9 Ways to Make Grocery Store Bouquets Look Like a Million Bucks

July 26, 2018

Nothing says spring quite like a dazzling bouquet of fresh flowers. They’re bright, colorful, and amazingly fragrant—what’s not to love?

However, buying weekly arrangements from a florist certainly isn't in the budget for most of us—which is why we asked Christina Stembel, the founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, for tips on creating budget-friendly bouquets from store-bought blooms.

Whether you want to create a beautiful centerpiece for your kitchen table or a hand-wrapped bouquet to give as a gift, here are Stembel’s most helpful DIY tips for transforming grocery store flowers into professional arrangements.

1. Select a Mix of Colored and Neutral Flowers

Flower power! Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

First things first: You need to choose your flowers. Stembel recommends selecting a mix of brightly colored and neutral ones for a balanced bouquet.

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Top Comment:
“I have dozens of David Austin roses in my garden along with many plants that offer up their green beauty to my bouquets (ferns, camellias, Meyer lemon). I even planted pink carnations a couple of years ago. Also have a plethora of lavender which really makes bouquets sparkle and smell wonderful. Thanks for the great tips on managing arrangements..”
— Sue A.

“Select three different types of flowers in complementary tones or whichever ones are your faves,” she says. “I usually pick one bright color to pair with a couple muted or neutral tones. It’s an easy recipe that’s hard to get wrong.”

2. Vary the Shape of the Flowers

Play around with textures. Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

In addition to the color, you’ll also want to consider the shape. “You’ll want to pick at least one round-headed flower variety to pair with more linear varieties,” Stembel explains. “For this arrangement, I chose gorgeous blush roses for the round-headed variety and paired them with my new fave, coral carnations (don’t judge too quickly—they’re beautiful, smell great, and last forever!), and peach tulips, which is what we call a linear flower.”

This variety will help create an interesting and well-balanced bouquet.

3. Don’t Forget the Greens

Greens are always a good idea. Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

Here's another pro tip that will take your arrangement to the next level: Mix in greenery like ferns, eucalyptus leaves, or long grasses. “I always start with a mixed green bouquet, which is important to get that wild look,” Stembel says.

Grocery stores typically carry mixed green bouquets, but you can save a few bucks by simply picking them out of your garden: “If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place with lots of vegetation at your disposal, you can also forage from your backyard.”

4. Choose Long-Lasting Varieties

Another consideration when choosing flowers is their longevity—after all, you want your bouquet to last as long as possible. Some of Stembel’s favorite long-lasting flowers include carnations, calla lilies, oriental lilies, orchids, spray roses, and regular roses. However, she explains that you can get an indication of how long flowers will last based on their stems.

“When in doubt, look for hearty stems,” says Stembel. “Thick, solid-stemmed flowers usually last longer, whereas thin, hollow stems usually expire more quickly.”

5. Grab Some Wrapping Paper

If your bouquet is going to be a gift, swing by the gift aisle of the grocery store for some wrapping or tissue paper, or for more rustic look, you can hit up meat counter! “Go to the gift wrap section of the store and select some pretty tissue paper or even the meat section and ask for a couple pieces of butcher paper,” says Stembel. You may want to grab some ribbon or twine to tie up your bouquet as well.

6. Prep Your Flowers

A little trim at the very bottom will help with water absorption. Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

Once you have all your supplies, it's time for the fun part! Start by preparing your flowers—you'll want to strip the leaves off the bottom half of each stem. “Simply snip off all the foliage that will fall below the water line once put in a vase,” Stembel explains. “You’ll want to keep the top ones on to help the flowers open, but the leaves that are in the water can grow bacteria on them that will make the flower expire more quickly.”

If you’re putting the flowers straight into a vase, you'll also want to snip off the bottom of each stem. This fresh cut will help them suck up water.

7. Stagger Your Blooms

Oooh, we're getting there! Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

Now, it's time to arrange your blooms. If you're making a hand-wrapped bouquet, here are Stembel’s tips on how to make it look professional: “Lay the greenery down diagonally on the paper in a slight fan shape. Next, lay the carnations on top of the greens, about two inches below the top level of the greenery, and—this is key—stagger them all in height so they’re not in a straight line.”

“Do the same with the roses and then the tulips, fanning them all out on top of each other. Tie the stems with a ribbon so they’ll be easier to handle, then cut the stems the same height. Wrap both ends of the paper around them and tie again with a ribbon.”

Secure them with a ribbon. Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

The same idea holds true if you’re creating an arrangement in a vase. You'll want to cut the flowers to different heights to create a balanced, multi-level design. Put in one stem at a time, and turn your vase as you work to ensure your arrangement looks good from every angle.

