Flowering the Cross – An Easter Tradition

For many people “flowering the cross” at church with fresh flowers is a long-held Easter tradition and family celebration.

A barren cross covered with fresh flower stems comes to life as a thing of natural beauty.

Are you encouraging your clientele to celebrate this beautiful 'old rugged cross' tradition of the Easter season?

Flowering the cross with fresh flowers for Easter church services.
Photo: Greg Hendrix; Mountain Oak Florist

Flowering a cross can take place indoors or outdoors, at a church or in nature.

This joyful celebration of resurrection and the rebirth of spring is expressed through color, texture, and fragrance. A combination of fresh flowers, foliages, mosses, or oyster shells, or other natural materials can be used.

What are the best floral mechanics to use for flowering a cross?

There are many design options for decorating an Easter or Wedding cross with fresh flowers. Here’s just a few.

A Wooden Cross

Greg Hendrix of Mountain Oak Florist in Carrollton, Georgia shares how he creates a flower cross for the First Baptist Church.

Outdoor Easter cross filled with fresh flowers.

“The church had an 8-foot cross constructed from 4 x 4 wood boards they use each year at Easter,” says Greg.

  • A 2-foot pipe was placed permanently into the ground, in front of the church.
  • The cross fits snuggly into the pipe and the 2-foot depth keeps if firmly in place.
  • A removable cap covers the hole throughout the rest of the year.

One method of decorating a cross with a water reservoir for flowers is to cable-tie floral foam to the wood form.

  • Cover the foam in florist netting for extra strength.
  • Use basing foliages like magnolia leaves and salal to cover the cross.
  • Add stems of fresh flowers.

How many flower stems will it take to design a cross?

For this design, Greg used an Easter pack of 200 carnations, four bunches each of Stargazer lilies, stock, and snapdragons to fill in the cross. Here’s a practical way to calculate the number of flowers needed.

Calculating flowers

  • Figure the necessary flower count by using square footage.
  • Learn the squared dimensions of the flower blooms you intend to use.
  • Using those dimensions, calculate how many flowers are needed to complete one square foot. 
  • Multiply the number of each type of flower needed in one square foot by the total number of square feet.
  • Select long-lasting flowers, especially if the design remains outdoors.

“Depending on the weather, the cross can last up to a week,” says Greg. Cool spring weather is optimal, but hot sun or cold rain can be damaging to the longevity of flowers.

Some churches flower the cross indoors as a part of the Easter morning service.

An Old Rugged Cross

Ann Fletcher of Carrollton, GA shares the First United Methodist Church Easter tradition of flowering the cross. The congregation brings flowers to Easter service for decorating the cross.

Old rugged cross of fresh 
flowers for Easter.
Photo: Ann Fletcher

An ‘old rugged cross’ is placed in the church sanctuary. The back of the cross is covered in chicken wire that you can’t see from the front.

The congregation brings stems of flowers and foliages from their gardens to contribute. Church members lay the blooms at the altar during the opening hymn.

Volunteers arrange the flowers in the chicken wire on the back of the cross. The cross is then turned around and 'the old rugged cross" has suddenly transformed into a living cross of beauty,” explains Ann.

At the end of the service, ushers move the flower-laded cross to the front portico where church members gather in front of it for Easter family photos.

One idea for your floral business is to offer smaller versions of the Easter fresh flower cross to your clientele. This will encourage customers to start a similar family tradition at home.

Not every Easter celebration is held in a church. Some worship events are held in natural settings.

Design for the Setting

Whether you are creating flower crosses for an Easter service or a wedding celebration, it’s important to adapt the look of the cross to its setting.

Fresh flower garland on lakeside wedding cross.
Photo: Todd Bussey; Bussey's Florist

Quick on-site set up requires simple ‘design and deliver’ techniques.

There are many quick and easy options when it comes to attaching fresh flowers to Easter crosses with floral mechanics.

“Designing flowers in a cylinder garland allows you to add flowers directly to cross structures on-site,” says Todd Bussey AIFD of Bussey’s Florist in the Northwest Georgia area. “Simply wire or cable-tie the garland in place and fill in with fresh flowers.”

The flat back of a sealed brick garland works well because it can be designed in the shop and easily installed on a cross on-site in a matter of minutes.

Fresh flowers on an outdoor wedding or Easter cross.

Use a cable-tie or wire to secure a  spray bar or raquette, floracage or floracage grande,  jumbo or tribute cage to a cross as a water reservoir for fresh flowers.

Oyster Shell Cross

Whether for church services or wedding celebrations, crosses may differ regionally. The design of a cross sometimes reflects the natural materials of a region or its local customs.

Oyster shell cross in Savannah, GA for Easter or wedding.
Photo: Susan Brown

This lovely oyster shell cross by Sebrell Smith Designer Events in Savannah, Georgia celebrates the coastal flair of the region.

The delicate-looking cross required sturdy materials due to the weight of the shells.

  • The shape of a cross was cut from a wooden board.
  • A hole was drilled near the top of the board to accommodate hanging.
  • White packing peanuts were hot-glued into the back of oyster shells.
  • The packing peanut/oyster shell pieces were hot-glued to the board.
  • The oyster/peanut pieces were hot-glued to 6-inch wood picks.
  • The oyster shell wood picks were glued into the fresh foliage garland.

What if a cross isn’t an option?

An Altar Arrangement

When a flower cross isn’t an option, many churches across the country place fresh flower arrangements on the altar for Easter.

Easter fresh flower arrangement for Church.
Photo: Church of the Transfiguration

Sisters in the flower department of The Community of Jesus create beautiful arrangements for the altar.

“The sisters who work in the flower department are quite inventive,” shares a Sister at the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts. “They use their creativity with each arrangement rather than creating set designs.”

Like many churches, people also contribute to the holiday celebration by placing Easter lilies at the services in honor or memory of a loved one.

A 36-inch mache cross is a good base mechanic for creating a flower cross arrangement for the altar. Fresh flower crosses have also become popular wedding ceremony decorations.

Three wedding crosses of  fresh flowers.
Photo: Photography by Jerry Hayes

See the how-to of these Texas-sized wedding crosses designed in floral tiles by Bill Schaffer AIFD, AAF, PFCI, and Kristine Kratt AIFD, PFCI of Schaffer Designs in Philadelphia – Wedding Flower Crosses, From Simple to Spectacular.

For more trendy Easter ideas, visit Decorating Floral Easter Eggs with Natural Materials and  Can You Bring Easter Flower Orders Back?

Want more free flower design ideas? Revisit these blogs.

Do you sell Easter crosses to local churches? If not, how can you offer to your clientele inventive ways to use fresh flower cross designs for Easter?