Design

How to Arrange Grocery Store Flowers

One of life’s simple pleasures is picking out a $4.99 flower bouquet from Trader Joe’s. But whenever I bring one home, the flowers lose their luster. The petals wilt, the stems droop and the entire arrangement looks crowded. Thankfully, my friend (and stylist) Kendra Smoot agreed to share five ways to kick supermarket flowers up a notch…

How to arrange grocery store flowers by Kendra Smoot

1. Turn your roses. “My favorite Instagram florists — like brrch or wildfolk — employ this technique. Peel off the outer dry petals and then turn a few petals to create this delicate and elegant shape. You can also remove all but the highest two to three leaves for an even simpler look.”

How to arrange grocery store flowers by Kendra Smoot

2. Get creative with your vases. “A few unconventional vessels make even baby’s breath look special. Thrifted ceramics, a cool wine bottle and handmade pottery all make great containers. Wolves Within, Melanie Abrantes and General Store have pretty selections, too.”

How to arrange grocery store flowers, by Kendra Smoot

3. Create a dinner table centerpiece. “Remove a handful of leaves and petals from your bouquet. Layer the individual stems down the center of the table, alternating direction (think toe to nose). Then sprinkle the extra petals and leaves over the stems to create width and depth. I love the idea of waking up the morning after a dinner party to find a table strewn with empty wine bottles, wilted flowers and the memory of good conversation.”

How to arrange grocery store flowers by Kendra Smoot

4. Think outside the bouquet. “Try using flowers as party place settings or gift toppers. Regular flowers also get an upgrade when you mix in a sprig of something wild. Do a little foraging — don’t be sneaky and cut your neighbor’s prized roses — but a wild weed from a vacant lot can add a bit of poetry to a conventionally grown flower.”

How to arrange grocery store flowers by Kendra Smoot

5. Stick to a palette. “Consider buying a few bunches of flowers in the same color family. I like to mix something droopy, like tulips, with something stiffer, like lilacs. Remove any leaves that will be below the water line. (To feel like a professional florist, say you are ‘processing’ your flowers.)”

Kendra Smoot

Do you have any tips and tricks to add? Thank you so much, Kendra!

P.S. Three more ways to arrange supermarket flowers, and the prettiest spring nail polish.

(Photos and styling by Kendra Smoot. Tall purple vase by Judy Jackson. Small purple vase by Heath Ceramics. Baby’s breath vase from Jayson Home.)

  1. My favorite flower go-to tip is that when the flowers first start to droop and look like they’re heading towards the end of their lives, adding a tablespoon or two of vodka to the water can perk the flowers right up for up to another 4 days! Never fails for me.

    xx

  2. Beautiful tips!! I Like it! It’s so helpful for us. Thanks for sharing.

  3. My mother used to walk the paths of a cemetery near our house and she found the discard pile of dying flowers. She’d pick out whatever was still pretty and dry them in bunches around our house. She was also known to cut vines from our property or along country roads and arrange them around a window or on a mantle. This works well in the colder months when there aren’t leaves, but just artful, twisted twigs.

  4. Heather D says...

    My husband will sometimes bring home a grocery store bouquet of wildflowers. I cut them short and arrange them loosely in a jar. It feels very relaxed and Laura Ingalls Wilder-y to me.

  5. In my neighborhood, there’s a row of purple lilac bushes around a city parking lot. I was walking there a few days ago and notices a lilac branch on the ground (likely from the wind).

    I just took it home and put it in a clear bottle and it looked like the most natural refreshing thing on my countertop. Plus, the smell was amazing and spread to all the rooms in the house.

    • Love this anecdote! I can see it unfolding like a tiny film.

  6. Nicole Wight says...

    The “stick to the same color pallet” reminded me of two weddings I was in as a bridesmaid. In one, we each carried a different white flower (I was lucky and got gorgeous calla lilies) and the bride’s bouquet had all the bridesmaid’s flowers. In another we each carried a different colored tulip, and the bride’s bouquet was made up of all the colors. Simple and beautiful both ways.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds really beautiful!

  7. patricia blaettler says...

    When some of the flowers in the arrangement start dying, I pull them out and use whichever elements still look good to create other, smaller arrangements. Even if it’s only a few blooms to put on your bedside table, the value (joy) continues.

  8. SFOrd says...

    If the top of your vase is very wide and you don’t want your stems to fall to one side, create grid of sellotape over the mouth of the vase and put the stems in the gaps, finish the edges of the grid with greenery so you cant see the sellotape stuck over the lip of the vase.