8. Avoid Common Rookie Mistakes

Take care to avoid a few missteps that will make your bouquet look amateur. “Not staggering the flowers in height and combining too many bold (primary-ish) colors together are the common mistakes we see,” say Stembel.

She also recommends taking the cellophane off, as it’s a giveaway that the flowers are store-bought.

9. Let Your Creativity Take Charge

Ta-da! Waiting for a deserving recipient. Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

Finally, have fun with your flowers and let your creativity flow. The more you play with store-bought bouquets, the better you’ll get at creating beautiful, budget-friendly designs that will light up your home.

An Affordable Dinner Option

This article was originally published earlier this spring, and we're running it again because we love a good grocery bouquet.

What are your favorite blooms for making homemade bouquets and arrangements? Let us know below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • cosmeagardens
  • Matt Hermenau
    Matt Hermenau
  • jodyrah
  • FS
  • Sue and the City
    Sue and the City
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


cosmeagardens September 17, 2020
Much Appreciated!! Such great suggestions. Mostly I like flower baskets are hand made arranged. I like flowers with so much freshness and from home greenery. Vary shapes of flowers is impressive. These flower arrangement ideas are priceless. Thank You
Matt H. May 13, 2018
"She also recommends taking the cellophane off, as it’s a giveaway that the flowers are store-bought."

Is anyone ever under the impression that flower arrangements are homemade? Especially this time of year or even just looking at the photos in this post, all those plants have different climate types and bloom times. Cellophane isn't what's tricking people into thinking you grew those flowers yourself.
MrsMehitabel July 27, 2018
Ha, that was my thought, too. Upon reflection, I decided that the author probably meant grocery-store-bought as opposed to florist-bought, since that's the alternative she presents in the introduction.
jodyrah April 29, 2018
Flowers arranged in layers for gifting are a nightmare for the recipient to rearrange in a vase. The stems of the front and middle flowers are much shorter than the greenery and back flowers limiting placement in the vase.
Nancy May 1, 2018
Great point!...maybe just group the flowers, greens, optional herbs for giving, but leave them uncut until put into a vase. This allows for two things - adjusting the heights of flowers to the actual vase; cutting the stems just before putting in water, so the cut edge is fresh and more open. Also for longer flower life - remember the trick of adding aspirin to the vase water, and changing that water every few days...
FS April 29, 2018
If at all possible, one should try to grow flowers at home. Containers work just fine for most cut flowers, and the plants will be much fresher and cleaner than anything store bought. Pollinators will love it, esp. when the flowers are grown from seed - which is easy to do. And there's the bragging factor of growing beautiful flowers - priceless.
FS April 29, 2018
It's important to keep in mind that some flowers and plants are extremely toxic to pets. Lilies in particular are deadly for cats who like to nibble on plants. Don't bring toxic flowers to a pet lover.
Sue A. April 29, 2018
What a great post. Love that you use, and appreciate, the very common carnation. It lasts forever and truly is beautiful. I have dozens of David Austin roses in my garden along with many plants that offer up their green beauty to my bouquets (ferns, camellias, Meyer lemon). I even planted pink carnations a couple of years ago. Also have a plethora of lavender which really makes bouquets sparkle and smell wonderful. Thanks for the great tips on managing arrangements..
sharon C. April 29, 2018
Great tips, but I don't think the red carnations would make it around here. Yuck! Beautiful with just neutrals and greenery.
margaret G. April 26, 2018
If you're taking a bouquet to a hostess it's best to bring it in a vase. There is little more disruptive to a host than to have to scramble for a vase for an arrangement as guests are arriving.
FS April 29, 2018
That's a great idea! Plus it really ups the value of the gift in a most thoughtful way. Vases are often available where cut flowers are sold, even in big grocery stores.
MrsMehitabel July 27, 2018
It keeps them fresher during transport, too. I affirm the idea of getting vases at the thrift store, but in real life I would end up storing them forever, waiting for an occasion, and for a coordinating bouquet. I love Mason jars for this purpose- they're cheap, stylistically neutral, and can be re-used. They might be a little cliche as a style statement, but they're neutral and practical enough that they can't ever be TOO out of style.
BerryBaby April 26, 2018
I use greens from yard...bamboo is beautiful all year round, have all kinds of ferns and shrubs.
I usually select two different flowers from opposite sides of the color wheel and select greens to compliment. I always have fresh flowers on the table, entry table and in the bathroom....yes, bathroom it makes for a very nice touch.💐 BB
Olga O. April 26, 2018
I usually stick to one type of flower and alternate the shades (think tulips!) Occasionally, however, I mix in herbs into my arrangements.
FS April 29, 2018
Wonderful tip - many herbs make beautiful additions to bouquets!