Buying a floral arrangement is like buying a work of art. You’ll want to find a shop whose use of color and flower types fits your individual taste. This is even more important if you are spending hundreds of dollars for flowers for a wedding or other special occasion.

Beyond taste, consider several factors in choosing a florist: quality of products, variety, quality of advice, reliability and promptness, and price. To find a shop that offers what you want, visit a few. Since most florists’ sales are arranged by phone, you need to be confident that the shop you deal with will deliver a product—sight unseen—with which you’ll be happy.

As strange as this may seem, visiting a florist in person also ensures that you’re actually doing business with a local shop. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has for many years warned that some telemarketing firms pose as local florists by placing ads using business names that sound like local shops. These out-of-the-area phone banks simply act as intermediaries, sending orders to truly local florists while hitting customers for added fees. Consumers taken in by these companies have complained that the flowers weren’t delivered as ordered or never delivered at all.

Our Ratings Tables show ratings that we collected from our surveys of area consumers (primarily Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers) for florist shops that received at least 10 ratings on our surveys. Click here for more information on our customer survey and other research methods.

As you can see, many of the florists listed on our Ratings Tables received high ratings from their surveyed customers. But the ratings we receive for some of the shops prove that a rose is not a rose: Consumers often lodged complaints related to late or missing deliveries; delivery of wrong items; poor-quality products; lousy attitudes; and delivery of arrangements that included many fewer flowers, or lower-quality flowers, than ordered.

To find the right shop, consider several aspects:

Product Quality

Our Ratings Tables report significant shop-to-shop differences in how surveyed customers rated florists for “quality of products.”

Our article ”How to Choose Flowers” will help you check quality yourself. Also check whether the florist is an accredited member of the American Institute of Floral Designers. Accreditation indicates that the florist has successfully completed an evaluation of flower arranging skills, passed an open-book test, and pledged to follow the Institute’s code of ethics.

In addition, check guarantees. A responsible florist should allow you to exchange flowers or arrangements for a replacement within 24 hours if you are dissatisfied. Ideally, the guarantee would be written, but verbal assurances can suffice. Discuss the guarantee before the purchase. If you are dissatisfied with your flowers, complain to the florist promptly.

Reliability

A lot of floral shops make their customers mad by delivering miniscule arrangements, rather than the magnificent ones they described to buyers over the phone or shown in online catalogs. Our customer survey ratings on reliability will point you toward honest businesses.

You can also check up on orders you send by having the recipient send you a picture of the arrangement, preferably posed next to something you can use as a sizing reference point—say, a can of soda.

Promptness

If you are sending flowers in celebration of a friend’s birthday, you don’t want them delivered to a next-door neighbor two days late. Our Ratings Tables report how customers rated their shops for promptness.

Variety

Area florists generally received their lowest customer ratings on “variety.” As you deal with a florist, you’ll get a clearer picture of whether it offers a sufficient range of products to meet your needs.

Advice

When ordering flowers for a wedding or other major event, you may need extensive advice from a florist. And even a modest gift might necessitate a little guidance. In addition to advice on selection, you will want instructions on care—particularly of potted plants. Our customer survey results will help you find a florist that offers good advice, but you’ll need to judge for yourself whether shops listen to your questions and give reasonable-sounding answers. Remember, the better you communicate your tastes and expectations, the better the florist can advise you.

Price

Our undercover shoppers called the companies listed on our Ratings Tables and asked for prices for a variety of arrangements, cut flowers, and potted plants. The price comparison scores on our Ratings Tables show how each florist’s prices compared to the area-wide average prices for the items it had available. The scores are standardized to a base of $100. A score of $120 means the florist was 20 percent more expensive than the average store for the items it had available. Price comparison scores ranged from a low of $67 to a high of $150, indicating that some shops charge more than twice as much as their local competitors. The table below, which reports the lowest and highest prices for the items we shopped, reveals even larger percentage differences for individual items.

Interestingly, there appears to be little relationship between what you pay and what you get. We found that highly rated florists were about as likely to have low prices as poorly rated florists.

Our price comparison scores are based on prices quoted for items picked up at the florist. Because florists’ formulas for pricing local delivery are too varied and complex to sum up in our ratings table, you’ll have to ask each florist about their delivery charges.

Our Undercover Shoppers Were Quoted Big Price Differences for Flowers

Item Low price Average Price High price
Long stem red roses, one dozen $30.00 $54.12 $95.00
Bells of Ireland, per stem $0.90 $2.15 $4.50
Kalanchoe in a 4" to 41/2" pot $6.50 $10.68 $15.00
Peace lily in an 8" pot $8.50 $50.26 $75.00
Chinese evergreen in an 8" pot $30.00 $50.75 $75.00
Calla lily stem, dwarf white, per stem $1.75 $4.05 $7.50
Gerbera daisy, per stem $1.25 $2.23 $3.00
Spider mum, per stem $0.75 $1.98 $4.00
Jade dendrobium orchid, per stem $1.80 $4.14 $10.00
Bird of paradise, per stem $2.50 $4.87 $8.00
Hydrangea, white or blue, per stem $2.50 $4.95 $8.50
Stargazer lily, white, per stem $3.50 $5.95 $10.00
Queen Anne’s lace, white, per stem $0.55 $1.86 $3.50
Snapdragon, white, per stem $0.41 $2.03 $3.00
Mini sunflower, per stem $0.79 $2.26 $5.00
Gladiola, per stem $1.50 $3.11 $5.00