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Why Don’t You Buy Flowers?

Posted by on October 31, 2006 in Cut Flowers


The floral industry is touting the results of yet another study that demonstrates the benefits of flowers.  There have been several of these studies, conducted in partnership with the Society of American Florists, over the last few years, including:

A Rutgers University study showing that flowers make people happy.  The study, which was published in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, compared the reactions of women who were given a bouquet of flowers, a scented candle, or a fruit basket.  (Huh.  A fruit basket.  Would you believe it–they liked the flowers best!) 

A Texas A&M study showed that workers were more productive if they had plants or flowers on their desk than they were if they had "an abstract sculpture" or nothing extra on their desk at all.

And now a new study, this one from Harvard, shows that people report less worry and anxiety, and more positive feelings like compassion and enthusiasm, when they were in the presence of flowers as compared to an undescribed "control home decor item."  (sorry, I haven’t been able to figure out what the  "control home decor item" was.)

Now, I understand the thinking behind these studies, I really do.  If only people appreciated the benefits of flowers, they’d buy more of them.   Seems logical, right?  After all, reports about the health benefits of olive oil, red wine, and chocolate have probably boosted sales of those products, right?  And they make good copy for press releases, generating a little positive flower PR in magazines and newspapers.

But I wonder–do these studies really address the reasons people don’t buy flowers–or don’t buy more flowers?  Are people really going around thinking, "You know, I’d buy some flowers, but I just don’t think the data supports it.  If only someone would do a study and convince me that flowers will make me happy, I’d go buy them."

Somehow I don’t think so.  At least–that’s now how it works for me.  Why do I buy flowers?  Lust.  Check out the photo above–an arrangement of flowers I made for a friend’s wedding–I look at those flowers and I am filled with pure, unadorned lust.  I just have to have them.

So fabulous flowers can sell themselves to me.  But what are the other factors that play into a decision to buy flowers–for yourself or as a gift–as compared to, say, a pizza or a bottle of Champagne or a book or concert tickets or a box of fancy chocolates or nothing at all? 

The floral industry is considering pooling its resources and spending $50 million on a national advertising campaign to get people to buy more flowers.  (Think about the "Got Milk?" campaign as a similar example.)  Maybe we can save them some money and just give it to ’em straight, right now.  Let’s start by asking the question this way–and if you want to elaborate on your answer, put it in the comments:


  1. Need to add another option for people who buy “enough” flowers. i buy flowers all the time. I plant ’em. I buy ’em. I grow ’em. Why don’t I buy more? Because I have to sleep and work.

  2. None of the above relate to me.
    I do not buy flowers because I grow them and give them away. Often I find it easier to go into the garden and gather an arrangement to bring to any number of social events than to go to the store and buy something. I never arrive empty handed and most folks think I am being very thoughtful and creative, when I know I am being cheap and lazy. I flunked shopping 101.
    Because I am known for always having flowers there have been a few occasions when people have asked to buy flowers from me.

  3. I’d rather pick flowers myself (my yard or my work) than pay ridiculous sums for ‘perfect’ flowers. Even before I didn’t work at a flower farm, I never bought flowers. I never wanted my boyfriend to buy me flowers either, but I was happy when he picked some flowers that were considered ‘weedy’ at the vineyard he worked at for me. They were beautiful!
    Basically, I don’t like the idea of a flower ‘industry’.

  4. There should be a “sell by” date on flowers or better yet a guarantee that the flowers will look fresh through whatever date, given proper care. Then we could buy with confidence knowing we weren’t getting flowers that will be ready for the compost bin in just a few days.

  5. Too bad you couldn’t choose “all the above.” They cost too much for how long they last and how uninspiring most of them are, though if you don’t mind uninspiring they are pretty conveniently available at the grocery store. On the other hand, I can remember being in the hospital and getting flowers and being just totally awash in a glow for hours–it had to be good for me. But they were spectacular, original arrangements. That same hospital stay I also got 3 pots of gerbera daisies, which I don’t care for, and it was kind of a downer to get them. I guess three different people went to the same grocery store on their way to the hospital. Or maybe the hospital sold them in the gift shop. I was in the hospital for a whole month, and what came through the door was my whole world. It made a big difference.

  6. Yeah, all those reasons apply for me. If I knew where to get interesting arrangements I’d give them more often – for out-of-towners. In town, I bring flowers from my own garden. And a guaranteed fresh-until date would inspire me to give more often, too.

  7. I do buy flowers – but usually it’s an impulse buy at Whole Foods or when I’m on the way to someone’s home. After reading this post, I realized that I rarely send flowers to anyone anymore – if it’s someone local, I generally take flowers from my own garden – if it’s a gift for someone out of town, I often send bulbs or a perennial or a shrub – something they can plant and enjoy for years. I don’t receive flowers often anymore, now that my garden has grown like mad – people always say they feel strange sending flowers to someone who is surrounded by so many. Maybe this poll needs to be given to non-gardeners?

