StyleSheet: Exotic Blooms

Tropical flowers deliver drama,

Sean Drakes arranges a few cues

Roses and chrysanthemums are rather ordinary when compared to the durable form, dramatic height and shape, and vivid hues of exotic blooms.  Francis Queeley, originally from St. Kitts & Nevis, has been a floral shop owner over 22 years.  She has designed arrangements for the Trumpet Awards, Tyler Perry and a Super Bowl.  The next time you place an order with your favorite florist, or plan to design an arrangement yourself, she suggests you consider these useful pointers:

Francis Queeley, owner of Island Flowers.  Photo:

ODD NUMBERS RULE:  For an effective display gather stems in odd numbers.  For instance, Queeley would use one orange Asiatic Lily, three red-orange Heliconia and five green Anthuriums to build an arrangement.  “I stick to using three colors when arranging tropicals because they’re already so brilliant.”

KEEP LONG STEMS:  The drama and beauty of exotic blooms is in their height, explains Queeley, who owns Island Flowers in Atlanta’s Midtown district.  She amplifies scale and drama by setting florals so they are one-and-a-half-times the height of the vase they’re in.  To keep stems upright, Queeley creates a grid across the mouth of the vase with clear, waterproof florist’s tape.  Then she inserts stems into the spaces of the tape grid, this way stems are braced and kept upright by the tape.


EXTEND LIFE SPAN:  Queeley recommends changing the water in your arrangement every other day, that’s the trick to making your exotic blooms live longer.  Add three drops of bleach per pint of water as a substitute for cut flower food.  Bleach mimics flower food and kills bacteria.  Potted exotic flowers require less water than popular houseplants.  Bromeliads and Lady Slipper Orchids should be watered once weekly.  “Over-watering makes soil rotty and is the most common care mistake.”  A Phalaenopsis Orchid’s bloom can survive for five months if watered twice weekly.  When the petals drop it takes watering consistently to revive the next batch of blooms.

To grow your interest, visit Florists Review and  The American Horticultural Society.  Over 160,000 flower enthusiasts gather in London each May for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, the most decadent feast of flowers and floral art on the international show circuit.  Join a local horticulture group for the benefit of seminars that discuss industry trends and to participate in friendly floral arranging competitions.


Previously published.

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