Shopping for Valentine’s roses? 9 comparisons to help you find the biggest bang for your buck

Feb 6, 2023, 10:10 PM | Updated: 10:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Americans will shell out nearly $26 billion for Valentine’s Day next week, according to the National Retail Federation, and 37% of those spenders say they are buying flowers.

Since the holiday’s high demand will boost the cost of roses, we compared online and local delivery options, along with grocery stores blooms, to see how you can get the most bang for your buck.

Is a rose really a rose?

“I’ll never say no to flowers,” said our colleague, Ayanna Likens, who married her sweetheart Conner three years ago.

“He’s my best friend, so it’s fun to have a partner to do everything with,” she added.

But even best friend status does not mean Connor gets a free pass on the holiday’s tradition of flowers.

“Yeah, he’ll be in big trouble. I expect flowers on Valentine’s Day,” Ayanna laughed.

Now, that doesn’t mean he has to spend big.

“There’s no such thing as too cheap,” Ayanna said.

Prices for roses come in a wide variety. You can spend as little as $10 for a dozen to well over $100. And you can buy them from a variety of places — the three main ones being your local flower shop, a national online seller, or the neighborhood grocery store.

But is a rose really a rose no matter where Connor buys it? To find out, we got to work with a little investigative shopping.

A little investigative shopping

To be fair, we set up some ground rules: one-dozen red roses in a vase with delivery as cheap as possible.

And it’s important to note — each flower order, even from the same company, is unique. What you receive may depend on inventory and availability at the time of your order.

We started by buying the cheapest arrangements offered by three leading online sellers: FTD, ProFlowers, and 1-800-Flowers. Turns out, FTD and ProFlowers are parts of the same company, and both sold a dozen red roses in a vase for the base price of $55.

With tax, delivery and service fees added in, the FTD bouquet totaled $80.81.

ProFlowers cost one-penny less — $80.80.

The 1-800-Flowers order came in much less at $65.62.

KSL’s Matt Gephardt and producer Sloan Schrage do a little investigative rose shopping.

We found going local digs deeper into your wallet. Of the three local florists we chose, the least expensive dozen cost us $95.83 from Twigs Flower Company — including vase, delivery and service fees, and tax.

A bouquet from Especially for You cost about a dollar more, $96.76.

The priciest arrangement came from The Art Floral at $120.

Next, we shopped grocery options, which are not really an apples-to-apples comparison, since without delivery, we had to schlep ourselves to the stores. And not all the stores had an option in a vase. But if you have time and an extra vase at home, that labor is cost effective.

Twelve red roses ran us a mere $9.99 at Trader Joe’s, $12 at Smith’s, and because we could only get a two-dozen bunch at Costco the day we shopped, that total came to $18.99. We purchased $13 vases for each bouquet.

Each online order also required some work. They came boxed up in shipping packages, and needed their stems cut, and water and flower food added to the accompanying vase.

The same day, our orders from the local florists arrived all arranged in big vases with filler plants and ready for display. However, our order from Twigs turned out to be a substitution — an arrangement of a half-dozen white roses with other flowers and filler.

An expert opinion

When it comes to quality, we are no experts, so we brought in horticulturist Sheriden Hansen of Utah State University to look through our nine bouquets.

All our orders from online sellers arrived with shorter stems. Typically, a shorter stem on a rose means a cheaper flower with smaller buds.

The bouquets KSL ordered from national online sellers came packaged in shipping boxes and needed their stems cut and blooms arranged.

“The longer the stem, the more skill it takes to grow that rose,” Hansen said. “When they were grown, somebody was there every day, checking on them, removing other blooms, making sure that we had one stem with one rose on the top of it. And so, it’s very labor intensive. So, the longer the stem length, the higher the price of the rose.”

The buds from the online orders weren’t yet fully opened.

“They’re going to open more,” Hansen said, “as long as we take really good care of them.”

Our local flower shop roses arrived fully opened, almost perfectly packaged.

“These blooms are huge; this is just beautiful. These two arrangements just knocked me right out,” Hansen said of our orders from The Art Floral and Especially for You. “They’re gorgeous.”

But they were not 100% perfect — one bloom in the Especially for You bouquet didn’t look so great, and one rose in the Art Floral arrangement had a bent neck. Our substituted white roses from Twigs also wowed Hansen, although she noted some already wilting filler flowers in the vase.

Utah State University horticulturist Sheriden Hansen shows KSL’s Matt Gephardt the hallmarks of good quality roses.

She was also impressed by our cheapest, grocery store roses.

“We have big, beautiful blooms, a bright color — a little shorter than we get from some of the other places,” Hansen said. “But they don’t look terrible at all.”

And while Hansen said she gravitated toward our Art Floral and Especially for You arrangements, Ayanna’s husband could not go wrong with any of the flowers we bought.

But will her gravitational pull change next week?

Keeping roses alive

Over the course of a week, we followed Hansen’s instructions on the care of our bouquets.

“We want them to be cut appropriately,” she said. “We want to see stems that are cut on an angle so that they can continue to uptake water.”

We also cut the stems under running water.

“When we cut into a stem, if it is not a closed system without air in it, that air is going to get sucked up into the vessels that move water and nutrients up and down that plant. And when we get an air bubble, then we get wilting and we get reduced life,” Hansen explained.

And we changed the water in the vases every other day to curb bacteria buildup.

“That will also clog up those vessels that move the water up and down in the stem and can reduce our (rose’s) life.”

In the maintenance process, we learned first-hand the adage about every rose having its thorn is wrong. They have several thorns, and they are all very sharp.

And the winner is…

A week later, some arrangements fared better than others. Of our online orders, Hansen found the 1-800-Flowers bouquet held up the best.

“I don’t see a lot of drooping stems. I see beautiful flowers — they’ve opened,” she said about that arrangement.

From the grocery stores, our Costco and Trader Joe’s roses remained contenders, with an ever-so-slight advantage toward the Costco blooms because of the quantity.

But for this expert, the local flowers from Especially for You still won the day.

“This one I loved last week, and it’s still looking really good,” Hansen said.

We purchased roses from nine different retailers: three online sellers, three local floral shops and three grocery stores.

A couple things to bear in mind: While a rose is a rose is a rose is rose, no two roses are exactly alike. And we only bought one arrangement from each seller, so what you get might differ from our results. For example, on a subsequent trip to Costco, we found a bouquet of a dozen red roses that wasn’t available on our first outing.

Prices for roses go up the closer we get to Valentine’s Day. You can save money by placing your flower order early. We are talking mid-January early. However, it may be a little late this year.

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Shopping for Valentine’s roses? 9 comparisons to help you find the biggest bang for your buck