How to Find the Best Vase Shapes for Your Flower Arrangements

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From bud vases to gathering vases, florist and lifestyle expert Betsy Karetnick explains how to pick the best vase shapes for your blooms.

Like finding the right flowers, shopping for vases can seem challenging. What is the best vase shape, material, style and color? It seems like an impossible question to answer.

Perhaps the way to think about vase shapes is to compare them to shoes. Few people have only one pair. There are sneakers and sandals, loafers and stilettos. Like having a wardrobe full of all type of shoes, it’s important to have a variety of vase shapes, sizes and colors that work for different occasions.

Vase Materials

To find the right vase, consider materials and color. Glass can be clear or colored and is probably one of the most common and easiest to use options. Metallics offer shine or patina to accent home interiors—but usually need a lining. Those who prefer to disguise floral stems should look for opaque containers including stoneware and wood.

With all of these materials in mind, there are a handful of vase shapes and sizes that make flower arranging a breeze.

5 Vase Shapes You Need

Bud Vase

flowers in bud vase on side tableNina Vartanava / EyeEm/Getty Images

Bud vases may be small, but they can be powerful. They’re designed to hold a minimum of stems, making them super budget friendly from a flower standpoint. The petite teardrop from CB2 is a classic example. It looks great with a single rose and piece of greenery. Run several of them down the kitchen island to make a statement.

Layering multiple vases together makes them even more interesting. These bud vases from Ballard Designs offer a fun way to play with colored glass. Mix colors and shapes. Vases can range in height from just a few inches to somewhat taller. Anything can work as a bud vase including upcycled vinegar and mini wine bottles. For other styles, look to ceramic finishes.

Flowers with slim stems and delicate heads work best. Garden blooms like cosmos and lavender are perfect, but so are structural flowers like calla lilies. Combine a few delicate stems for a no-fuss arrangement.

Cylinder Vase

tulips in a cylinder vaseMarcelTB/Getty Images

Using a glass cylinder for flowers is an industry standard for good reason. It’s a beautiful way to showcase flowers! Luckily most people have at least one glass cylinder tucked away. Because many are slightly taller than they are wide, they give extra support to the flowers in an arrangement.

For a simple but elegant arrangement, start with about 12 to 18 roses. Cut them long enough that their heads exceed the lip of the vase by at least a couple of inches. Then start circling the outside of the vase making sure the stems are crossing. Working concentrically, make another circle until all gaps are filled. This method works for most single-headed flowers.

Decorative options like this version from Jamali Gardens look as good with a candle as they do with flowers. A ceramic cylinder updates the look and hides messy stems. Add a coaster or trivet to protect surfaces from moisture. Or skip the water entirely in favor of dried pampas grass or branches.

Mason Jar

Springtime Flowers in mason JarPatricia Toth McCormick/Getty Images

Mason jar, ball jar, canning jar…there’s more than one way to say “adorable rustic vase.” Mason jars come in multiple sizes meant for preserving food. A half pint works as a petite accent with a small handful of flowers. For a kitchen table bouquet, a 16-ounce jar would be preferable.

Experiment with colored glass and other decor. Jars can be painted or wrapped with decorative paper, ribbon or burlap. Step outside the canning aisle and shop for an opaque hobnail jar or several modified shapes like Etu Home’s trio.

Most jars make flower arranging a friendly affair. The narrower top ensures flowers stay in place. Start an arrangement by adding greens like eucalyptus around the edges. Then keep to the garden style by layering a few larger flowers like mums and daisies. Thread veronica, snapdragons or solidago to fill the gaps. Pack the stems or allow some breathing space. Both ways work. Find more Mason jar flower arrangement ideas.

Gathering Vase

roses in a gathering vaseJasenka Arbanas/Getty Images

Some vases are designed to hold a store-bought bouquet easily. A gathering vase falls into that category. Generally this vase shape is taller, with a flare at the lip. It may have a nipped waist. It’s simply waiting for a gathering of hand-tied flowers, as if someone just walked in from the garden with bits of ephemera.

A ready-made bouquet is not a prerequisite for a gathering vase. Just a few stems of hydrangea would thrive with the extra depth and weight of a gathering or bouquet vase. Beyond glass, stoneware versions may offer a better aesthetic match. A white glazed porcelain container blends beautifully with wildflowers.

Add water daily to these arrangements. Replace it entirely every 2 to 3 days to prevent bacteria growth.

Wood Box

floral arrangement in wooden box vasedp3010/Getty Images

For less formal or outdoor settings, think about a wood vase. These containers vary from square to cylindrical. They’re perfect for holding container plants, dried arrangements and fresh flowers.

Make sure the boxes are lined with plastic to prevent leaks. Wet floral foam should reach the lip of the container and be completely soaked. Start an arrangement by adding long-lasting greens throughout and over the edges. Centerpieces with ranunculus and hydrangea bring romance. They can last for several days assuming the flowers are well-hydrated, but roses, carnations and thistle have extra staying power.

The options for fun are endless. Run string lights through the greens or replace the floral foam with candles in wooden builder boxes and small jars of flowers. Plant table numbers in the box or stencil them on the side for weddings.

Vase Budget

With so many options available, consider cost along with style. Bud vases are available for a few dollars. Shop the local thrift store for inexpensive florist vases. For vintage fans, estate sales are loaded with well priced crystal.

Vase Maintenance

Check all containers for leaks, even glass. And most importantly, keep those vases clean. Cleaning containers between arrangements protects the investment and extends the life of the next bouquet.

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Betsy Karetnick
Betsy Karetnick is a lifestyle and media expert. In 2004, she created The Portable Garden, a destination floral and event design company for corporate, nonprofit and personal events. Betsy is also an accomplished broadcaster, starting her career in financial journalism first at Dow Jones, then CBS Marketwatch and WNET. Hired by Martha Stewart for her expertise in food and flowers, Betsy worked exclusively as a host on the channel for its nearly eight-year tenure on SiriusXM. She writes about food, drink and the garden, including on dishtillery.substack.com, a newsletter she shares with her sister.