5 Rules for Buying Perfect Flowers


A DIY bouquet of tulips, gerbera daisies, and berries is more thoughtful than a boring bunch of red roses.

There’s nothing wrong with going traditional for Valentine’s Day, and flowers are always a win…if you know how to buy them. Don’t be the dude who shows up with a dozen overpriced but underwhelming red roses. Whether you’re splurging at the florist or hitting up the grocery store — and even if you’ve left it till the very last minute — you can do better. Here’s how.

How to become an instant expert at buying flowers

1. Choose long or short stems
There are two types of bouquets in this world: tall and short. Arrangements are made with long-stemmed flowers or with flowers that are either shorter by nature or cut short to fit. Both are acceptable choices, so go with your gut, or let the flowers you choose (more on that below) guide you.

2. Pick a color scheme
Red or pink are fine selections, but don’t be afraid to branch out. If you can identify the colors your valentine digs, use that as a starting point. (Hint: What colors does she wear most often? What color is the paint in her bedroom?) This will definitely earn you bonus points for paying attention.

3. Fragrant, or not?
You’re under no obligation to give a bouquet that has a strong scent, but a whiff of fragrance lingering in a room is always a reminder of a thoughtful gift-giver. Plus, a sweet scent can be refreshing in the dead of February. If you want to build a perfume-y bouquet, just let your nose do the sniffing, or look for cheerful flowers such as freesias, lilies, and lilacs.

4. Pick the flowers, 1-2-3
Don’t be overwhelmed by the variety of flower choices. Simply start with a colorful and striking flower with a medium to large bloom, which we’ll call the primary flower. Think of this as your foundation. Next, add a contrasting smaller flower — the secondary flower — and finally greenery for filler. (We’ve put together some winning formulas below for precise combinations.) Three pieces, that’s all you need.

5. How to arrange a bouquet, with or without a florist
If you’re at a florist shop, using this checklist will help you order a personalized bouquet, rather than something off-the-shelf. But the same rules apply at the grocery store, too. Don’t be afraid to choose your three items — the main flower, the secondary flower, and the green filler — and ask the on-site florist to put it together for you.

If there’s no one there to help, don’t panic. Unwrap the three bunches and rearrange them into one bouquet, mixing the stems together. Aim for a variety of height and fullness, putting the spotlight on your main flower choice. Delivering them wrapped in plastic, and not in a vase, is totally okay.

How to combine flowers

There’s no need to flop with a boring bunch of blooms when you have the tools to put together a creative combination that shows you actually care. No matter your budget, here’s our foolproof guide to picking out flowers at the florist or the grocery store.

Primary flowers

white-liliesWhite lilies
There are many varieties of white lilies, which are a very fragrant, long-stemmed flowers. Each stem will have multiple, large blooms. Don’t worry if some of the buds are closed; in fact, that’s preferable. These are long-lasting flowers that will continue to bloom over time. Use these as a primary flower in an arrangement. Two stems mixed with secondary stems and greenery will make a decent arrangement. Approximate cost: $10 per stem.



Asiatic lilies               asiatic-lilies-orange
The vibrant color of these non-fragrant lilies make them a great primary flower. These are long-stemmed choices, though you can use them for short stemmed bouquets if you cut them down. These are pretty hearty flowers that will last a good amount of time. Look for closed or open semi-open buds. Approximate cost: $6 per stem.




Orchids are the sexy beasts of the flower kingdom. What they lack in longevity they make up for in impact. Use them as a main or secondary flower in a pretty, elegant, and romantic bouquet. Approximate cost: $4 per stem.


spray-rosesSpray roses
These amazing little buds are a fantastic alternative to traditional roses because they look delicate and modern, but are more low maintenance and durable. They make for a great primary or secondary flower, and come in a wide variety of colors. And, with multiple buds per stem, you get a lot of bang for your buck. A great way to add volume. Approximate cost: $4 per stem.




