14 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Florists

Florists know all about caring for and arranging a variety of flowers, but they do more than put pretty flowers into a nice vase. After talking to a few, we got the dirt on the job, including how they find the best blooms, which household fruits are the enemy of long-lasting bouquets, and why the holidays make their feet ache.


Being a florist means getting to work early, as the team at Miami Gardens Florist tells mental_floss: “You have to be in by 7 a.m. so that the first batch of flowers is ready for delivery by 9 a.m., when most businesses start to open.” Florists use those early morning hours to cut and process flowers, organize orders that came in overnight, and prioritize which arrangements to work on first. And when they buy flowers at wholesale flower markets, some florists wake up even earlier—around 3 or 4 a.m.—to find the best flowers at the market before they sell out.


To assemble complex floral arrangements and mixed bouquets, florists typically need to search for flowers and plants from a variety of sources. Depending on their clients’ wishes and what flowers are in season, florists may purchase directly from local farms, wholesalers, or flower auctions. Some florists even grow their own flowers or import them from countries such as Holland or Colombia.


“Being a florist is a lot more labor-intensive than most would assume,” says Lauren Ghani, the owner of Nu Leaf Design, a floral design shop in Los Angeles. “We have to pick up and transport all the flowers, clean and process them (which can take hours of being on your feet!), decide on a design, and then clean up the extensive amount of leaves and debris,” Ghani explains. Florists must also have strong arm and leg muscles to unpack large shipments of plants, lift heavy buckets of water, and arrange large branches and other foliage for display.


Because flowers only last so long before they wilt and die, florists are in a perpetual race against the clock. They must properly time purchases and deliveries, making sure that buds have bloomed by the time they arrive at a client’s door. To speed up or slow down the blooming process, florists use a variety of tricks. They may condition flowers (get them ready for display) by cutting or splitting the stems (trimming them at a 45-degree angle increases the surface area for water absorption) or dunking the blooms in cold water. Storing the blooms away from direct sunlight is also key. To ensure that flowers for weddings look fresh and open, Ghani keeps them in a refrigerated environment and makes the centerpieces the day before the event.


Because flowers are perishable, florists can’t get too much of a head start on making arrangements for high-volume days such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. “During our high seasons, every flower shop becomes a factory where all we're doing is trying to get as many arrangements out as possible,” the Miami Gardens Florist team explains. Although most florists find working with flowers to be generally relaxing, holidays require them to stand on their feet for eight to 12 hours per day, often for several days in a row.


If flowers are your life’s work, daily sneezing fits and a constantly itchy nose aren’t ideal. While most florists don’t have a problem, some, unfortunately, are allergic to pollen and plants. How do they cope? Some take daily allergy meds, get allergy shots from their doctor, or try to avoid working with especially problematic flowers. For most, the benefits of the job outweigh the sneezing.


If you lament that your bouquets only last a few days, educate yourself about how to properly care for flowers. Florist Brad Weinstein told mental_floss that water is key to helping flowers last longer. “Remember that the more flowers in the arrangement, the need for water will increase,” he said.

To give your cut flowers a long life, check the water level daily, use the packet of powdered flower food that came with your bouquet, and make sure you put your flowers in a clean vase. And don’t forget to keep your flowers away from direct sunlight, heat, and fruit—the ethylene gas that apples and pears emit can cause your flowers to quickly wilt.


Although people might primarily associate buying flowers with Valentine’s Day, February isn’t the ideal time to shop for blooms. The best time to order from a florist is during the summer months. According to the Miami Gardens Florist team: “They’ll have fresher flowers, they’ll be able to take their time to make something beautiful, and you’re more likely to get a discount.” Good news for anyone with a summer birthday.


Besides looking pretty in a vase, flowers can be used in your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Florists may use flowers (such as chamomile or hibiscus) to make flower tea, add dried flowers to oil to make soap, or use pressed flowers to decorate homemade candles. Some florists who enjoy cooking also substitute tulips for onions in certain recipes, such as stews and pastas, and garnish dishes with chopped (edible, pesticide-free) petals.


