There’s a reason grocery store managers place colorful blooms at the entrance to their stores.
“It’s an impulse buy,” Claire Jones, the owner and designer of Claire Jones Landscapes and author of the blog, The Garden Diaries, says. “You’re immediately confronted with these displays of gorgeous and colorful flowers, but the truth is, there’s no telling if the store has properly processed and looked after them."
Meet the Expert
If well-taken care of, your investment should last a week or longer, but there are things you need to know before purchasing supermarket flowers. Ahead, here is what to be aware of when buying flowers at the grocery store.
Be Mindful of Where Flowers Are Located
“Don’t buy fresh cuts if they’ve been placed near the produce section, as the ethylene gas that ripens fruits and vegetables can hasten the decline of fresh flowers,” Jones warns. “You also want to avoid purchasing flowers that are displayed in drafty areas that experience blasts of cold or hot air from the outside, which can be detrimental to the flowers."
Conditioning Your Flowers Is a Must
There are lots of things that need to be addressed once the flowers have arrived at the store. For example, they should be unpacked immediately and have a good inch cut from the stems at a 45-degree angle using a knife—not a scissor, which could crush the stems and prevent water from freely flowing to the flower heads.
“All of these things play into the longevity of the blooms,” Jones says. “Ask the store manager how the flowers have been conditioned to see if they’re up to a professional florist’s standards.”
Get to Know Your Store's Florist
One of the reasons grocery store flowers are more affordable is because there may not be a professional florist staff being paid to oversee things. “But, at my local Wegman’s, for example, there’s a separate floral department with dedicated workers—I have no problem buying there over my local florist,” Jones says.
Shop for Hardy and Long-Lasting Flowers
Hardier options include Peruvian lilies, carnations, tulips, ranunculus, gerberas, anemones, and orchids.
“Do your research on the flowers you love to buy,” Jones says. “For example, if you’re always purchasing daffodils, you’ll need to condition them in a separate bucket, as their sap drains from the stem when cut and can clog the stems of other flowers.”
Inquire About Delivery Dates
“Ask the store manager when and how often they refresh their stock,” Jones suggests. “Find out the delivery days and buy your flowers on those days.”
Inspect Your Flowers
Pick them up, smell them, feel them, and look at the cut ends.
“It’s kind of like shopping for produce,” Jones says. “If they smell fresh and flowery and there’s no slime on the ends, you’re golden. Also, look at the stage of the flower. For example, a tulip, callas, rose, carnation, peony, or daffodil should be tightly closed, and there should be no brown edges on the flowers.”
Practice At-Home Care
When you get your flowers home, snip the rubber band, recut the ends, and remove any foliage below the waterline, as it will contaminate your water and create slime and unhealthy conditions, hastening the decline of your flowers.
“Then, place your flowers in cool water about 2/3 up the flower stem,” Jones adds.
Feed Your Flowers
Utilize the food packet that comes with your flowers—it typically contains sugar, which acts as a nutrient and maintains the pH level of the water, along with acid and bleach, to reduce the number of fungi and bacteria in the water.
“If your flowers did not come with a food packet, add a few drops of bleach to the water,” Jones notes.
Change the Water Daily
“Be sure to recut the stems and rinse the ends with fresh water every day,” Jones says. “Make sure your container and water are clean—clean enough to drink. Bacteria is your enemy, and you’ll want to ensure any potential contamination is eliminated. Also, remove any flowers or greenery that look wilted.”
Keep Things Cool
Keep your floral arrangements away from sunlight, radiators, and air conditioning vents.
“I put mine in an old refrigerator if I am saving them for a special event,” Jones adds.
Add to Your Bouquet
“Never throw out the filler green that comes with your flowers,” Jones says. “Try to use everything for a lusher look.”
Fresh pine branches, aucuba, cherry laurel, boxwood, and any other foliage from your garden and houseplants can also be used to elevate your arrangement, as can sticks like curly willow and red twig dogwood.
Find the Right Container
“I use creative containers and not just traditional glass vases, such as plastic-lined baskets, crocks, tureens, pitchers—really anything that can hold water,” Jones says.
Jones also suggests getting creative with accessories. For example, place colored glass balls next to the container to add another splash of color.
Consider the Mix
"I always try to buy three types of flowers—a filler such as a statice or baby’s breath, an upright or spiky one like snapdragon or larkspur, and a large thriller flower, like a lily or rose,” Jones notes. “Consider your home’s color décor and where you want to display the blooms when configuring a display.”
Vary the Stem Height
“As you create your arrangement, eyeball the stems against the vase and go for varying heights,” Jones says. “I begin conservatively by keeping the stem on the long side, before trying it in the vase, in case I need to cut it again. Better to cut too little than too much.”
Invest in a Spray
“I coat my flowers with a clear bloom preserving treatment called Crowning Glory Flower Spray, which reduces water loss and slows the decaying process,” Jones says. “You only need to apply it once, right after you create your arrangement.”
“Some foams that hold flowers in place have been banned at places like the Chelsea Flower Show in London because they’re not considered biodegradable,” Jones shares. “Check to see if yours is or consider a different hold-in-place option such as chicken wire, sticks, floral frogs, and waterproof floral tape, which I use to make a crisscross support structure at the rim of my vases to prevent my flowers from flopping.”