How to Become a Floral Designer


Learn the Basics of Floral Design

Floral designers cut and arrange dried, live, and silk flowers and various types of greenery to create decorative displays. In this job, you will work closely with customers to select flowers, ribbons, containers, and other accessories to make up their floral display. You may grow the flowers yourself or order them from a wholesale flower distributor. The floral industry is a time-sensitive one since flowers do not have a long lifespan once cut from their growing source. You also need to keep in mind that flower arrangements are for events that take place at a specific time. So, meeting deadlines and being flexible and adaptable are traits floral designers must have to succeed.

People who do well in this career tend to share certain personal attributes and skills. Some of these include:

Artistic Ability:  You need a strong sense of style and the ability to coordinate colors, decorations, and different types of plants and flowers for an aesthetically pleasing design.

Creativity:  While artistic ability can sometimes be taught, creativity tends to be more of an inborn trait. As a floral designer, you use the skills you have learned to create designs appropriate to the occasion. You must be open to new ideas since trends can change quickly.

Time Management:  Floral designing comes with a sense of urgency because the displays need to be completed on time for the special event. You need to consistently meet deadlines, or you will lose business and damage your reputation.

Excellent Communication Skills:  You interact with customers and suppliers every day and need to know how to get your message across to each. With customers, you will explain different options for a floral design as well as how to care for the plants and flowers after the event. Since you will place orders with suppliers, you need to communicate exactly what you need and ask questions to ensure you understand what to expect in your order.

Attention to Detail:  You must be careful about all the details that go into completing a customer’s order. If a customer orders roses and you mistakenly ship carnations, you will have an unhappy customer that will not return to place another order or recommend you to friends and family.

Independence:  Although you may work at a company and as part of a team, there will be many times (probably most of the time) that you will be required to work independently and develop your own unique way to doing things with innovation and creativity. This is especially true if you won your own shop or freelance.

Concern for Others:  Floral designers often work with clients who are facing hardships or emotional times in their lives. Being sensitive to other’s feeling and being understanding can be very helpful.

As a floral designer, you may take orders from customers over the phone, in person, or over the Internet. If your employer sells to a worldwide customer base, you need to prepare flowers for shipment to various climates, worldwide. It’s vitally important that you know the unique properties of each type of flower and plant you sell so you can advise customers on its care. For instance, carnations can last outside of water for many hours, but other flowers will wilt more quickly. Some flowers and plants are poisonous to certain animals, like lilies, which are toxic to cats. It is also essential that you know which types of flowers and plants blend well together and which do not.

Designers must know the average size of each flower and the different color varieties, and they must be able to communicate to their customers how to care for each variety of flower or plant, including when and how much to water the arrangement, and what the ideal temperature is for the arrangement to last as long as possible. Floral designers will process newly arrived flowers, cut and mix flower food solutions, and sanitize workspaces.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, most floral designers work for florists, grocery stores, nondurable goods merchant wholesalers, sporting goods stores, or lawn and garden supply stores.  In 2014, about one in four floral designers were self-employed.


Develop Your Skills & Personal Style

Most floral designers have a high school diploma and learn the skills they need on the job, and through apprenticeships or internships. Additionally, some flower shops offer entry-level and management courses to new and existing employees. Designers pursuing a career in floral design do not need to earn a postsecondary degree. That said, completing a degree or certificate program will increase an applicant’s job opportunities and chance for advancement.

Some individuals will opt to earn an associate degree (AA or AAS) in floral design, horticulture or floristry.  Coursework includes general education classes, as well as hands-on course working with flowers and other tools of the trade, as well as plant and flower identification, concepts of floral design, advertising techniques, training working in a greenhouse, and a variety of business courses. 

People who are self-employed in the floral industry are the most likely to have completed a formal education. Working alongside an experienced floral designer either as an apprentice or in an internship is the best way to gain experience in this field. Some of the entry-level tasks you can expect to complete include:

  • Tying bows and ribbons
  • Cutting the stems of plants and flowers to an appropriate length
  • Taking orders from customers
  • Learning the proper care and handling of different types of plants and flowers
  • Basic flower arrangement

In addition to taking courses or earning a certificate in floral design, you can pursue the Certified Floral Designer credential offered by the American Institute of Floral Designers. This voluntary certification helps you stand out as an expert in your field. You need to demonstrate a strong grasp of floral design knowledge that you gained through previous education and on-the-job training to pass the certification exam.

After you have been on the job for a while, you will learn in-depth information about dozens of types of plants and flowers and their growth properties. This gives you the skills you need to create more complex floral designs on your own.  Some designers have long-term contracts with restaurants and hotels to replace older flowers with new arrangements on a recurring basis.

But, the one thing about creative jobs, including floral design, is that you should always be open to learning new techniques and skills. Whether you are a seasoned designer or just starting out, to flourish in this field designers must also have active listening skills, time management and analytical skills, coordination, manual dexterity, problem-solving skills, an understanding of all equipment and materials needed to do certain work, and sound writing ability.


Build Your Experience & Learn to Market Your Business

You need a lot of practice with floral designing to become an expert at it. If you decide to take classes at the local level, your instructors can provide you with more information on obtaining employment or finding your first customers. Some programs may have you volunteer several hours at a greenhouse, flower wholesaler, or retail business to gain real-world experience.

It can be slightly more challenging to make industry connections when you get your first job in the floral industry just out of high school or after a career change. To gain credibility as a floral designer, ask family or friends if you can create a display for them free of charge. Take photos of each display you make and analyze it to help improve and grow as a designer.

Once you’re confident in the quality of your work, take pictures of your most attractive or challenging displays and place them in a personal portfolio. Prospective customers or clients will see that you can create floral displays using a wide variety of flowers, plants, and decorative materials. This helps to establish you as an expert floral designer.

Helpful Resources

  • Interview with Kristy Rice, Stationery Designer & Fine Artist

    Tammi Edwards
    Tammi EdwardsJul 02, 2012

    Have you ever stood in the greeting card aisle of a store and wondered how you could become one of the designers? Meet Kristy Rice, stationary designer and fine artist. As many artists do, Kristy thought her career was meant to be in another field, teaching. She soon re...

  • Interview with Steph Calvert, Illustrator

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizOct 28, 2012

    Get to know accomplished Graphic Designer, Steph Calvert. Learn more about how he applies his training from Savannah College of Art and Design throughout his career, how Steph has navigated the demands of the business, and ultimately became an accomplished illustrator.

  • Artist Spotlight: Sophie Lau,
    Floral Designer

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizAug 21, 2014

    Making art isn’t necessarily a clean activity for her. Instead of photographs or drawings, Lau prefers her art to come directly from nature. As a floral designer and owner of Petals by Sophie, she is able to express herself, flex her creativity, and please her clients...