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How to Wire Flower Stems

Susan McLeary explains four methods for wiring botanical materials for use in floral rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and headpieces in excerpt from her book, THE ART OF WEARABLE FLOWERS (Chronicle Books 2020)
portrait of floral designer McLeary, wearing a black tank top, styling a floral headpiece on a model, who wears a yellow dress
Susan McLeary, author of The Art of Wearable Flowers, fitting a floral crown

Wiring is an essential skill that allows designers to work with a wide array of materials and use individual blooms, leaves, or berries.

Materials that have unreliable or bulky stems can be individ­ually wired into designs. Wiring replaces the stem of the floral material with a slim but strong bendable wire, which gives the designer more control of the materials. Wired stems can defy gravity and create strong but light and airy designs.

There are quite a few wiring techniques; fol­lowing, I’ve described the four I use most frequently. When wiring, I typically work with 24- or 26-gauge floral wire, cut in half.

Note: Use these techniques to make Susan’s Wired Floral Cuff, featured in the September/October 2021 issue of Flower magazine.

Piercing

Also called cross-piercing, this technique is best for flowers with sturdy stems, such as roses, lisianthus, and carnations. Using a 24-gauge floral wire, pierce the stem of the flower, just below the calyx. (For large or heavy blooms, insert another wire just below the first.) Bend the wire ends down to meet the natural stem, and trim the natural stem to about 1 in (2.5 cm) long. Tightly secure stem wrap just below the calyx, and pulling the tape taut, tape the entire length of the wire/stem bundle with the stem wrap.

Susan McLeary holds a small pale green rose bud near the base, and pierces the stem with a wire at the base of the flower (below the sepals). One end of the wire extends about 4 inches past the point of piercing, perpendicular to the stem. The other end of the wire is left long.
Wiring a flower stem using the piercing method - Step 1
Detail of attaching stem wrap (a brown tape) around the top of the wire. Both ends of the wire have been folded down alongside the 1-inch stem
Step 2
Detail of wrapping stem and wires, continued
Step 3
Detail of wired stem wrapped from top to bottom with stem wrap (a brown tape)
Step 4

Insertion

This method is best used with materials that have slim but durable stems and firm heads, such as scabiosa blooms and pods, berries, and strawflowers. Cut the stem of the floral material to about 1 in (2.5 cm) long. Place a 24- or 26-gauge floral wire next to the stem of the floral material, and insert one end into the bloom head. Grasp the natural stem and wire between your fingers, and firmly tape with stem wrap tape.

Detail of Susan McLeary holding a wire alongside a stem and insert the wire into the bloom head
Wiring a flower stem using the insertion method

Cranking

This technique provides a reliable way to secure groupings of small florets, berries, herbs, or petals. I often wire clusters of carnation petals, grouped stems of privet, and agapanthus florets. Soft, fleshy stems must be gathered and wrapped in stem wrap tape first to prevent damage by the wire. Firm, leathery, or woody stems do not require pretaping. To wire, gather the bundle in one hand, fold a 24- or 26-gauge wire over the bundle just below the bloom head, grasp one end of the wire, and “crank” it around the bundle two or three times until it feels securely attached. Bring the two ends of the wire down, and wrap the entire “stem” with stem wrap tape.

wrapping delicate stems with tape in preparation for wiring
Wiring flower stems using the cranking method - Step 1
wrapping wire around the base of a small bundle of blooms
Step 2

Hook

This technique works wonderfully with disk-shaped and flat flowers, such as ranunculus, chrysanthemum, and firm, tightly structured succulents. To wire, first trim the stem of the floral material to about 1 in (2.5 cm) long. Next, bend one end of the wire to form a narrow “U” shape. Sink the long end of the wire into the bloom, and guide it down until the U-shaped portion meets the surface of the bloom. Lifting petals as needed, guide the shorter end of the wire through the surface of the bloom as well, until the U-shaped “hook” is fully embedded and disappears into the bloom head. Both ends of the wire will appear below the bloom head. Pinch the wires and stem together, and secure with stem wrap tape.

detail of a wire shaped into a hook
Wiring a succulent stem using the hook method - Step 1
detail of inserting the long end of a wire hook through the top of a floret-shaped succulent head
Step 2
detail a wrapping the wired stem from the top down with stem wrap, a brown tape. The wire hook is sunk deep into the succulent head so that it is no longer visible
Step 3
finished wired stem using hook method, wrapped from top to bottom with brown tape
Step 4