How To Arrange Grocery Store Flowers (And 30 Beautiful Vases To Put Them In)

How To Arrange Grocery Store Flowers (And 30 Beautiful Vases To Put Them In)

I love flowers. In my ideal world I am Julia Roberts in Notting Hill when Hugh Grant walks in with some tulips but my room is already filled with topiaries. Or Kim with literal walls of flowers.

But topiaries and flower walls are expensive. Instead, my favorite place to buy flowers is the grocery store. It might require a little more imagination, but shopping at the grocery store lets you create a custom arrangement of your choosing.

Americans spend $2B annually on flowers for Valentines Day, so if you're one of those people, take note. Grocery store flowers can make a beautiful bouquet for anyone -- including, most importantly, yourself.

Pick Out The Flowers

My go-to flower spot is Whole Foods. They usually have an extensive selection of cut flowers that are well-priced and last forever. I can usually find bunches of flowers for $5 that look gorgeous. Trader Joe's also sells aggressively cheap flowers (and I always grab some when I'm there), but in my experience they don't last as long. 

Here was the selection at my local Whole Foods this week. Pretty good considering it's red-roses-or-nothing season:

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When you're picking flowers, select blooms that look fresh (no browning, no drooping) in the store, since it's all downhill from there. Flowers with closed or tight buds are even better since they'll open up over time. 

According to the internet, flowers that last a long time include lilies, some roses (the garden/wild variety), sunflowers, daisies, carnations, and chrysanthemums. Flowers that will die quickly include tulips, hydrangeas, or daffodils. But I've found that buying healthy-looking flowers and putting them in water immediately can make a bigger difference than the type. But yes, tulips droop the minute you pick them up in the store:

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And finally, I'm a sucker for white flowers. I think they're beautiful. But there's no question they start to look sadder faster than colored flowers since you can see the brown more easily. Just something to keep in mind, although it doesn't stop me.

Choosing Your Flower Arrangement

I believe that almost any flower can look fantastic with the right vase and arrangement -- no need for Blair Waldorf's peonies in February. Instead, when I'm picking out flowers I try to keep an open mind and follow one of three strategies:

  • Cohesive color scheme: I pick a color, say pink or red, and choose a bunch of different types of flowers all in that color. This can create a really cool look without seeming busy.

  • Greenery: Pick a bunch of flowers in one color and mix with greenery for a more natural vibe, or just stick to all greenery for a look that truly lasts forever (eucalyptus dries out and can go months before it looks crunchy).

  • Short and compact: Pick a single basic flower (daisies, carnations) and cut them super short and straight in a low vase for a modern look.

No matter which you choose, keep it simple. Part of the reason CVS bouquets look terrible is they're Crayola explosions of color with too much going on. Pick a few colors based on what's in season and what looks healthy.

Preparing Your Flowers

Before you do anything with your flowers, wash your vase in very hot soap and water. Bacteria lives in vases and contributes to your flowers dying faster, so do yourself a favor and clean your vase well.

Then, I like to create a space with plenty of room and remove all packaging and rubber bands from the flowers. I remove all petals from the stems except for the very top to make arranging simpler:

Arranging

Then I hold the flowers up to the vase and decide where to chop off the ends. If you don't cut your flowers short enough, they will droop or flop around the vase without standing upright, and look too sparse. I tend to air on the shorter side when possible for a fuller look.

I use my sharpest scissors (I live for this pair) and cut the ends at an angle, then place each individual bloom in the vase:

For this bouquet, I cut and placed all the pink roses before moving on to the next flower. I try to vary the heights and keep similar flowers from bunching together. Remember to rotate the vase to be sure it looks good from all angles.

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One thing I find interesting is how adding or subtracting a certain flower can change the whole vibe of the arrangement. I started by adding baby's breath (on the left) and the whole arrangement felt very Hallmark. I changed the baby's breath to eucalyptus (on the right) and it felt instantly more sophisticated:

Finally, don't forget to dump in the packet of plant food that comes with the flowers and fill them with water. In theory, you should change the water daily for the flowers to last longer (although I never do.)

Not a bad outcome for $15:

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Vary Your Shapes and Colors

Aside from a traditional bouquet like the one above, there are some different paths you can take.

Personally I love mixing greenery into a bouquet to give it a more natural look (and greenery lasts a long time). Whole Foods was sadly out of my usual go-tos (eucalyptus or ferns) when I went this week, so I substituted with baby's breath and unopened alstroemeria to bring some green to my white hydrangeas:

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Just compare that to the straight up hydrangeas I used in Kevin's apartment -- a very different look:

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Here's another example of a bouquet I assembled using plenty of greenery and only a few flowers, a great way to save money:

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Finally, I love grouping a single type of flower in one color in a short, wide vase for a more modern look. This is great for dinner centerpieces (so you can see across the table), or my coffee table where I want something low that doesn't block the tv. The stems look super pretty in the round, low vase.

I've pulled this tactic with roses:

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And... carnations! I know. Carnations are the epitome of cheap grocery store flower. They're sold in every CVS, and if you feel like Carrie and would break up with someone over carnations, I get it.

That said, I regularly purchase and enjoy carnations. The trick is to cut them down very low and arrange them at the same height in a wide vase, making sure the blooms are all squished together so they don't stand out individually, which is what makes them look CVS-esque. By keeping them the same height and close together, they look much more chic (Jenny wrote a great post about arranging them here.)

The reason I do this is carnations last a LONG time. Like, over a month. And they're super cheap. Just be sure to pick a color that would appear in nature -- no neon. I cut them individually to make sure that they're truly even, leaning them into the vase one by one as I go along:

The result is bright, colorful, and hopefully won't result in a breakup:

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I also like the white and pink I did version here (which I documented on my Instagram stories as it lasted over a month):

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Vases

If I was going to choose between splurging on flowers and splurging on a vase, I would for sure choose the latter. My favorite flower vase is a vintage milk glass white pitcher I found at a thrift store (similar here), but there are so many gorgeous options out there.

Here are 30 of my favorite vases -- leave a comment and let me know which you like best!

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