    • CG says...

      great tip!

    • Mina says...

      This is genius!

  9. cgw says...

    First I need a clear dining table top to house my beautifully arranged store bought flowers!

  10. A great tip to preserve a bouquet longer is to dissolve a teaspoon of sugar in hot water and add it and a tablespoon of white vinegar to your vase. The sugar is a natural food for the flowers and the vinegar helps kill any bacteria. Works like a charm!

  11. Love these ideas. I definitely want to try the the flowers as a place setting. So chic.

  12. Tovah says...

    Once you have your arrangement in hand just the way you’d like it, slide your vase near the edge of the table and line up your bouquet with the vase’s top rim, then cut (with scissors skimming the top of the table) so you can snip the stems to their perfect lengths all at once.

  13. D.D. Jeanne says...

    I always just buy a few different filler flowers and put them in a pitcher. They last much longer than the regular flowers and look more natural/wild flower-esque.

  14. Lisa says...

    I wish Kendra would have sourced her flowers from the many farmers markets here in Nor Ca! Sadly, cheap flowers have a high price tag for the planet and people. They are typically flown in from South America, heavily sprayed, and picked by people who live in poverty. I’m a flower farmer who sells $8-10 bouquets at my local farmers market (organic).

    • Sbe says...

      Eye opening. Thanks.

    • Emily Newhall says...

      Agreed. Visiting Ecuador and learning about the destructive rose industry makes me want to support local, organic growers.

    • Kara says...

      Former florist here. Yes to all of this, and I’d add that while DDT was banned in the US in the 70’s, it definitely wasn’t in those South American countries. Too many times I opened a box of roses from Colombia (it wasn’t my shop; I didn’t get to make sourcing decisions) and the stems were covered in a scary white powder that made my hands itch all day. If you touch imported flowers, you are potentially exposing yourself to pesticides that are illegal here for good reason.

  15. Alex says...

    I would add an arranging tip – just follow the flowers. Put them in a vase in a way so that every flower has its space and they don’t get in each other’s way. They should “breathe”, visually. Put the heavier/fuller flowers on the “bottom” and let anything that is “thinner”, lighter, more delicate, stand higher in the whole arrangement.

    • Angela says...

      This was very helpful for me-thanks. I struggle sometimes with what lengths to cut stems, etc when arranging. Anyway, giving them their own space is helpful.

  16. Ramona says...

    this reminds me of ‘high’ and ‘low’ outfits; pairing simple, inexpensive pieces with beautiful, high end pieces/accessories. just looking at it with a creative eye and making stunning looks.

  17. Blythe says...

    I love adding herbs to my arrangements in home. Fresh Thyme and Rosemary look great and smell DIVINE!

  18. Brittney says...

    I recommend supporting your local economy and local farmer by purchasing flowers from local flower farmers, farmers markets, or florists who source from local farmers! Local and seasonal flowers are more beautiful, last longer, and smell better than their imported counterparts!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, brittney!

    • Sara says...

      This! ❤️❤️❤️

  19. As a professional floral designer, I often find that artistic, natural movement is what’s lacking in most arrangements. Go outside and cut a few branches or stems of something green that’s had to bend to find the light. That curvy line will amp up your grocery store blooms in a major way!

    • Tumea says...

      Wow, that’s so thoughtful. Thanks for the great tip!

  20. Anna says...

    I love a compact, low arrangement of flowers, especially as a dinner table centerpiece. Easier to talk over ; )
    Also, thrift stores are the best source for vases and other vessels. Cheap, and there’s always a large selection.

  21. Zoe says...

    I just bought my mom a bouquet of crepe paper flowers for Mother’s Day and I CAN’T WAIT to surprise her with flowers that won’t die and are so exquisitely made they’re like a true work of art. Here’s where I got mine but there are a lot of good options on Etsy too! https://www.amaranthuspaperflora.com/

    • Yulia says...

      Exquisite is exactly the word. These are so dreamily beautiful!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, they really are so beautiful!

    • Amanda says...

      I made crepe paper flowers like these for my wedding centerpieces (paired with thrifted and vintage vases)…… they were beautiful and whimsical, not to mention far less expensive than live flowers. I like them so much better than the traditional “fake” silk flowers, because they’re crafty on purpose and tell a fun visual story vs. trying to pose as something they’re not. I have a couple of the smaller arrangements around my house and they are such fun little reminders of that day.

  22. gfy says...

    I just find greenery from the garden and stick it in a vase/jar/bowl…it always looks amazing. Also, a few sprigs of flowering herbs look great too.

