How to Shop the Wholesale Flower Market

Get the best deal on the most beautiful blooms

Whether you are a DIY bride looking to style your own centerpieces for your wedding or simply the kind of person who loves having fresh flowers in your home (me!), there are few things more mesmerizing than a romp through the New York City Wholesale Flower Market in Chelsea. It is there, on a densely packed block on 28th street between 6th and 7th avenue, that you will find the freshest, most gorgeous blooms in the city—all for a fraction of the cost you would pay at your local florist. The best part? You don’t need to be a floral designer to buy these steeply discounted stems. The market is open to the public, and not nearly as scary and overwhelming as you might think. I went recently for the first time after dropping my daughter off at school at 8:15 (thank you, $5 Via) and it was everything I had hoped it would be: a brightly colored, Disney World for flower zealots. Though I am not a florist, I am what you would call a heavy consumer: I buy flowers almost every week, and I love making my own arrangements. So, without further ado, here are a few tips I picked up on my first trip to New York City’s Wholesale Flower Market.

1. Shop early

Many of the flower shops open at 5 am for the professional florists and designers who shop their regularly. Some close right after breakfast, others around noon. If you are a regular person just buying flowers for your home, there’s no need to hustle there while it’s still dark outside but try to arrive before 9 am.

2. Wear Comfortable Shoes

Planning to take a few shots for your blog while you’re there? Don’t get carried away. Schlepping around the flower market in kitten heels or stilettos is a big no no. Since you will probably want to scout out the whole place (and comparison shop) before committing to a purchase, make sure to bring a practical bag and flat shoes.

3. Bring Cash

Some places won’t take credit cards. And those that do may upcharge you for the convenience. Keep in mind: Though the flowers are much cheaper than those you would find at a florist, they can still get expensive. When I first arrived at The Dutch Flower Line, I swooned over the colorful bins of sweet peas, only to discover these glorious bundles cost $75 a pop. On the day I shopped, I spent about $80 (not including the $30 shears I purchased at Jamali Garden Supplies). This included $7.50 on Variegated Pittisporum (my favorite green), $5 on a large Monstera leaf (to be used under a crudite spread), $35 on 10 stems of pink Ranunculus, and $32.50 on 3-4 large branches of green hydrangea. Considering how many beautiful flowers I got, this was a great deal. But if you’re used to spending $20 at your local bodega for flowers, don’t be deluded into thinking you can come out with a Belle Fleur quality arrangement for the same price. Of course, you can always spend less money than I did if you select cheaper flowers. Tulips cost about $20 a bunch throughout the flower market. Other relatively inexpensive choices include roses and carnations. TBN tip: Both of these blooms look striking packed into a tight, monochromatic arrangement with no greens or filler.

4. Do Your Homework

Know what flowers are in season and plan your shop accordingly. Some flowers (like roses and tulips) are available all year long. Peonies are next to impossible to find in the winter; in early spring, you may be able to find a few but they will be very expensive. Right now, the last weekend in April, they cost $17.50 for 3 flowers but the prices should go down dramatically in the coming weeks (the cold weather delayed the arrival of local peonies this season). Two weeks from now, in early to mid May, the price will drop to $4-5 per stem.

5. Stay Flexible 

It’s good to go in with some sort of a plan (i.e. a color scheme) so you don’t get overwhelmed. But you never know if they are going to have what you want, or if it will be within your budget. Also, at the end of the day, you want to pick the freshest, prettiest flowers you can afford and it’s hard to know for sure what that will be until the day you go there. Shopping for flowers is like shopping for vegetables at a farmer’s market: Go for what looks best in that very moment.

RELATED: How to Make a Gorgeous Centerpiece for Under $100

6. Pick the freshest flowers

So how can you tell? Unless you’re a professional florist it can be hard to discern the subtle differences between, say, a hydrangea that will last a week and one that will last four days. Aside from looking at the colors (which should be vibrant with no hints of brown decay on the petals), you can also gently pat the top of the arrangement to see how firm the petals are. The freshest flowers will feel crisp, not soft.

7. Consider longevity

Do you want your arrangement to last at least a week? Then hardy ranunculus are a great choice. Certain flowers (like lilacs) have a much shorter lifespan. Among the most long lasting blooms: peonies, lilies, cala lilies, freesias (these can last up to 12 days!), carnations, dahlias, and alstroemerias.

8. Protect Your Investment

As soon as you get home, condition your flowers: remove at least one inch from the bottom of flowers, cutting the ends at an angle (under running water) so they retain as much water as possible, then trim away excess leaves (anything submerged will promote bacteria). Clean your vase with dish soap and bleach, then fill it with cool water and a bit of aspirin or sugar (this prevents browning) before adding flowers. If you are not ready to arrange the flowers—or have a couple days before your event—make sure to store them somewhere cool, if not the fridge then near an air conditioner or open window (assuming its chilly). The absolute worst place to place fresh flowers? Near heat. Anyone who has ever tried to stick fresh flowers in a bathroom or kitchen has probably learned the hard way that flowers like to chill.

A huge bundle of Sweet Peas costs $75 at The Dutch Flower Line

Tags : centerpiecesdiyflower marketflowersNYC flower marketranunculusweddings
Amy Synnott

Amy Synnott

Founding Editor
Amy Synnott is the founder of The Beautiful Edit. A graduate of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Amy spent most of her career at InStyle magazine, where she worked as a the Beauty Director from 2000-2013 and the Executive Editor from 2013-2016. Originally from Boston, Amy currently lives in NYC with her husband, two children, and Labrador, Lucy.