Although every arrangement is different, there's a precise formula they all stick to. Find out more about this ancient Japanese flower arranging style.

By Jenny Krane
Updated: February 28, 2019

Those avant-garde, branch-embellished flower arrangements you’re seeing all over Instagram? There's a lot more them than you think. Although it’s been around since the 16th century, ikebana, a form of Japanese flower arranging, has seen a spike in interest in the last few years. This way of arranging flowers, leaves, and branches is meant to be sculptural and meditative. So if you're looking to be "one with nature," try arranging your own ikebana.

There are three styles of ikebana: Moribana uses flat, shallow containers and typically use more than one type of flower. Nageire style uses three plant groupings that form a triangle. And Shoku style has an upright style in a tall vase. Or, you can freestyle your arrangement to your taste.

More sparse than your typical flower arrangement, ikebana uses only a few stems of each plant chosen. The stems are cut and stuck into a kenzan, which is a small-spiked object that holds the stems in a particular position—like a floral frog. You’ll often see stems following an upright position or extended out diagonally. An example of an arrangement on a slant, this ikebana uses bare branches, hydrangea, and Stars of Bethlehem for a simple and crisp display. We're digging the textured blue vessel, which keeps this plant sculpture feeling light and bright.

The plants used in these arrangements are chosen by the creator for different reasons. Some choose plants appropriate for the season it is created in, especially for certain festivals in  Japanese culture. This artist used forsythia branches, large tropical leaves, and purple mums to create a multi-dimensional arrangement. Mums are celebrated annually at Japan's many chrysanthemum festivals and the flower is seen as a symbol of longevity.

This practice is precise and intentional, so you need to know the basics to create one. You can probably find ikebana classes at your local art centers or botanical gardens, so grab a friend and find Zen together. We love this stunning display, which sticks to two tones throughout. Using complementary colors (pink and green) gives this arrangement a bold look. The three heights are very distinct, and the flat vessel speaks to the Moribana style.

Now when you see these arrangements on your feed, it may change your point of view to know that the plant selection, stem length, angles, and vessels were all chosen intentionally. They’re like a temporary art piece. Pretty cool, right?

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