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Special section Thrifty gifting

Surprise! More flowers are bought for Xmas than Mother's Day -- how to buy and how to save.

Flowers: The perfect gift at any price

Flowers: The perfect gift at any price
 

Flowers just might be the anti-fruitcake -- a gift suitable for anyone on your list, available anywhere, at virtually any price point. But where do you go to get the best bouquet for the buck?

During the holidays, there are three places to buy:
A big-box store like Wal-Mart or Target.
A grocery or supermarket.
A florist.

All have pros and cons.

"The bottom line is you can get a good deal lots of different places," says Art Cameron, a horticulture professor at Michigan State University.

Christmas and Hanukkah are the No. 1 floral holiday times
You may be surprised to learn that Christmas and Hanukkah are the top holiday times for flowers in number of sales and dollar volume -- capturing 30 percent of each -- according to The Society of American Florists, or SAF.

Mother's Day is second, with 24 percent of the transactions and 25 percent of the dollar volume, while Valentine's Day comes in third. The figures are based on sales of cut flowers and potted plants at all types of retail outlets.

"Christmas is a season of sales, as compared to a single-day holiday such as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day," says Jenny Stromann, director of consumer marketing for the SAF. "So it makes sense that it is at the top of the ranking for consumer purchasing."

Surely no surprise, poinsettias account for 83 percent of flowering plant sales -- with 70 million to 80 million sold -- followed by cyclamen, kalanchoe, Christmas cactus, holly, spruce, boxwood, amaryllis, paperwhite narcissus, tulips and hyacinths. According to the SAF, 57 percent of people who buy flowers are buying for themselves, while the remaining 43 percent are buying gifts. Friends are the top recipients at 21 percent, while moms and wives tie for second, each at 15 percent.

Big-box stores
If price is your sole criteria, "You're probably going to one of those big boxes," Cameron says.  "The independents may treat you better or wrap it prettier, but on a dollar-for-dollar basis, they're going to have a hard time competing."

It used to be that the plant quality was inferior at superstores, Cameron says. But today, because the supplying grower probably won't get paid until that poinsettia is actually scanned at the cash register, that's less true.

"It behooves the grower to have as good quality as they can," he says.

Lower prices, however, usually mean there are certain sacrifices. First, your choices are more likely to be limited to potted plants like poinsettias rather than cut flowers. And there's no delivery service, so it's only an option for yourself or local gift recipients.

 
 
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