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A thorny Valentine's Day dilemma

How to avoid paying too much for your sweetheart's roses. By Teri Goldberg

More cut flowers are sold on Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year, according to the Society of American Florists. So it’s not surprising that most florists jack up the prices a few weeks before the holiday. But savvy shoppers, armed with some tricks of the flower trade, can still land a few rosy bargains.

Roses are indeed the most popular among cut flowers around Valentine’s Day. Estimates show that 156 million roses were sold for Valentine's Day in 2003, according to the Society of American Florists. Roses led the pack with 57 percent of all cut flowers purchased, followed by mixed flowers at 24 percent, other flowers at 11 percent and carnations at eight percent.

Red roses — which have become the ultimate symbol of love and romance — reach peak demand on Feb. 14. The majority or 66 percent of roses purchased for Valentine’s Day are red, compared to only 10 percent for mixed colors. Pink comes at a distant nine percent, peach/salmon at five percent, yellow at four percent and purple/violet, white and “other” at two percent or less.

Thorny prices on roses
Right around Valentine’s Day, flower prices are as volatile as the stock market. At the end of January, pre-Valentine’s prices were holding steady. Many florists said the first day of February would bring an increase of about $10 to $20 per bouquet. And heading into the week before Valentine’s Day — on or about Feb. 6 — the prices could climb to a premium.

Prices advertised on Web sites still can be misleading. It’s not rocket science, but the price wars can be fast and furious, and just gathering the information at the end of January about how much it would cost to send a dozen long-stemmed red roses on Feb. 14 resulted in several calls from company presidents apologizing for the expected increase.

Here’s what I discovered at six cyber florists, from big-brand name to eco-friendly shop

First, some background on each. Flowers ordered from come from one of the company’s brick-and-mortar affiliates or local florists nationwide.

San Diego-based is one of the first cyber shops to ship flowers direct from growers, which cuts outs the “middleman,” such as distributors and florists. Roses from are imported directly from growers in Ecuador or Columbia, and then repackaged and shipped to customers from a warehouse in Miami, Fla., based in Leamington, Canada, ships flowers from florists in the United States or Canada, and direct from growers in South America or greenhouses in California, Connecticut and Canada.’s affiliates operate under different Web addresses such as, and

Boston-based is the online arm of a chain of 60 retail stores, which started in New England, and now has affiliates in 16 states.

Martha Stewart has her own flower shop online at, whose technology is powered by, but the arrangements are all Martha., founded in 2001, is the first cyber shop to limit its selection to organic flowers. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of its organic bouquets benefits groups dedicated to protecting the environment, and human and animal rights.

The above prices do not take into account a possible increase the week of Valentine’s Day. Many florists have already raised their prices. “Anything that is red will go up,” says a company representative at, where a dozen red roses have increased $10 since Jan. 29. hiked up its price by $15. The increase, however, was most dramatic at and Both shops raised the price on one dozen long-stemmed red roses $20 since Jan. 29.

Prices, so far, at and organicbouquet remain steady. Gerald Prolman, founder of and Renan Levy, a managing partner of, say prices will not change throughout the Valentine’s season.

Which brings us to rule number one and to make it an even dozen, 11 other tips for no extra charge:

1. Order early if you can and check prices carefully. This year, some online florists are letting consumers lock in the prices for Valentine’s Day if they order early.

2. If the Web site address includes the word “cheap,” it doesn’t mean the florist has the best deals. For example, roses are not cheap at Fountain Valley, Calif.–based and, where all the flowers are hand delivered by a florist. On Jan. 29, a dozen long-stemmed roses in a box cost $75. The vendor actually posts his apology in the form of a note that says, “Rose prices are currently much higher than usual because of Valentine's Day.”

Eric Borgos, the company’s founder, even says he does not encourage Valentine's Day business. The reason: “Local florists get totally overwhelmed for Valentine's Day and make a huge amount of mistakes,” says Borgos. “I then get a lot of unhappy customers all wanting refunds,” he adds.

3. Check delivery dates. This year, Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday — good for restaurants, bad for some florists. Many florist charge an extra fee for delivery on Saturday.

4.Consider short- or medium-stemmed roses instead of long-stemmed roses.Medium-stemmed “Valentine’s sweetheart roses” were $29.99 at on Jan. 29. In contrast, long-stemmed red roses cost $65.99.

5. How important is that vase? Some florists charge extra for the vase, usually between $5 and $10. How many vases do you have stacked up in the kitchen pantry or basement already? Some florists even have arrangements in high-end crystal vases. The “rose elegance” at comes in a Gorham Lady Anne 24 percent lead crystal for $94.99 (as of Jan. 29 and expected to climb to $114.95). Break it down. On Jan. 29, a dozen “rose elegances” in a cheaper vase were $59.99. Is it worth the extra $35 for the “24 percent lead” vase?

6. Check out special savings posted on the site. At in the “special savings” department, a bouquet of 15 sweetheart tulips cost $29.99, reduced from $39.99.

7. Take advantage of special promotions. Some florists offer a discount for delivery before Valentine’s Day. advertised a 20 percent if flowers were ordered for delivery from Feb. 9 to Feb. 12.

8. Look beyond the Home page and flowers featured in the Valentine’s Day suggestions. Some florists post the highest priced arrangements first on the Home page. Dig a little and find the best value. Some sites let consumers sort by price.

9. Think outside the box. Love the miniature Radio Flyer red wagon complete with a pint-sized rose plant and Teddy Bear at, priced at $24.99.

But go beyond red. Remember pink is hot this year (see “This Valentine’s Day, pink is the new red”) Pink roses at, as of Feb. 2, were still $39.99, $10 less than red.

10. If you live in a warm climate, pick flowers. Make sure it’s legal first.

11. Buy daisies on Valentine’s Day and red roses the day after or the following week when prices will most likely drop again.

12. Consider paper roses. Each rose at is handmade out of opalescent paper. The color of the rose lightens from top to bottom, from light to white. "I love you” or “We love you.” is finely printed on each bloom. The delicate paper roses are not only “environmentally correct” but also will last a lot longer than fresh ones. And for Valentine’s Day, the company slashes it prices from $49.95 for 12 paper roses to $34.95. That’s 30 percent off and no increase is expected.

In the end, a rose is not always just a rose. But in my heart of hearts, I believe that any flower — paper or fresh — delivers the right message on Valentine’s Day.