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The Cheapskate’s Guide To Buying Flowers For Valentine’s Day

If you head out to buy roses on Feb. 14, you may find that your heart skips a beat, you have butterflies in your stomach and you feel liable to swoon. Not out of a rush of romantic feelings, but out of shock as you spot the price tag on your bouquet. On Valentine’s Day, roses are up to twice as expensive as on any other day.

Relentless optimizer that I am, I wondered if one could buy roses ahead of the price spike, hoping they’d last long enough to be presentable on Feb. 14.

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After talking to florists in the 20 largest cities in the country, the answer is maybe, but you’ll have to move fast and get lucky. When I asked them to estimate the shelf life of a rose, the florists told me roses last between five and seven days.1

libresco-flowers-1

If you bought your roses on Feb. 10 and took good care of them,2 you might still have a bouquet to bestow on Feb. 14. (But you’d need a good explanation for why they wilted a day or two later.)

You could eke a little more life out of the roses by keeping them in something other than tap water. In a 2005 paper in the International Journal Of Agriculture & Biology, Shahid Javed Butt of the Hill Fruits Research Station found that placing roses in a sucrose solution (25 grams of sugar per liter of water) extended their life for 2.5 days compared to roses in distilled water. Placing them in a silver nitrate solution (150 ppm) for 24 hours did even better, giving them an extra 3.7 days before wilting, compared to untreated flowers. That might be enough to get you through Valentine’s Day and a little while after. Roses will come to fear your botany powers.

It may be a bit easier to just pick another flower than find a cache of silver nitrate, though. I asked the florists what they’d recommend for a customer who was looking for long-lived flowers — without mentioning it was in order to buy them in advance and skip a price spike — and here’s what they suggested:

FLOWER NO. OF FLORISTS WHO RECOMMENDED AVG DAYS TO WILT
Carnation 5 11
Orchid 5 16
Alstroemeria 2 15
Daisy 2 12
Hydrangea 2 23
Bird of paradise 1 10
Chrysanthemum 1 14
Lily 1 14
Snapdragon 1 7

Average days to wilt is the average estimate given by florists who recommended that flower.

Carnations and orchids were the most common suggestions, and the florists who recommended them estimated that they’d last about 11 and 16 days, respectively. Melissa Feveyear of the Terra Bella shop in Seattle recommended a few others, and she said you can use an easy rule of thumb to find resilient flowers: Buy tulips or blooms you frequently see in grocery stores, all of which must be “very hardy, since they don’t take much care of them.” But almost everything on the florists’ list would last if you bought it today and held on to it until the big night. Time to decide whether your partner is more partial to familiar daisies or a baroque bird-of-paradise.

When I asked the florists about their own preferences, and what flower they’d pick as the traditional Valentine’s Day bloom, a number stuck with roses, one reacted as though I’d asked her to choose between her children, and Marisa Guerrero of Debbie’s Bloomers in El Paso said she’d rather have the norm be mixed bouquets. “I wouldn’t pick one flower; it puts too much demand on the supply chain,” she told me, making her a florist after my own logistically-minded heart.

Footnotes

  1. Those figures are the median of their estimates of the low and high end of a typical rose’s life. ^
  2. I.e., trim the stems, change the water, don’t leave them under a heating vent or in a window. ^

Leah Libresco is FiveThirtyEight’s news writer.

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