These gracious cluster blooms carry with them the sweet smell of spring. Casual and shapely, they can be added to tall or short bouquets as a primary or secondary flower to add texture. Mix them with pastel colors for a romantic look. Approximate cost: $7 per stem.









These super-fragrant blooms can be used in short bouquets. Voluminous, use them as your primary flower, but pair them with a powerful secondary flower such as spray roses or orchids for maximum impact. Approximate cost: $3 per stem.






tulips red and pinkTulips
Since tulips come with their own greenery, you’re already ahead of the game when you pick these as your primary flower for a short-stemmed bouquet. Fresh and modern, they come in a ton of colors, are readily available, and last a good amount of time. Approximate cost: $9 per bunch.






Secondary flowers

bells-of-irelandBells of Ireland
These long-stemmed fillers do double duty as durable workhorses that add color, texture, and height to tall arrangements. Use a secondary flower, or a filler. Approximate cost: $4 per stem.





These elegant stems come in a variety of brilliant colors, but despite their distinctive pop, you’ll use them as a secondary flower, due to their slimness. Freesia is a somewhat delicate flower with a slight scent that adds movement to an arrangement You’ll only need a few. Approximate cost: $3 per stem.






These super hardy flowers are easy to find and easy to use to bulk up a bouquet. Use them as a secondary item in tall arrangements. Great for blokes on a budget, Alstroemeria is a solid all-around flower, but don’t use it all by itself. Approximate cost: $6 per bun





These cheerful flowers, also known as gerbera daisies, pack an awesome color punch. Available in tons of hues, they are playful, sweet, and their broad flower head makes them great as a secondary flower. Approximate cost: $6 per bunch.





Sometimes just called “mums,” these long-stemmed blooms, which can be cut down, make great secondary flowers. Approximate cost: $2 per stem.





berries-floralBerries (various types)
The super-hearty, long-lasting, and inexpensive work horses can round out almost any arrangement. Keep them long or short, and use them as a filler to add more volume and color. Pick a hue — or hues– that match or contrast your color scheme. Approximate cost: $3 per stem or $6 per bunch.





heather-purpleWax flowers and heather
These long-stemmed fillers will round out your arrangements and add a bit of pretty toughness, plus a touch of extra color. Approximate cost: $3 per stem.

Additional greenery
Myriad types of plain greens are available that can be used as filler to add the volume and color that will finish, or fill out, your bouquet. Most greens are typically long-lasting. Approximate cost: $1 per stem.



Primary flower + secondary flower + filler = you’re awesome at this

Okay, now that you’ve been briefed, it’s go time. Here are 12 simple arrangements following our 1-2-3 formula that will make you look like a superstar. You are so going to rock this Valentine’s Day, even if you left it till the last minute.

White lilies + Bells of Ireland + wax flowers

Asiatic lily + red berries + greenery

Orchids + hyacinth + greenery

Orchids + colored freesia + greenery

Spray roses + lilac + greenery (tall)

Spray roses + freesia + wax flowers

Tulips + hyacinth + greenery

Tulips + alstroemeria + berries

Tulips + chrysanthemums + greenery

Tulips + tulips + heather

Gerberas + alstroemeria + greenery

Gerberas + spray roses + greenery
(bonus points: try keeping the flowers in the same color tones)


Pink and red gerberas + alstroemeria + greenery = better than a dozen red roses.


Tulips + red berries + greenery = awesome bouquet you can make yourself.

Born in Bagneres de Bigorre in the French Pyrennes, chef Isabelle's inspiration for food is born from her eclectic life of travel. A love of good food has been her constant companion -- from her early years cooking for her French grandmother to traveling the world as a fashion designer to life on the road as a private chef and even living off the grid in Alaska with only a fishing rod and a stove as company. Today, Isabelle lives in Newport, Rhode Island, where she dedicates her life to her passion -- foraging, growing, and cooking up whatever she finds with her classic French twist.


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