Red roses are the quintessential symbols of love on Valentine's Day, but a dozen costs a bundle, especially when bought last minute or ordered for delivery. Instead, choose budget-friendly flowers or plants and deliver them yourself. Buy blooms several days ahead and keep them fresh by cutting the stems at an angle several inches from the bottom and submerging them in cool water away from heat and sun. To make a beautiful bouquet, enfold in tissue paper and then wrapping paper, and tie with a pretty ribbon and bow.
Often described as miniature lilies (they're also known as Peruvian lilies), these delicate blooms are recognizable by contrasting colored stripes and dashes that spill out from the center of the flower onto the petals. In addition to shades of red, pink, and white, alstroemerias come in yellow, green, orange, mauve, and purple. When selecting stems, feel the leaves to estimate their age; if crisp and firm, the bunch is fresh. Alstroemerias last up to 14 days in water if properly cared for. The online retailer ProFlowers charges $20 for 100 multi-colored blooms in bud -- the same price as only a dozen rainbow roses.
These hardy flowers (nicknamed "mums") come in many bright colors, including red, pink, yellow, white, off-white, lavender, burgundy, and gold. Depending on the variety, a chrysanthemum stem can hold one or multiple blooms. Unlike roses, mums grow in different shapes, such as spidery blooms with long, skinny petals and puffy round blooms with densely packed petals. Try Delano mums for a burst of burgundy red or Zesty Jean mums for a pastel peachy color. Mums can last up to 20 days in a vase, two weeks longer than roses.
Much loved for their pretty ruffled petals, carnations have a role in just about any occasion. The natural colors of a carnation are pinkish-purple and peach, but depending on the florist, it's possible to find a variety of modified colors. Build a bouquet with several large-blossom carnations (one bloom per stem) and surround them with bunches of a smaller variety (spray carnations, for example) or stems with smaller flowers (such as dwarf flowered carnations). If properly cared for, carnations can last up to 20 days. A giant bouquet of colorful carnations for Valentine's Day costs less than a dozen red roses.
African violets are most recognizable by their thick velvety green leaves and dainty petals. This hardy plant is easy to care for and blooms of blue, red, pink, or white add pops of color to any indoor setting. African violets flower in spring and should be placed in indirect sunlight away from heat. A 4-inch pot of blooming African violets can be found online for about $11 with shipping included from a retailer such as Jet or Amazon, but plants are also available from most any grocery store or garden center.
Gerbera daisies are bright, boldly colored flowers that scream spring in the middle of winter. The petals are long and plentiful, extending from 2 to 5 inches across, so a bouquet or vase of 12 daisies makes for a cheerful presentation. This cheap bloom often appears at plant shops or in the flower department of large retailers such as Kmart or Costco. A dozen gerbera daisies in red, yellow, pink, white, and orange can be ordered for $20 at FTD while a dozen long-stemmed red roses sell for $50.
Succulents may not be the typical Valentine's Day choice, but there is beauty in their variety and longevity. Succulents will last for years with minimal care when set in direct sunlight. A potted arrangement of several different succulents costs $25 at 1-800-Flowers, but DIY versions are cheaper and easy. Individual succulents sell for $2 or so at plant shops and big-box retailers, including Home Depot; some potting soil and a pretty pot complete the package. Kits are available from Etsy for $26.
Any loved one who works in a sterile office with zero plant life and harsh fluorescent lighting will appreciate a potted peace lily. This plant produces bountiful, long, lance-shaped leaves and majestic, white, spoon-like flowers. And unlike roses that wilt in a week, peace lilies are quite hardy. The leaves droop if the plant gets very dry but perk back up in a day once watered. Large peace lily plants are available on flower delivery sites, but save money and visit the local plant shop or any big-box retailer with a plant section. A small starter plant doesn't cost more than $10. Pair the peace lily with a box of white chocolate.
Nothing says "I love you" like heart-shaped leaves and red flowers. Anthuriums, also known as Painted Tongues, are vibrant houseplants with large leafy fronds. The flowers burst forth in romantic shades of pink, red, lavender, or white. Blooms last up to two months, well after Valentine's Day has come and gone. Local plant shops or nurseries that stock tropical plants are good sources for anthuriums. When giving as a gift, decorate the pot with a red bow to accentuate the red blooms and accompany with mood-setting red candles and sweet chocolates.
If the house or apartment would benefit from a little indoor foliage, surprise your sweetheart with an ivy plant. Ivy plants grow long vines with plentiful leaves. Tendrils cling easily to stakes or string, so drape them across a window or down a wall for a tropical effect. If properly cared for (and not overwatered), leaves of the grape ivy will be shiny and rich green. Design a Valentine's Day ivy basket with hanging wallet-size photos that capture special moments in the relationship.
Sunflowers may be the most cheerful flowers, with their halos of bright yellow petals atop thick green stems. They cost about $2 to $3 a stem at the local florist, but the large blooms make an impact even if the bouquet contains only a few. Mix in baby's breath and leafy fronds to fill empty space, or arrange the sunflowers in a heart shape with yellow carnations and baby's breath in the middle. Tie with twine for a rustic accent. Cut sunflowers can last up to 12 days if properly cared for.