I Used to Be a Grocery Store Florist — Here’s What All Shoppers Need to Know

updated May 19, 2021
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Credit: Heather McClees Williams

During my last three years of college, I had what I thought was one of the coolest jobs a 20-something-year-old could have: I got to be around flowers all day long at the grocery store. Despite the fact that I had zero experience (but was creative at heart), I had scored a job as a florist at a nearby supermarket. It was fun! And I learned so much!

In addition to figuring out how much work it takes to be a florist, I banked a ton of lessons on shopping and caring for plants, which I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Here’s what I would tell any shopper who is curious (or skeptical!) about buying flowers at the supermarket.

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

1. The flowers are seriously fresh.

The flowers my supermarket carried were delivered weekly (on huge delivery trucks! in a big cooler!) within days of being picked. I have since learned that tons of other supermarkets, as well as professional florists, use the same wholesale vendors. The key thing to note here is that supermarkets buy wholesale flowers in very large quantities.

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

2.  Flowers that have tight buds will last the longest.

One of the most common mistakes I saw customers make was buying fresh bouquets that had already fully opened. (PSA: Don’t do that!) If you’re purchasing, say, roses or tulips, choose ones that are still closed and have tight buds. If you purchase them at this stage, they will last up to two weeks, but if you buy them fully open, they will shed their petals and brown much faster.

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

3. Fresh flowers keep longer when they’re refrigerated.

The flowers that are sold at the supermarket are kept in a huge cooler in the back (our flowers shared space in the walk-in dairy cooler!). Fresh-cut flowers keep longer and stay much fresher when stored this way. These cold flowers are typically put out on display daily by a florist or supermarket clerk, and changed out every few days so that customers get the freshest options to choose from. When new deliveries arrive with new flowers, they’re put directly into the back cooler and rotated in and out with the ones already on the floor. My point: If you have room in your fridge (or a spare!) at night, and want your flowers to last even longer, store them in there.

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

4. Grocery stores have great prices on house plants.

Small and large potted house plants are much cheaper to buy at the grocery store than anywhere else. And they’re often the exact same plants sold everywhere else! This is because, as mentioned above, supermarkets simply buy large quantities from wholesalers. Look for varieties such as Devil’s Ivy (pothos), Peace Lilies (Spath), ferns, English Ivy, succulents, and snake plants.

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

5. Bouquets and custom arrangements can be personalized if you ask in advance.

Don’t hesitate to call your local supermarket florist if you need something special. Whether it’s for the prom, a gift for someone at the hospital, or a “just because” gift, supermarket florists will accept orders for fresh flower arrangements. Another fun fact: Grocery store florists can add special touches like balloons or stuffed animals for a fee (if you ask). You’ll likely pay half the price of what you would at a regular florist for a customized order.

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

6. Most grocery stores will sell vases or floral arranging supplies.

If you’d rather DIY your arrangements with floral wire or moss, or you want to buy a vase without making an extra trip, simply ask the supermarket florist. Even if you don’t see it on display, the florists keep most of their floral supplies out of sight in the back of the floor. Just ask and they’ll likely sell it to you.

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

7. Don’t leave the store without asking for care instructions.

I can’t tell you how many people would come back the store to say they “ruined” their plants when really, all they did was over-water them or leave them in a dark room. Most potted plants only need to be watered once a week, max. Yellow leaves means that your plant is drowning in too much water. Fresh bouquets only need to have the water changed once per week, or when they start to brown. And what plants and fresh flowers need just as much as water is good light, so be sure to give them enough of it! Ask the supermarket florist how to care for whatever ends up in your cart. They’ll be happy to help you!

Do you buy flowers at the supermarket? What’s your favorite store to buy them from?