TORONTO — Roses are red, violets are blue, florists have some advice for you: If you want to save this Valentine's Day, don't choose roses for your bouquet.
While roses tend to be the flower of choice come Feb. 14, experts say other blooms are more affordable, look just as great and often don't wilt as quickly.
"I would always urge people ... to consider having other flowers that maybe last a little bit longer, that haven't been bred so heavily," said Becky De Oliveira, owner and creative director at Toronto flower business Blush and Bloom.
"You're going to have a little bit more flexibility and flower longevity in varieties that might outlast a rose, but also maybe price-wise, are slightly better per stem."
De Oliveira's advice comes as Valentine's Day marketing is in full swing and Canadians are selecting the gifts they'll exchange to mark the annual celebration.
But as they consider how to show their love, the country is also contending with an inflation rate that sits above the Bank of Canada's two per cent target and has pushed up the price of everyday essentials like groceries and luxuries, including flowers.
While $20 bouquets are aplenty in grocery stores, most arrangements at flower shops and online floral services can cost a lot more, even upwards of hundreds of dollars.
Some flowers, especially the always-popular Valentine's rose, can be particularly expensive in February because most are grown outside Canada and need to be shipped in and kept at frigid temperatures so they last.
"People think a lot of the time it's florists just trying to make extra money, but ... farmers are working in other countries around the clock trying to meet the demands of this one day or one week," De Oliveira said.
To fulfil everyone's needs, sometimes farms pick the flowers a bit earlier than they usually would and even send out ones they might not at other times of year, said Catherine Metrycki, the founder of Callia, a Winnipeg-based floral business.
"The value is not there for red roses realistically. It's just not," she said.
"You're going to way overpay and you're going to get a much smaller stem of rose than you would at any other time."
Instead of roses, De Oliveira recommends tulips, ranunculus, hyacinths, freesias and carnations, which still look gorgeous and are often not as costly.
"Carnations come in really beautiful colours now and don't necessarily have the same stigma attached to them as they once did," she said, referring to their association with funerals.
"Millennial and younger generations are considering them as, like, a granny chic flower that's making its way back and is very affordable."
If you still have your heart set on roses, Metrycki recommends shoppers think pink.
"You could save as much as 30 or even 40 per cent on a single rose stem, if you go more diverse on your colour selection," she said.
The length of your roses offers a way to save too, said Don Waltho, the founder of the Canadian Institute of Floral Design in Toronto.
On the more elaborate side, he's seen roses up to six feet long, but a shorter stem is more affordable.
Gift givers can also consider spray roses, which sell for $40 or $50 per dozen and have stems that each grow several smaller flowers. Or, they can add a few roses to an arrangement with other more affordable blooms.
No matter what you buy, De Oliveira recommends shopping early — not because of price, but because of selection.
If you're walking into a flower shop on Feb. 13 or 14 and wanting roses with two specific white flowers in the middle to represent two of your kids, you might be out of luck or have to go to several places, she said.
Instead, you'll often find pricey arrangements no one picked up or more niche offerings like potted plants.
"You basically have to choose from what's there and what hasn't been spoken for," she said.
"You get what you get and you don't get upset because you're late."
Whenever you buy, expect to pay extra for delivery, said Metrycki, who recommends people research the company they are purchasing from to see whether it has a reputation for delivering flowers on time and in good condition.
And if you're feeling stressed about the costs or the dizzying array of options, she reminds people, "your relationship will not live or die by your Valentine's Day flowers."
"It's about the thought that counts and it's the sentiment," she said.
"A handwritten card and a coupon for a backrub probably goes just as far as a super fancy bouquet."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2024.
Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press