  8. Combo of the first two for me. Don’t last long enough for how much they cost. This is partially my fault because I only like really big, unique arrangements. I can’t ever seem to bring myself to buy average ones, even if very pretty or unique. So, I save my big flower splurge for my mom’s birthday every year. I’ll spend pretty much whatever it costs when I find an arrangement I like (and boy, do I have lots of new places to shop thanks to your blog!) I know she loves and appreciates them and she doesn’t need any more “stuff” so they’re perfect.
    I used to buy flowers at the grocery store all the time, but then I moved and the new store’s flowers are limp within a day or two. Totally not worth it even with the lower price than a proper florist. Occasionally I’ll still splurge if we’re having people over, but that’s not very often.
    I can’t seem to cut my own flowers without great angst. 🙂 I just don’t have enough to share!

  9. To be honest, I usually only buy flowers as a pick me up, and that’s usually only about a dozen times a year. And from the local supermarket. The fact that the really nice displays cost a small mint, and then dragging them all around the store afterwards are the real reasons I don’t pick anything up most trips.
    Oh, and while I’m a gardener, I don’t bring anything from the garden inside, unless it got broken off, because I grow flowers as much for the birds and insects as for myself.

  10. I don’t buy flowers because I have blooming houseplants. I have miniature roses (those go out on the deck in the summer, though) and African Violets. In fact I recently put down a couple of AV leaves, that will together put out at least half a dozen new plants that will mostly end up being gifts.

  11. Can you add another option for “My cat always tips over and breaks the vase”?

  12. I tend to think of flowers in the garden (and on houseplants) as a kind of reward for hard work, so buying cut flowers is cheating.
    Silly, innit? Especially since I have no problem indulging in a $6 pot of forced tulips from the grocery store in January.

  13. The reason i don’t buy flowers is partially because they don’t last long enuf. When the occasion arrises to buy flowers, i opt for the plant rout. Plants last longer and keep growing after purchase (with proper care).

  14. You needed a “grow my own” selection in your survey. I grow, what I consider, much more intersting things in my garden than you can typically purchase. But my biggest pet peeve is how to tell if they are really fresh or going to kick-off the next day.

  15. Unless I go to a florist, the flowers offered are so run-of-the-mill. I want something different. Since “something different” is out of my way, I don’t bother buying flowers. I don’t even bother looking at the offerings any more.

  16. To me, cut flowers, though perfect and beautiful, are a bad bargain. Why would I spend all of that money for something that lasts for such a short time? As an avid gardener, I would rather spend that money for a perennial, shrub, bulbs, etc….or a houseplant, living things that will last for a while. Watching plants thrive and grow gives me much more pleasure than a bloom in a vase that soon (sometimes you’re lucky to get a full day with cut flowers) withers away.

  17. They are horribly expensive and seem wasteful, I do love to get plants though.

  18. Every Monday my employer buys flowers for every person’s desk. Since we been getting the flowers we are a much happier place to work, less conflict and the costumer service has improve

  19. I buy flowers to help me through the winter, mostly hyacinths and other bulbs that I stick into the ground come spring, and the occcasional bunch of tulips in February; I can’t keep potted plants alive indoors to save my life.
    From April to October I see no point in having flowers indoors, except for bouquets from the garden if the weather is too bad to sit outside.

  20. My reason isn’t included…well maybe it falls under the last choice. I don’t buy cut flowers because I’d rather spend the money on flowers I can plant in the garden. I love cut flowers but plants I raise myself just keep on giving.

  21. I’d have to go with Natalia’s reason for not buying more flowers. The cats almost always knock over the vase and shred the flowers. They (the flowers) just don’t look as good in a puddle of water on the floor as they do in a vase on the table.
    Also, the price is too high for something that might last only a couple of days.

  22. Cut flowers make me sad.
    A lot of short lived, doomed to be compost… just give me cool plants (with or without blooms anytime and make me happy.
    I will make an exception for huge cut sunflowers, something about their over-scale exuberance makes me smile.

  23. Dear Amy,
    Good question and really interesting replies.
    I do buy flowers but often hesitate because I always have particular flowers in mind and too much of the time the shops I call don’t have what I’m after. It’s really the same reason I don’t go shopping for much for anything, reality so rarely matching up with what’s in my head!
    Rather than posting pictures of prefab arrangements they offer, I’d wish that florists would just list “What’s in our cooler today.” That approach would entice me.
    All good wishes,

  24. I totally buy flowers!

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