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Why Valentine's flowers cost so much

Whatever you do on Valentine's Day, don't forget the flowers.

If you're buying blooms for Feb. 14, you're in good company. Consumers purchased 180 million roses in 2005 and 189 million roses were produced for the big day in 2006, according to figures from the Society of American Florists.

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Most popular: the traditional red rose. "It's basically a red-rose holiday," says Don Howell, operations manager for Pajaro Valley Greenhouses in Watsonville, Calif.

And there's a reason for that.

The red rose "traditionally signifies love," says Jennifer Sparks, vice president of marketing for the Society of American Florists.

While red remains the best seller by far, "We are seeing other colors are popular as well: pink, peach or salmon, and yellow," says Sparks, who adds that mixing various colors of roses is also gaining in popularity.

Gerald Prolman, CEO of OrganicBouquet.com, a national online retailer of organic flowers, agrees. "We're finding a very large trend, a shifting trend to specific colors of roses," he says. "I would say that in terms of volume, 45 percent of roses will be red and 55 percent will be different color combinations."

Buying for someone other than a sweetie? Or maybe you're not quite ready to proclaim your passion with roses? Tulips, carnations and lilies are also big sellers on Feb. 14.

While roses account for 56 percent of the cut flowers sold on Valentine's Day, a mixed arrangement is the second most popular choice with 23 percent, according to a 2005 Society of American Florists survey.

"Basically anything that's red or pink," says Christine Boldt, executive vice president of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida. "When you go into the store, Valentine's Day is red or pink. And, in a lot of arrangements what you see will be red, white and pink."

A little green
But if you're thinking red, white or pink, chances are you could be more than a little worried about your own green. Last year, a dozen roses from a florist averaged about $70 excluding delivery, according to Sparks. That's not expected to change this year, she says.

But if you think the price of roses goes up at Valentine's Day, you're not imagining things.

"It's the most expensive time" to buy roses, says Sparks. "Everybody wants roses on one single day in the middle of winter."

At the same time, growers, importers, suppliers and retailers claim that no one's getting rich from all those flowery tokens of romance.

"In reality, nobody's making more money at the holiday," says Boldt. "It just costs more to get the product there."

Because there is so much volume, the airlines have to add extra planes, she says. Trucking lines add extra routes and drivers and importers are on call 24/7 to collect the flowers as they arrive. Florists, who might do as much as eight to 10 times their normal business on the holiday, often need extra staff to meet the demand.

In addition, to stimulate plants to produce on that target date, growers often have to "pinch" their plants in November or December, sacrificing an earlier crop. "A lot of times growers will lose a lot of roses to have enough to fulfill demand for the one single day in February," says Sparks.

"So it's not just because everybody wants to double the price or triple the price," Boldt says. "It's because the costs all along are doubled or tripled for a one-day holiday."

 
 
Next: "January is a cold month."
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