The principles of design are basic, fundamental truths to follow in creating floral arrangements. Although the principles for floral design were first outlined by the English during the Victorian Era, these principles are still valuable to us today. These design principles should not be regarded as mere rules; they are the foundation of every good design despite changing trends and new plant materials.


Floral design is the art of organizing the design elements inherent in plant materials, container, and accessories according to the principles of design to attain a composition with the objectives of beauty simplicity harmony, suitability, and expression. Flower arranging is another commonly used term for floral design. However, floral design is the more accurate term because the word design implies that the person arranging the plant materials is applying the principles of design.


The principles of design (or art) are rules and guidelines to help a floral designer create a beautiful composition. The design principles are fundamental truths upon which to make accurate floral design decisions. The major principles of design are proportion and scale, balance, rhythm, and dominance. Other minor design principles include radiation, repetition, transition, variation, contrast, and focal point.

Not only learning the principles, but also using them well is essential in creating any kind of art, including arranging plant materials. The proper application of each of these principles will lead to artistic, pleasing floral arrangements. Each principle is important and interrelated to the others and can impact the entire arrangement.


Proportion is the pleasing relationship in size and shape among the components in a design.

Proportion is the principle of art that is the foundation of all the other principles. Good proportion means the pleasing relationship in size and shape among objects or parts of objects. Scale is a part of proportion, dealing with relative size only among things, not shapes.


The flower arranging of the Middle Ages in Europe continued with the traditions of the Greek and Romans. Flowers were strewn on the floor and were made into wreaths and garlands. Although flowers were important during this period, very little information is known about additional uses, except for their use in food, beverages, and medicine.


The Italian Renaissance period signifies a greater interest in the arts. This period is considered the beginning of flower arranging as it is known today. Flowers were placed in vases, urns, and bowls for their beauty and for their symbolic meanings. The rose portrayed love; the white lily meant chastity. The white lily became known as the Madonna lily because it appeared in so many paintings of the Annunciation, showing the angel Gabriel and the young Mary.

For church and state occasions, the floral design styles were colorful, large, full, and symmetrical with no stems showing. Casual arrangements for the home included short- stemmed, tight clusters of colorful flowers. Colorful arrangements of fruits, vegetables, and flowers placed casually on trays or in baskets were introduced during this period. Wreaths and garlands were still popular.

Influence on Today’s Designs

Today’s designs are greatly influenced by this period and the use of many flowers in a vase. Incorporating fruits and vegetables within flower arrangements is still a common sight for banquets, buffets, and other festive events. To some extent, people today still attach meanings to certain flowers. Roses are the flowers most commonly given at Valentine’s Day. Roses continue to signify love.

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