Valentine’s Day flowers: Tips to get the most for your money

Mistakes with mulching could mean problems for your roses. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — When it comes to Valentine’s Day flowers, loved ones often don’t receive what you think you’ve purchased for them.

“Even if you find a bouquet that looks really good online, often that’s not the bouquet that’s being delivered because online sites have a lot of stipulations,” says Executive Editor of Checkbook.org Kevin Brasler.

Florists filling orders collected from most online websites are allowed to substitute flowers.

Brasler says they often do so with varieties that are less expensive than what may be pictured.

Cutting out the middleman can help you get what you pay for. Whether ordering flowers for delivery across town or in a distant city, Brasler recommends placing the order from a local shop that can contact another florist in its network, describe exactly what you want and portray what you are willing to pay.

Florists, street vendors and grocery stores typically get flowers from the same wholesalers. How each of those establishments handles flowers can determine how good they look and how long they’ll stay fresh.

“Look for a stem that’s in good shape — one that’s been cut cleanly that isn’t smooshed,” Brasler says.

Also check the water and refrigeration being used to store the flowers.

Water should be clear and stems should be slime-free. Heat ages flowers.

Advice from Washington Consumers’ CHECKBOOK to help cut flowers last longer includes keeping them away from direct sunlight, heat vents and fruit, which releases ethylene gas that accelerates ripening of fresh flowers.

Flower prices at florists are on average 46  percent more expensive than prices at supermarkets and warehouse clubs, according to CHECKBOOK. Street vendor prices average 55 percent lower than florists’.

Tips from CHECKBOOK to save money on flowers:

  • Skip delivery charges. Pick them up yourself.
  • Buy stems and use a vase from home.
  • Consider flower varieties other than roses.
  • Don’t underestimate the elegance of choosing something simple.

“Buy a single stem of something that’s really special,” Brasler advises.

You can see the ratings of 75 Washington area florists evaluated by Consumers’ CHECKBOOK. CHECKBOOK is offering three months free access for WTOP.com readers.

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