Ikebana Arrangements

Get a lesson in the Japanese art of flower arranging.


Ikebana — flower arranging for small spaces — has been practiced in Japan for more than seven centuries. The basic principle is to arrange flowers in odd numbers only and in order of height to create depth in a small area. The primary stem is the tallest, the secondary stem should be three-quarters the height of the first stem, and the last should be half the size of the initial stem.

Here are two types of arrangements:

Floral-Foam Arrangement

Materials and Tools:

tall vase or jar
floral foam
flowers of choice (don’t have to be of the Asian variety)


  1. Dunk the floral foam in water and place in container of choice.
  2. Place each flower at various heights as described above.

Open-Dish Arrangement

Materials and Tools:

open dish (such as a candy dish or dish for floating votive candles)
needle holder
flowers of choice in various heights
leaves of flowers
decorative rocks


  1. Set the needle holder in the middle of the dish.
  2. Put the primary flower in first, then the next-smallest flower or greenery and so on until you’ve placed five.
  3. Fill the needle holder with decorative rocks to hide the needle holder.

Ikebana How-To

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Give Ikebana a Try

Using a few basic principles, you can create your own ikebana arrangement.

Gather Your Materials

You'll need: fresh flowers / fresh greenery / container of your choice / floral frog / gravel or other groundcover / scissors / water.

Place the Frog

Choose the biggest size floral frog that will fit in the bottom of your container.

Add the First Stem

Most often the first step in ikebana is adding the tallest element, which often (but not always) points straight to the sky.

Add the Second Stem

The next stem should be shorter than the first and is usually at an angle.

Add the Third Stem

The third stem should be shorter than both of the other two. It can be offset in the opposite direction or kept near the second stem.

Add Decorative Touches

While strict ikebana rules go so far as to specify stem length and the number of stems, freestylers tend to add more ornamentation. One fairly common theme, however, is to use odd numbers of stems.

Thinking asymmetrically

Think outside the box. Your design should be sculptural and free flowing.

Add the Gravel

Add gravel to fill the container and move it around as necessary to keep the stems in place.

Consider a cluster

Use several of the same flowers at the base of another stem for impact.

Add drooping elements

Add low hanging or drooping stems that extend beyond the side of the container for interest.

Learn More About Ikebana

If you are inspired by ikebana, look for a class in your area. They are widely available.

Architectural elements

Consider looping more flexible pieces and inserting both ends into the frog to create some interest.

Think Green

Go unconventional with all green and no flowers.

Use Moss as a Groundcover

Sheet moss makes a great groundcover. Tear small pieces and be sure to poke it in between stems for a finished look.

Experiment With Containers

Consider all sorts of containers for your arrangement. This kind of arranging works well in all types of containers from wide shallow bowls to tiny teapots.

Keep Reading

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