Submerged Centerpiece 101

I get an incredible amount of people who find my blog and website while searching for submerged centerpieces. We do a lot of this type of arrangement at Mocha Rose so I figured it was time for Submerged Centerpiece 101.
First, what exactly is a submerged arrangement?
As the name suggests, it is a flower that is literally underwater and it is showcased in glassware and often accented with crystals and candles.
What types of flowers can be used in submerged centerpieces?
The short answer is: Any! However, some flowers work much better than others. My favorite flowers to use are orchids, roses, hydrangeas, calla lilies and tulips. Orchids work beautifully to fill the space in a tall vase. Roses always seem to magnify about ten times their size underwater and it is a very unique effect. Hydrangeas fill out the space in a short wide vase and even look beautiful when placed in a vase that is a bit too small in diameter. Calla lilies and tulips are perhaps my favorites because they can be twisted, curved and intertwined every which way to create a piece of floral art.
There are only a few flowers that I do not like to use and they are flowers with lots of pollen or those with delicate, paper thin petals. The pollen filled flowers like lilies can cloud the water (though with lilies, you can carefully remove the pollen). Paper thin petals like those of anemones can close up under the pressure of the water.
Can I use silk flowers since no one would be touching them?
Everyone seems to think that if they are underwater, no one would know the difference. As a flower lover, I believe that the reason that you choose this sort of arrangement is because you want to magnify the natural beauty of a bloom. If you are magnifying a silk flower, you are only magnifying the flaws of the impostor. (Yes, that is my official opinion of silk flowers.) Do you want frayed edged, dyed fabric and shiny plastic stems to be put under a magnifying glass at your wedding? There is nothing that even comes close to the beauty of a real flower.

Will the flowers die before the end of the night?
Absolutely not!!! Flowers love water. In fact, if you take them out of the water at the end of the night, they’ll be as perky as ever. I’ve done tests in my studio and I’ve had submerged arrangements last up to four days. The water will go bad before the flowers do. After a day or two, the water may start to cloud (even quicker if the arrangement is in sunlight or a very warm room.) If you want to keep the arrangements for more than two days, I’d recommend completely changing the water and bleaching the stones to eliminate all bacteria. I’d imagine that these arrangements would last a week or more with the proper treatment.

How do you keep the flowers from floating to the top?

Well, we can’t give away all of our secrets, can we? I will say that if you simply try to stick the flowers into a few rocks, they will most definitely float to the top. Flowers float and some more so than others. Roses, hydrangea and lilac can be tricky.

It seems simple, right? Can’t I make my own submerged centerpieces for my wedding?
I wouldn’t wish this on any bride for her wedding day! Submerged arrangements must be constructed on site and often at the last minute. Most of the cost of submerged arrangements (see next question) is in labor and for a good reason. They are not easy and are often quite messy to set up. There is also an issue of transportation. Vases and stones can get quite bulky and heavy and if you don’t have access to a van, you will probably spend a good part of your wedding day loading, transporting and unloading the materials.
How much does a submerged arrangement cost?
Here at Mocha Rose, our submerged arrangements range in price from $29-250. They are generally an affordable option as your flower cost is kept at a minimum of 1-3 stems. Most of the cost of these arrangements is in labor because they often take additional staff available due to last minute set up. Our typical arrangements will be priced in the following manner: floral cost + vase rental + stone rental + votive rental + floating candles + labor + pick up. However, if you were trying to make these centerpieces on your own, you’d be purchasing the vases and stones and will most likely ending up spending about the same or more than having us do the arrangements.
Of course, if you are using five calla lilies (expensive) as opposed to a single rose (affordable) there will be a huge price difference. A florist can guide you in which flower will work best with your colors, look and budget. It’s what we do 😉

Will my guests like the arrangements?
As a florist, I get to hear a lot of feedback from my brides, the guests and the staff at the reception site. One of the most common reactions is “Wow. I haven’t seen anything like that before!” or “That is the most unique centerpiece I have ever seen!”
All I can say is that I receive more comments about these centerpieces than any other type I do. People love them.
Am I limited to flowers?
No! I love to experiment. Below is a submerged arrangement of fresh whole and cut limes. If you are using fresh fruit, I’d recommend waiting to the last minute or the water may cloud. We also use another secret (I’m not telling!) to keep the fruit from browning.
If you have something in mind, it never hurts to bring it up to your florist. I’m willing to experiment with anything which is why I know that a peacock feather does in fact look beautiful under water.
Is there any way to bring submerged centerpieces to the next level?
Absolutely! We have a few vases that allow us to create a submerged arrangement and build an arrangement on top of that vase like the beautiful pink and red orchids below.

We know that you like calla lilies and tulips, but are there any other flowers that work very well in submerged centerpieces?
I love the look of cymbidium orchids when they are under water. They are such a beautiful flower. They are on the expensive side, but they sure do make a statement.

Here are some beautiful calla lilies wrapped inside of a cylinder vase.

Bubbles or no bubbles?
There is a big debate on the issue of what kind of water to use in submerged arrangements. Some people use distilled water so the water is crystal clear. Some use tap water and when they do, there are natural air bubbles that will cling to the petals and stems. Some will even add San Pellegrino to the water to increase the bubbles that will attach to the flowers.
My stance on bubbles: I like them! I think that they add dimension to the arrangement and look pretty neat. I use regular old tap water most of the time, but will add a bit of San Pellegrino when I want a little more pizzazz. I personally think distilled water looks flat. (And why bother with the additional expense?)
Gladiolas are a more affordable alternative to the look of cymbidium orchids.

This centerpiece of orange mokara orchids was featured in the Spring 2008 Pennsylvania Knot magazine and on

I love using this thick chunky square vase for submerged arrangements.

Did I miss a question that you have about submerged arrangements?
Please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer.
Watch out for future blogs when I will feature branch centerpieces and tall centerpieces.