  23. Lindsay Burt says...

    Tip #3 looks beautiful but would last about 3 seconds with my cat, whose favorite game is to be shooed of the table.

  24. m says...

    Thank you for this!! Hot topic in my household right now as I’ve been on a Trader Joe’s flower buying kick.

  25. Emma says...

    My grandpa used to always pick a single flower from their garden, put it in a small empty perfume bottle, and set it on top of their piano to await my grandma’s discovery. It was so simple, yet so elegant all at the same time. I remember one time trying to achieve the same look in my own bedroom as an 8 year old. All I could find was an empty, plastic hotel mouth wash bottle, but I thought it was beautiful! Haha

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that is the sweetest, emma.

    • Julie says...

      How sweet!

  26. KJG says...

    Trim whatever bouquet or flowers you buy and put them in slightly warm water! They draw up the water even more so when it’s on the warm side.
    I try to replace the water everyday if it’s easy to. That helps!

  27. Joaquina says...

    These are great yet simple tips!

    My gripe with grocery store-purchased flowers is that they inevitably come wrapped in plastic. At least here in southern CA, many of us activists are urging people to ditch the use of plastic and find more earth-friendly alternatives. Fortunately, this movement is also occurring in Kenya, Holland, Denmark, and England.

    Trader Joe’s is notorious for their abundance of plastic-wrapped products.
    So while the cheaper price of flowers is tempting, the cost of plastic onto our precious planet is very, very high. That’s why I’ve chosen to only purchase from local flower stands that will allow me to carry out the flowers in paper or without wrap.

    Just my (unsolicited) two cents :)

    • Sophie says...

      Thanks for pointing this out! I hadn’t thought about that before, but you’re right it’s a shameful use of plastic.

    • Tumea says...

      So important!! Thanks for writing this!

  28. Irina says...

    A tip for tulips – use a safety pin to poke a hole through the stem (perpendicular) right underneath the flower. Apparently this lets gas bubble out and stops the tulips from drooping, and it really works!

    • Michelle says...

      Another tip I got today when buying them in hot Arizona is to put them in a vase of iced water to keep them closed longer. Hopefully it works

  29. Growing up on a cut flower farm and spending twenty years as a floral designer, I would say the biggest things to help people feel less intimidated about flowers are – always re-cut your flowers (and at an angle), use warm water in your vase, check water levels every day. Most people forget this step and add water when they are wilted beyond coming back. I would always suggest trying to find something sweet outside to pick. Flowers should make you feel good – not stressed. Pick flowers that you love, not what is trendy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great tips, thank you!

    • Lucy says...

      Amazing tips! I buy a lot of tulips and I once heard somewhere that they like very cold water (i.e., perk them up by adding ice cubes). Is this true, or is warm water best for them as well?

  30. Great tips! I like using flower bricks, or a “grid-lid vase”, to make quick arrangements from a grocery store bundle or flowers from my yard.

    You just pop the stems through the holes in the lid — so easy!

  31. Grace says...

    I use quick dip to hydrate my flowers and they last for ages. That plus a pair of real flower shears is most of what you need. There are other tricks here and there, like pricking tulips with a pin right under the bud to stop them from drooping.

  32. Avalanche Lake says...

    I love hydrangeas but sometimes you bring them home and the next day they’re all wilted! So I learned (from the internet) that you can lay them (flowers and stems) in a bathtub filled with cool water and they will soak it all up and revive! Last time I did this, they lasted for days and days after the soak.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      ooooh, thank you!

    • judy says...

      Thank you! I’ve always wondered why some hydrangeas wilt and some don’t, even from the same batch. I’m going to try this!

  33. This is lovely! But I think the real question is, why do these supermarket flowers wilt and droop so quickly? Actually the cut flower business relies heavily on imports from warm countries (where flowers can grow all year round) and the practice is to spike these flowers full of chemicals to conserve them and keep them in energy-consuming refrigerators to make them survive the journey… Ending up with an enormous carbon footprint;) I don’t know what Trader Joe’s policy is on flowers, but I think a good idea is to make sure the flowers we buy are grown in a sustainable way (there are certificates for that). Here’s an article that talks about it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/flowers-may-be-nice-for-mom-but-theyre-terrible-for-mother-earth/2015/05/07/fb69f9f4-f4d5-11e4-b2f3-af5479e6bbdd_story.html

  34. Glamdoc says...

    I often by loads of tall ´filler greens´ and add one or two flower stems that pop :) Eucalyptus keeps forever.

    • Glamdoc says...

