Flowers Under $50: Taming the Grocery Store Bouquet

by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Ever had someone bring you a bouquet of flowers and feel simultaneously grateful and slightly disturbed? Grocery store flowers can do that. Garish, out-of-fashion and hard to work with (if not outright dead), these babies are not the elegant and sought-after blooms that you might dream of having on your table. But fear not, penny pinchers and homemaking hipstresses! The bargain grocery store bouquet can be made instantly chic with a few edits, the right vases and a little help from plants in the yard.

For our arrangements, we started with two bouquets bought at the local grocery store for $12 each. The colors are really bright (really bright) and don’t blend at all. The key to elegant flower arranging is all in the color coordination. Have you ever noticed that plants have a wonderful way of merging colors by inserting subtler tones around the strongest hues? That’s what you are aiming for when arranging — blend, blend, blend. — Mary Kathryn

All photographs by Mary Kathryn Paynter

The full post continues after the jump . . .

To help with this step, we begin by sorting our bouquets into their varying species, then arranging by colors. Decorative leaves that have a lime stripe pair well with the yellow and green goldenrod but not as well with the orange lilies and purple agapanthus. So we toss out those leaves as our greenery option and substitute both a viney weed from the yard, as well as the wonderful purple heart plant. Both plants are more appropriate in scale for a tabletop, and their colors — the vine with its parched wildness that gives it golden and brown shades, and the purple heart with its deep purple and slightly aqua tones — play up the colors of the flowering blooms in the bouquet.

Images by Mary Kathryn Paynter

To use the orange-yellow palette of flowers, first build structure with greenery, using the vines and the goldenrod to fill out the vase and give the arrangement its initial shape. Then select an odd number of large blooms and stagger them at different heights and angles to your liking. Choosing a muted gray matte vase ensures that nothing in the vase will compete with the blooms’ colors — an important rule insisted upon by the glorious Constance Spry.

Images by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Again, using the purple heart as structure, build out the shape of the arrangement in another simple clay vase. Then add the agapanthus blooms; the unusual shape and repetition of the plant immediately gives it depth and motion.

Voila! For just under $25, we were able to create a total of four centerpieces, as well as multiple, smaller, single-stem arrangements using bud vases and the leftover flowers. Never fear the grocery store (or bodega, or tabacchi or quickie mart) flowers again!

Images by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Suggested For You


  • Such great ideas here…I love the whole concept of sprucing up wilted (albeit sometimes dead) flowers…but there’s beauty even in death. Think of a dried up rose. Fragile, pale version of its lively self. It’s a lesson of life. (By the way, I’m all about adding ribbons and yarns to flower arrangements, it adds texture and warmth).

  • Excellent article… We used White Lilies in our Showroom that we picked up from the market at Union Square and found that it comes with quite a bit of bouquet filling greenery already! And also the wonderful florist had some discarded stems in the back that he let us use to add volume…never hurts to ask

  • Thank you for the great idea and the tips on what looks good together for flower arranging. I’m an interior designer and I feel like I should know how to arrange flowers, but I struggle with it. I especially love how you combined the purple heart with the agapanthus blooms. The similar hues work together so well. This is simple and attainable, love that!

  • This is a great demo!
    P.S. I love these painted bird glasses. Are they a vintage find or are they available to buy anywhere?

  • @Theresa

    Just smile and remember how sweet the thought is. I used to be a florist, so my husband is too scared of picking ugly flowers to get me any at all.

  • I love this. Have moved out if NYC where I can pick up nice bunches inexpensively, so I’ll be experimenting with grocery store buys.

  • Love everything you’ve done, but feel bad for the “lime stripe leaves”, it goes against my naturally frugal nature, to have them thrown out. Isn’t there something you could do with those? Maybe pair them with something else from the garden?

  • Looking good – They look instantly more stylish! and goes to show that you don’t have to break the bank to have a beautiful home. but I do agree that throwing out the lime stripe leaves is a bit sad. :(

  • hi guys! just wanted to duck in and address a few things–

    heidi — glasses are vintage, i adore them as well! they belong to my wonderful friend, interior designer ann lowe of austin.

    kiyoko/muddhutt — i agree that it’s a shame to toss those suckers out… wouldn’t they be amazing tacked up on a wall to make a backdrop at a party? if i could have fit that in without this post being all over the place, i certainly would have. thanks so much for your input!

    and thanks to all of you for the kind words! you guys really make this job fun :)

  • This is absolutely wonderful. I love the pairing of the wild with the cultivated, and your articulate color rationale is dead on and makes me want to try this at home immediately.

    The sadder-wiser perennial-advisor in me insists you please cut off those orange pollen-bearing stamens from the Asiatic lilies before they stain your linens or clothes.

  • I love this post! It is always amazing to me what you can do with grocery store flowers! (Except maybe with the electric blue/orange/pink dyed variety…those still stump me…)
    My favorite are the 3 bunches for 12 dollars at Publix-bug bunches of spray roses, lilies, all sorts of fun flowers!

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.