natural materials to weigh down branches, or you can use string and stones or even other flowers. Whenever possible, I prefer to use all natural materials so that your eye isn’t caught on the mechanics of the arrangement.

Pictured below is another arrangement in which I sunk two overlapping palm fronds to echo the floating cyparis leaves, which are shaped differently but have a similar linear texture. This gives the design a sense of depth.

Yellow flowers and red and green foliage float on reflective water above sunken palm fronds.
A tree canopy is seen in the reflection of this floating flower arrangement. Photo by Kathryn Tam

Floating flower arrangements are a fun, simple way to use whatever plant material is available to create something truly special. With limitless color and plant combinations at your fingertips, this is a great way to flex your creativity and learn more about what’s in bloom near you.

Lana Guardo lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania and works as a gardener and florist on a private farm. She first started designing with plants as an intern at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2016. She has worked for several public gardens including Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Wave Hill, Chanticleer, and Longwood.

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Image, top of page: Kathryn Tam