      Diana below beat me too it but it´s a great tip. That way you can spruce up your kitchen/dining room/hall/bathrooms for lots of bang for your buck.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great tip. i looooove eucalyptus in our bedroom bc it doesn’t seem to need a lot of light and lasts forever.

    • Emily says...

      We have a bush with pretty, glossy leaves that I cut from all summer to create a nice greenery arrangement! They last easily for two weeks. Two fuller branches in a tall, white pitcher is my go-to.

    • SFOrd says...

      Ecalyptus stems in a steamy bathroom smell great

  35. DIANA says...

    Tip 1: hang on to any hearty “filler” flowers or branches and dry them to keep around as a minimal, no-maintenance arrangement. I do this with Eucalyptus branches and Eryngium from my bodega.

    Tip 2: use graphic coffee and tomato cans as vases. Saw this in Bon Appetit magazine once and thought it looked super chic.

  36. Cynthia says...

    Another tip from my daughter, the floral designer. Don’t mix daffodils with any other flowers because they secrete a slime that will cause the other flowers to wilt. Mason jars are great for arrangements, as well as small pitchers.

    • DIANA says...

      Yes, this is a big one!

  37. Lovely! Thanks for the rose tip! I like to use a few green leaves or stems in a bud vase as an unexpected accent – plus it lasts for weeks! Even if it dries out, it usually still looks presentable. See what I mean here: https://bit.ly/2I0St2G

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  38. Hello! I’m a florist and I love Kendra’s ideas. My extra tip would be to not keep your vase of flowers right near the fruit bowl or any fruit arrangement on your table. The ethylene gas emitted as the fruit ripens makes your flowers die quicker :)

  39. APaige says...

    This is a tulip tip. Not sure if it works for other flowers. I like to let tulips do their own thing, but by day four or so when they are getting a little *too* droopy and dolorus, I chuck a couple of pennies in the vase and the trace of copper or whatever magical alchemy they provide makes the tulips stand up at attention again like little soldiers.
    It’s amazing!

    • Agnes says...

      I bought tulips 2 days ago and will DEFINITELY be doing this in a couple days’ time! Thank you!

  40. Becca Lynn says...

    I love TJ’s flower section! I’ve found they have even cheaper filler greens (1.99 sometimes) that look beautiful on their own in the right vase, no flowers needed. Or, I’ll buy one set of 4.99 flowers of substantial scale and pair them with a bunch of filler greens for a larger centerpiece.

  41. jeannie says...

    These are great tips! I especially like the one about choosing different flowers in the same color palette and pairing droopy ones with stiffer ones. I usually just by one type of flower and stick the bouquet in a vase.

  42. Sarah says...

    Buying only one type of flower is my biggest and best tip. that’s the easiest way to make cheap flowers look chic.

    • Eliza says...

      A few bunches of white OR natural blush carnations almost look like peonies when they’re all together!

  43. Claire says...

    Cut the stems of a bouquet of roses down to about 10cms and put them in a small glass tumbler so that the flower head is resting on the lid of the glass. It looks so chic!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love that idea!

  44. Hani says...

    A ritual near and dear to my heart!
    Prob everyone knows these tips but, I keep a pair of scissors handy to snip off the bottoms of the stems every couple days so the flowers can draw water. Snip just above the saturation mark. Using the little included nutrient packet helps keep them fresh too! If I’m feeling especially attentive, I’ll pop my vases in the fridge overnight–that easily adds an extra 4-5 days of ‘shelf life’, nice if we are having a few rounds of visitors.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a great tip! i have some peonies that are starting to wilt and i’m going to try this tonight :)

    • Cynthia says...

      Yes! My youngest daughter, who is a floral designer passed along that tip, along with changing the water every day.

    • Katie says...

      The fridge makes SUCH a difference, if you have the space. We keep our arrangements (often wild or from TJ’s) in a walk-in cooler at work overnight and they’ll last for 2 weeks. Left out at ambient temp it’s more like 6 days…

  45. Jill says...

    My grandma always added a small dash of sugar to the water if she didn’t have any plant food. I don’t know if it’s proven scientifically, but I have found it keeps them alive a little longer! Not an arrangement tip, but helpful to make that $4.99 last even longer.

    • Genevieve says...

      Yes! I think it works :)

    • Yep! Flower food in the little packets is best, but if you don’t have any, a pinch of sugar will feed the flowers. You can also use a splash of Sprite or lemon-lime soda….the sugar provides the food and the citric acid will kill some of the bacteria in the vase, letting the flowers last a bit longer :)