Flowers

How to Turn $10 Trader Joe’s Flowers Into a Fancy-Schmancy Bouquet

It's not just its frozen foods aisles we love.

December 17, 2021
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Last weekend, I wandered into a flower shop to buy blooms for a friend’s birthday. Everything was beautiful and lush and wild, and I was happily putting together a lovely bouquet—until I realized that peonies cost $14. Per stem.

I love the simple, everyday pleasure of flowers. I treat my apartment, each week, to a bunch of feverfew or ranunculus, or whatever’s in season, and I think a bouquet makes an old-fashioned, charming gift. But I’m quite honestly tired of shelling out over $50 for the delivery of a standard-issue bouquet that I don’t even really love. (I don’t know about you, but it takes ages to sift through some pretty garishly assembled options just to even get to the handful that don’t make my eyes bleed—those rainbow bouquets destroy me.)

One of my decisions this year has been to switch to more affordable, DIY options. I swing by my corner deli or supermarket, pick my own flowers, rearrange them, re-wrap them with some fun bits and bobs, and give them as a gift. (Or I just keep them—a nice-looking vessel can work magic!) This way, I rarely spend more than $10-12 on a bunch I genuinely like, and I also manage to get my weekly grocery shopping done at the same time.

I walked out of that shop and headed straight to the source for my weekly flower treat: yes, it’s Trader Joe’s (but it could be your corner deli). And, with a couple of simple flourishes, I whipped together a wild summer bouquet for $10 to present to my friend.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I always appreciate receiving a bouquet of flowers, even if they are still wrapped in plastic with the plant food taped to the stems. But it's amazing how quickly and easily a person could transform a bunch of convenience store flowers into a thoughtful gift, simply by doing what you've said... remove the plastic, trim the ends, remove things that look too busy, and wrap with paper and ribbon. I also agree 100% with your strategy of sticking with one type or color of flower. Grocery store bouquets often have a blend of flowers that don't seem to have had any particular end aesthetic in mind. The Trader Joe's alstromerias are a huge value for the dollar (they look great for almost two weeks) and you can add a bunch of the gunni eucalyptus (the variety with elongated leaves) as a pretty filler.”
— Emily S.
Comment

Here are my four steps to dress up flowers—from the grocery store, bodega, even the farmstand—to make them a bit dressier, for gifting at a birthday, shower, summer dinner party, or just because. It’s genuinely possible to create a lovely, giftable bouquet for less—and to enjoy the creativity of doing it yourself, too.

1. Buy Flowers In All One Type.

The first step to an elegant-looking bouquet? Keep it simple (and safe). Either opt for one type of flower in one color or both. You can do just yellow tulips for instance, or pick a color, say, purple, and do an all-purple arrangement, with purple roses and lilacs (of course, the more you mix and match, the more you spend). Grocery stores often sell bunches of single types of blooms so it’s a no-brainer really; it’ll make your bouquet look effortlessly elegant and make your life easier, too.

To keep costs down, for my friend's bouquet, I opted for a single bunch of gerbera daisies (you could also go with roses or tulips) and then proceeded to add in a tall, wispy green leaf filler—for a grand total of just over $7. Speaking of fillers: When in doubt, fresh eucalyptus is always a great idea. In fact, if the recipient of your bouquet is so inclined, you can also put together a bouquet with just mixed greens as the main feature of the arrangement.

2. Unwrap, Cut, And Style.

When you get home, take all of the plastic wrapping and rubber bands off of the flowers (save the rubber bands for styling later). Before arranging the flowers, make sure to remove any extra or wilted leaves, and in the case of flowers like roses, the thorns. Then, arrange the flowers whichever way you like. If they’re one type of flower, I prefer to arrange them at roughly the same height, with any filler poking out a bit higher. To adjust heights, re-cut the stems on the diagonal (it allows the stems to absorb water better).

If you’re feeling braver than me, cut the flowers at slightly varying lengths to give the arrangement a more freshly-picked, farmhouse feel. When in doubt, always leave the stems a little bit longer than you think—that way the recipient can cut them to whatever size vase they have. Hold the arranged bouquet in place with the rubber bands.

