4 Tips for Picking the Best Grocery Store Flowers, According to an Expert

4 Tips for Picking the Best Grocery Store Flowers, According to an Expert

Dana McMahan
Mar 15, 2018
(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

If you're a glass-half-empty kind of person, there's a degree of futility when it comes to buying something perishable like fresh flowers. They're on their way out the door before you even get them home. But even knowing that, it's just so nice having fresh blooms around the house. It's that last touch that just finishes the room — the flourish that sets the tone for the dining table, or makes the living room more inviting.

Still, it's something we want to get our money's worth out of, so it pays to choose wisely. I'd always sort of picked randomly, whatever colors I liked, and I was pretty sure I was doing it wrong. Luckily, Carol Wilder, a horticulture technician for Kentucky's Cooperative Extension System (and who has worked in a florist shop herself), and had some wisdom to bequeath about long-lasting flowers.

Besides playing it safe and sticking with her top choices, including chrysanthemums and daisies, you can also use a few tips to pick the best grocery story flowers.

Related: The 5 Grocery Store Flowers That Will Last The Longest

1. Look before you buy.

Okay, this sounds like a no-brainer, but the last bouquet I picked up was gorgeous at first glance so I didn't inspect it. When I got home and took it out of its packaging to put it in a vase, an entire rose's worth of petals fluttered to the counter. I tried picking off just the bad petals but more than half of them were bad! The bouquet was only made up of a few flowers and some filler, so by the time I cleaned it all up, it was pretty sparse.

Moral of the story: Take the time to really look over your choice. I should have kept Wilder's counsel in mind: "If any of the flowers are brown or dried or wrinkled in the petals then you might not want to purchase them."

2. Pick them before their peak.

Yes, those full-on beautiful blooms are tempting, but "you've got limited time," Wilder says. "An expiration date, so to speak. The earlier you get it, the longer it will last." She recommends choosing arrangements that still contain buds — not still green, but definitely just beginning to open. That's strike two for the bouquet I bought; my roses were fully opened.

3. Buy a type of flower with a sturdy stem.

So, I got a D in college botany (extra tutoring and extra credit work notwithstanding; this otherwise A student is still bitter, but I digress). My point is I'm a pretty uninformed buyer. But there are things even a total novice can keep in mind without needing a botanical chart on hand.

Wilder explained to me: "Look at the stem of a chrysanthemum — it's fairly corky and it's easier for it to pump the water back up." A softer stem, on the other hand, like that of a rose, "doesn't transfer water as well so the plants die quicker." Look for those sturdier stems and you'll end up buying a heartier bunch of flowers.

4. Use the milk trick.

Have you rooted around the dairy case looking for the milk with the furthest-away expiration date? We're all wise to the nearly-expired-stuff-in-the-front rule at grocery stores. And any reputable florist department, Wilder says, will likely be rotating their stock just the same. That means the flowers most recently in may be tucked away behind the older bouquets. Take this with a warning, though, she says: "When they were put in the back, were they bruised?" See tip number one.

Do you have any other tips to add? Share them in the comments below!

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