Valentine's Day

This (Totally Free) Trick Makes Grocery Store Flowers Look Way More Expensive

published Feb 13, 2024
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vase with bouquet of carnations and other flowers
Credit: Caroline Mullen

I’ve always been a major defender of carnations, and “cheap” flowers in general. Somewhere along the line, the floral tastemakers decided that flowers easily procured in grocery stores were not up to snuff, but as someone who buys fresh cut flowers weekly, it’s just not feasible to always blow your grocery budget on a few stems for the dinner table. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love a hard-to-find, hyper-seasonal flower, and it’s part of the reason my fiancé and I chose a late spring wedding date. Peonies, ranunculus, tulips, poppies, and lilacs will all be in the height of their growing season for our May nuptials, but it’s a surprise to no one that these sought-after blooms can run up a big floral bill. That’s why I’ve been keeping a mental note on all the affordable and always-available flowers that don’t get their due. Think: baby’s breath, gerbera daisies, hydrangeas, and, of course, carnations! Since I’m planning to execute my own florals for our wedding, I need to make sure that the designs I come up with can lean heavily on what’s in season as well as “filler” flowers that are always around. While I’ve never turned my nose up at a carnation, I recently came across an ingenious hack for making them look much more expensive than they are, so I decided to give it a shot. 

This trick is more professionally known as “reflexing” in the floral world, and it means peeling the petals of a flower back. It’s a common technique used by florists to make flowers fluffier, speed up the blooming process for half-closed buds, and it can also make simple, tightly-packed flowers more sculptural. Beyond carnations, roses and tulips are simple to reflex, and can completely change shape with some gentle peeling back of the petals.  

Credit: Caroline Mullen

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Start by gently peeling the green base of the carnation back — this part of the flower is separated into several sections already, so carefully peel each section back about halfway down.
  2. Play with the petals until they’re fluffier and expand out past the green base you just opened up. 
  3. Optionally, you can pull a few of the center petals out of the flower to reveal a light green middle, which makes them look even more like a fluffy rose or lisianthus

As you can see from the before and after, the carnations have nearly doubled in size, which makes them particularly great for filling up a vase themselves, or sitting back and letting the more show-stopping flowers take the spotlight. I was particularly impressed that the carnations I reflexed looked as good after a week as they did on day one. I thought that perhaps the reflexing and fluffing of the petals would make them brown or wilt faster, but in true carnation fashion, they’ve remained beautiful for more than a week now. It’s safe to say I’ll be spending a lot less on flowers each week for my apartment and on flowers for my wedding now that I’ve got this trick up my sleeve.