3. Re-Wrap.

The real trick to gussying up grocery store blooms? Giving them an upgrade from their plastic wrapping. Find a beautiful piece of paper: It could be a square of brown butcher paper (I personally love this option), old newsprint, a length of wrapping paper, or even—for smaller posies—a vibrant page torn from a magazine. For my friend's bouquet, I used a spare length of wrapping paper that I loved and had saved: a cream background with black checks.

Place the paper diagonally on a flat surface, then wrap it around your flowers in the shape of a cone and use clear tape or staples to secure it in place, at the top and bottom. I like to position the flower heads in one corner of the paper, then wrap, to help display and support them.

Pro tip: If you want to keep your flowers fresh and hydrated until you’re ready to gift them, try wrapping the base of the stems in a slightly damp towel, a trick I learned here.

4. Add The Finishing Touches.

For an optional final touch, use some string, ribbon, or raffia (extra points for reusing and recycling) to tie around the paper. You can cut two unobtrusive holes in the back of the cone and thread the ribbon through to keep it from slipping off.

Voilà. A thoughtful, personalized bouquet (in my case, for under $10).

What are your go-to flowers at the bodega or supermarket? Tell us in the comments below.

This article was updated in December 2021 because it's always a good time to save on flowers.

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Annie Quigley

Written by: Annie Quigley

Writer

21 Comments

machaggis January 23, 2022
I once worked as a florist and I think there is never enough greenery in bouquets here. I add greenery from my garden or I buy some. It is normally cheap to do so. It is like keeping the picture but framing it better.

 
cyndi January 20, 2022
This article is pointless without photos
 
Susan G. January 21, 2022
Agree!
 
Jody January 20, 2022
When my son was in high school, I always did his date's flowers for dances. I'd buy a couple of TJ's bouquets and pull out what a wanted for a small handheld bouquet. I'd wrap the stems in florist's wire, a damp paper towel and plastic wrap and then wrap them with a ribbon and tie a couple of ribbon streamers on them. They were lovely, the girls adored them and I had enough flowers left over for a nice bouquet at home. :-)
 
Lisa S. January 20, 2022
Great tips, but would’ve loved to have seen actual pics of some arrangements using TJ’s bouquets.
 
Emily January 20, 2022
My thoughts exactly!!
 
Susan C. January 22, 2022
Yes, photos of the arrangements definitely would have added value as I do the same with TJ's flowers. I love the idea of using brown butcher paper - excellent tip, thank you.
 
Sue M. January 20, 2022
I bring flowers, either from the grocer or the garden (or some combo) wherever I go. I cut the stems and trim leaves as you've suggested, but then wrap the stems with either a wet paper towel folded to create a bit of a 'diaper' (I sometimes use wet newsprint instead), an slip a small plastic sandwich bag over that. I wrap with colorful tissue paper & ribbon or string. Then blooms stay fresh during transport with this method, and I have a 'thing' for tissue paper...so it all good!
 
nita January 20, 2022
I've pretty much stopped buying cut flowers (except roses occasionally ). I tend to buy flowering plants (orchids, lily ) or bulbs (paperwhites, amarylis, hyacinth, tulips ). They add color and last longer than cut flowers.
 
Sarah January 7, 2022
I found it refreshing to hear that I am not the only one frustrated by flower companies. Over the last year it would have been a great time to improve upon the bouquets, pricing and delivery of flowers. The perfect way to brighten a day. Yet the system has been over run with over priced filler flowers, late shipping, rotted and unavailable bouquets. Yes, I had all of these happen before I stopped buying flowers to ship too.

So many people are growing their own gardens now. The flowers make it to those bodegas, and even hardware stores. Simple blooms with fresh wrapping and ribbon will make $10 look like $50 in no time. Thank you for sharing, I couldn’t not agree more.
 
Katherine G. January 6, 2022
Annie Quigley, I'd love to see some pictures of what you've actually arranged rather than the stock photo that accompanied this article. Could you please post some? Thanks!
 