Depending on where you live, you may be able to buy discounted flowers at a wholesale flower market. If you buy flowers from a florist, though, the flowers may be marked up 2.5 to 3.5 times what they really cost. Florists say that markup is there for good reason. “In all honesty, the prices are justified. You’re receiving a work of art that takes a lot of hard work and effort,” the Miami Gardens Florist team says. Besides labor and time, the price you pay a florist may also include ribbons and other accessories, a vase, and delivery.


Most florists don’t focus solely on making flower arrangements. They also take orders over the phone, answer customer questions, and make sales. If a florist owns their own shop, they must also hire employees, fill out tax paperwork, and manage the store's finances. Some florists also branch out (pun intended) by teaching flower-crafting classes, working with wedding planners or interior designers, and writing articles or books about flower care and arrangement.


Ron Mulray, who owns the Philadelphia Flower Co., told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Martha Stewart is a polarizing figure in the flower world. In the 1990s, Stewart began educating people about flowers, teaching her audience how to design their own beautiful floral arrangements. According to Mulray, floral designers took firm pro- or anti-Stewart positions, with some florists praising her for promoting flowers as an art form and others criticizing her for revealing florists’ trade secrets to the masses.

But whether they love her or hate her, florists admit that Stewart exposed people to the simple joy of flowers. “We could never sell 36 open roses in a hand-tied bouquet before Martha. That was really what she did,” Mulray says.


Whether they arrange and deliver flowers for weddings, funerals, births, anniversaries, or proms, florists often work with clients who are emotional about recent (or imminent) life changes. And florists aren't immune to the impact—conscious or subconscious—of the heightened emotions surrounding weddings and funerals. One florist writes about how creating floral arrangements for a funeral sparked a recurring dream: “In the dream, I woke up the woman that died to ask her if she liked the flowers. Her answer was no. She informed me that she had always hated flowers … I remember feeling silly and spooked at the same time.”


Many florists are drawn to their profession because they simply love flowers. “Flowers are nature’s art. They’re beautiful, strange, and each one is so different,” the Miami Gardens Florist team says. And working with flowers is an artistic outlet that lets florists express their creativity, working with a variety of colors, heights, textures, and scents. “I love working with flowers because with every season comes a different palette of colors as well as types of flowers …The creativity associated with flowers is part of what keeps me intrigued and excited about my work!” Ghani says.

All photos via iStock.

Ice Water Games, YouTube
5 Smartphone Games That Let You Tend Plants and Chill Out
Ice Water Games, YouTube
Ice Water Games, YouTube

Being in nature is naturally relaxing, but city-dwellers don’t always have an opportunity to get outside. Gardening can be therapeutic for mental health, but you may not have access to a garden—or even the space to tend a houseplant. You can still have a few moments of horticultural meditation every day. It will just have to be digital.

Over the last few years, video game developers have released a number of mobile games that revolve around the simple act of tending to plants. These games are, for the most part, slow-moving, meditative experiences that focus on beautiful graphics, calming soundtracks, and low-key challenges. They’re a great way to de-stress and pursue your gardening dreams, no watering can required.

Here are five relaxing, plant-centric phone games you can download now.


Viridi is like Neopets for plants. The game is dedicated to nurturing a pot of succulents that grow almost in real time. You can plant a variety of succulent species in your virtual pot. Spritz your plants with water when they’re thirsty and wait for them to grow. Each week, a new seedling will be available for you to plant. The game moves slowly by design. You can let it run in the background, and your plants will do their thing, just like a real plant would. These ones are even harder to kill than real succulents, though.

Find it: iOS, Android

2. TOCA NATURE; $2.99

Toca Boca makes games for kids, but honestly, Toca Nature is pretty fun no matter what your age. You can create your own natural landscapes, adding trees, water features, and mountains. Different natural features attract different animals, and the type of landscape you make shapes whether you’ll get bears, beavers, or birds living there. You can collect berries, feed the animals, or just enjoy planting trees.

