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

How to pick, style, and prolong the life of those store-bought beauties.

April 13, 2021

If you’re lucky, you might end up with a life luxurious enough to have weekly seasonal floral arrangements, brought into your home by a dedicated florist who snips blooms at their peak… But if you’re in the other 99 percent (like us), it’s more likely that you pick up flowers from the grocery store every once in a while to treat yourself. Because, if we’re being honest, floral arrangements are really expensive.

While you’d probably rather pore through the online options for expertly-arranged flowers, sometimes it’s not within the time frame or the budget. Your dreams of a home freshly-scented from fluffy peonies notwithstanding, grocery-store bouquets are a great quick fix for a dinner-party host, a friend who’s had a bad day, or a surprise mother-in-law visit. What’s even better? There are plenty of ways to spruce ‘em up.

Enter: Christina Stembel, the founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, who was kind enough to share her best tips for crafting professional-looking arrangements from store-bought blooms. As it turns out, your local Trader Joe’s floral section is actually a great place to grab a bunch of stems—you just need to know what you're looking for, and how to best arrange them.

The good news? It’s seriously easy to spot quality flowers and put them together in a most artful way. Read on for how to do it.

1. Choose Long-Lasting Varieties

Sure, you might be tempted by the trendy ranunculus, but the first thing to take into consideration is what condition the flowers are in. If they’re fully open, browning on the petals, or their stems are starting to turn mushy, it might be a sign to go with a hardier variety.

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.”

2. Select a Mix of Colored and Neutral Flowers

Stembel recommends selecting a mix of brightly colored and neutral ones for a balanced bouquet. “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.”

Flower power! Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

3. Vary the Shape of the 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.

4. Don’t Forget the Greens

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.”

Play around with textures. Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

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 a more rustic look, you can hit up the meat counter! “Go to the gift wrap section of the store and select some pretty tissue paper or even ask for a couple pieces of butcher paper,” says Stembel. Grab some ribbon or twine to tie up your bouquet as well.

6. Prep Your 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. You can even go the extra mile by adding a little DIY flower food to the water, with this simple recipe: 1 quart water, 1 teaspoon bleach OR 1 teaspoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sugar.

7. Stagger Your Blooms

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.”

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.

Secure them with a ribbon. Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

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,” says 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

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.

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

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

This article was updated in April 2021 because we just love a good grocery bouquet.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Pamela Losey
    Pamela Losey
  • cosmeagardens
  • Matt
  • jodyrah
  • FS
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


Pamela L. May 9, 2021
Take an extra moment when buying , lift the bunch up and look at the bottom ... you're looking for vibrant, fleshy green leaves. Not smashed or starting to slime or already moldy. This tells you more about freshness and quality than the blooms themselves.
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 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!