Annie L. December 23, 2021
Love this!!! <3
I often like the idea of giving flowers— just a little something (for a hostess gift/to let friends know I’m thinking about them, etc), but hesitate because I don’t like the plastic of grocery bouquets and feels so generic, and professional florist arrangements (which I love and will do for bigger reasons/occassions) can be cost prohibitive for just a little ‘somethin-somethin’. Not sure why I never thought to do some of these easy steps to personalize flowers before, but, seriously, these EaSY and FUN tips change that entirely— I am sure I will get flowers more often. Yay!
THANK YOU!
 
Emily S. December 22, 2021
These are the same tips I always use, Annie! I always appreciate receiving a bouquet of flowers, even if they are still wrapped in plastic with the plant food taped to the stems. But it's amazing how quickly and easily a person could transform a bunch of convenience store flowers into a thoughtful gift, simply by doing what you've said... remove the plastic, trim the ends, remove things that look too busy, and wrap with paper and ribbon. I also agree 100% with your strategy of sticking with one type or color of flower. Grocery store bouquets often have a blend of flowers that don't seem to have had any particular end aesthetic in mind. The Trader Joe's alstromerias are a huge value for the dollar (they look great for almost two weeks) and you can add a bunch of the gunni eucalyptus (the variety with elongated leaves) as a pretty filler.
 
RhonniLee December 20, 2021
I'm so sorry for the negative remarks. You did a nice job and never claimed to be a professional florist, so I don't understand the negativity. I found this article to be helpful and I'll be applying what I've learned here.
 
JenGnsbrg August 1, 2019
I was excited about this article because the picture caught my eye. But then in the article it states buy all the same flower....the picture is an elaborate bouquet with many kinds of flowers when her article states something completely different. Big let down.
 
Emily S. December 22, 2021
It's a stock photo. I think the author may not even be aware of the photo that the website paired with her article. You can still put her tips into practice and get the effect you're looking for... You can buy multiple bunches of flowers at Trader Joe's for under $10 and remove the plastic, trim the ends, adjust the height, add filler, and wrap with paper and ribbon to have a very nice bouquet for a friend! Much less expensive than prepared options at a florist's shop.
 
Vi A. July 31, 2019
I'm confused about the purpose of this article. Is the purpose of this article about how to gift flowers? Otherwise, why would you rewrap in paper and add ribbon to the bouquet? I thought it was how to buy flowers for yourself since you budget $10 a week for flowers. I had different expectations for this article. I have a friend that won't buy TJ's flowers because she doesn't think they last for very long. So, I was hoping you might share when to buy them, tips for making them last longer, which flowers to buy, and how to arrange them so I could have inexpensive but beautiful flower in my home. Personally, I'm a fan of TJ's plants and orchids. It's a great place to buy uncommon plants (like Chinese money plant (Pilea Peperomioides)) and super cheap orchids.
 
Lynn B. December 18, 2021
Totally agree - article was misleading....
 
CAndreaW December 18, 2021
Florist here…Regarding vase life, there isn’t much you can do besides cutting stems on an angle, stripping foliage at the water line and keeping water clean and clear to extend the life. Using flower food packets help. Flowers are stressed when you get them because regardless of where they’re bought (farmer’s markets/local farms excepted) many flowers are cut and stored several days in advance, and changing hands before they get to the end customer. Hybrid Roses are cut weeks in advance before shipping. We designers have various conditioning treatments we use, and we try to buy the high grades of quality of blooms (TJ is bottom grade). There really is no such thing as ‘fresh cut’ flowers. And you’re right, this article was totally pointless and unhelpful. Obviously not written by a real florist…
 
Emily S. December 22, 2021
Try the alstromerias at Trader Joe's! They make a nice, full arrangement in the right vase. They are a great value for the dollar and they look good for two weeks, if you trim the ends and replace the water regularly.
 
Katherine G. January 6, 2022
I agree entirely, Emily! I've had TJ's flowers last even longer - I always trim the stems under running water as an old florist friend of mine advised.