Find it: iOS, Android


In Breath of Light, your job is to bring a garden to life by manipulating a stream of light. Move rocks and mirrors around your zen garden to harness and direct the life-giving light emanating from a single flower. When the light hits another flower, it causes that plant to grow. The very simple puzzles are designed to help you chill out, and the award-winning soundtrack by the audio designer Winterpark features binaural tones that are naturally relaxing. “As a unique, gamified version of guided meditation, Breath of Light helps you enter a state of calm serenity without you even noticing,” according to Killscreen. Sorry, Android users—the app seems to have disappeared from Google Play, but it’s still available for iPhone.

Find it: iOS

4. PRUNE; $3.99

Prune is a puzzle game with a horticultural twist. The object is to plant a tree, then as it grows up, guide it with careful pruning, helping the branches reach the light while staying away from the cold shadows or hot sun, both of which will kill the tree. As the levels rise, you’ll need to contort your trees into ever more complex shapes.

Find it: iOS, Android

5. EUFLORIA; $4.99

If you like your gardening to be a little more high-stakes, Eufloria is out of this world. Seriously, it’s about colonizing asteroids. Your mission is to grow trees on far-off asteroids, sending your seedlings out to turn gray space rocks into thriving landscapes. Your seeds hop from asteroid to asteroid at your behest, creating a chain of fertile life. Sometimes, alien enemies will attack your flourishing asteroid colonies, but don’t worry; you can beat them back with the power of more seeds. The game can be fast-paced and competitive, but there’s a “relaxed” play option that’s more meditative.

Find it: iOS, Android

National Gallery of Victoria
Yayoi Kusama's Flower-Filled Installation Has Art Lovers Seeing Red
National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria

"Subtle" would probably be the last word one would use to describe the work of 89-year-old artist Yayoi Kusama. Her larger-than-life installations tend to feature loud colors, funhouse-esque mirrors, and frenzied patterns—and her latest work is no exception.

Her installation, Flower Obsession, was specially commissioned for the Melbourne-based National Gallery of Victoria's Triennial, an art event supported by the government of Victoria, Australia that ran from December through April. Gallery organizers said they counted 1.2 million visitors at the Triennial, making it the most visited exhibition in the gallery's 157-year history.

Many people came just to get a glimpse of Kusama's color-crazed world. As My Modern Met reports, gallery-goers were invited to stick faux daisies onto the walls and surfaces of an otherwise drab space made to look like the inside of an apartment. Eventually, a sea of 550,000 red flowers engulfed everything in sight, from light fixtures to chairs to a toilet. Up until April 15, 2018, only those in attendance got an up-close look at this evolving installation. But new images, released by the National Gallery of Victoria, are giving art lovers around the world the chance to see this amazing piece for themselves.

A portrait of Yayoi Kusama wearing a red wig
Artist Yayoi Kusama
National Gallery of Victoria

A doorway covered in flowers
National Gallery of Victoria

A kitchen covered in flowers
National Gallery of Victoria

A living room covered in flowers
National Gallery of Victoria

A flower-covered toilet
National Gallery of Victoria

Kusama explained her inspiration prior to the show's opening:

"One day, after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up to see that the ceiling, the windows, and the columns seemed to be plastered with the same red floral pattern," she said in a statement. "I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant, my soul was obliterated."

In the past, Kusama has spoken out about her experience with mental illness and the hallucinations she's had since childhood, many of which have inspired her work. "My nets grew beyond myself and beyond the canvases I was covering with them," she once said. "They began to cover the walls, the ceiling, and finally the whole universe." Kusama has voluntarily lived in a psychiatric facility in Tokyo since 1977.

Flower Obsession isn't the first time Kusama has introduced the concept of "obliterating" a space. For a previous installation, visitors were encouraged to place colorful polka dots on the white walls of a room. To see this installation and others by Kusama, check out the photos below.

A room covered in polka dot stickers
The Obliteration Room (2017)
Alex Wong, Getty Images

Longing for Eternity (2017)
Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images

An installation using pumpkin shapes and mirrors
Infinity Mirrored Room (2017)
Alex Wong, Getty Images

Infinity Mirrored Room—Filled with the Brilliance of Life (2014)
Karim Sahib, AFP/Getty Images

[h/t My Modern Met]


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