What separates a florist from the average “box” store floral department?


I think this is a very important question, because a lot of people look the two establishments as one in the same. They are actually quite different and close examination of the end product will highlight the difference. In the flower industry, you really do “get what you pay for.”

We all know that you can go to local “box” stores and buy flowers relatively inexpensively. Some of these stores will sell flowers by the bunch and others will actually put together arrangements for you. Why do their flowers cost less than florists’ flowers? And what are you sacrificing when you buy from one of these “box” stores?

I hope to not only illuminate the answers to these questions, but also hope you as the consumer will go out to research and investigate for yourself. I think you will be surprised by what you find.

The main reason flowers “box” stores will cost less is because they buy flowers (or bouquets) in very large bulks. The growers can give them significant discounts when they buy this way. Most florists cannot buy flowers in the quantities the “box” stores can. Florists prefer small quantities of several varieties as opposed to a large quantity of one flower.

Another reason flowers are less expensive at a “box” store is the amount of labor put into a single stem is very minimal. They flowers are unpackaged and put straight into buckets of water—maybe preservative if you are lucky! A quality florist will spend countless hours a week processing and re-processing flowers. This ensures the stems have a fresh cut and can absorb the greatest amount of preservative possible. In the long run it will mean a longer vase life. A florist charges extra for the time they put into the individual stems.

What are you sacrificing when you don’t buy from a florist? Very simply put, it is quality. Flower care, handling, and processing is an EXTREMELY important role in the vase life of a flower. Quality florists will practice the most up-to-date handling and processing techniques. Flowers without proper care will have a significantly decreased vase life. Instead of two weeks you might get three days out of a flower.

If you pull a flower out of a bucket, it shouldn’t be brown or mushy on the bottom of the stem. There should be no brown or dying leaves. The water in the bucket should also be clear. A lot of florists will actually showcase their stems in clear vases so you can see the color of the water, a practice not very common in “box” stores. All of these are signs indicators of handeling practices and over-all flower health.

Everything should be clean—no dirt, dust, weird smells, mold, or anything that would expose the flowers to bacteria. If the flowers are not in clear vases, pull them out of the container and look at them. Look for a clean stem with a white center. As a general rule, if a flower looks bad it probably is not healthy. Ask questions about the flower care practices being used. A quality florist will be happy to answer your questions.

Not all “box” stores sell poor quality flowers, and not all florist sell good quality flowers! My message to you is to look for the small things. There might not be clear differences at the surface, but with further investigation you will usually find the clues you need to determine if the establishment is selling quality products.

Kim Martin — Floral Design Specialist —  Columbia, MO


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