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Flowers You Shouldn’t Send on Valentine’s Day (and What to Buy Instead)

These are the biggest Valentine's Day flower faux pas you can make, according to florists.

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A rose isn’t always a rose…

The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to Valentine’s Day flowers? Grabbing the first bouquet off the shelf or ordering an arrangement because it simply looks pretty, without giving much thought to what message they could be conveying. “When selecting flowers to give on Valentine’s Day, you first need to ask yourself what sentiment you are trying to convey,” points out Eddie Zaratsian, of Eddie Zaratsian Lifestyle & Design. Keep in mind that nearly every type of flower has a hidden meaning—and many of them may not be the one you want to send your lover on the most romantic day of the year. Here are all the flowers you should never send your Valentine, along with what to buy them instead. Caution: You should also avoid these other Valentine’s Day gifts that send the wrong message.

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All-white arrangements

Sure, white flowers will look great everywhere. But they don’t exactly convey racing hearts and sweaty palms. “If you’re trying to spread a message of love, then you want to aim for more intense colors that symbolize passion,” suggests Zaratsian. He advises skipping all-white floral bunches, such as white tulips, roses, or hydrangeas, and instead opting for vibrant reds, oranges, and pinks instead. Discover the real meaning behind 6 colors of roses.

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Carnations are readily available and offered in so many colors, but they aren’t exactly the most romantic flower at the florist. “Be mindful of the meaning of flowers when making your selections,” Zaratsian cautions, and carnations have a dubious past—mythologically speaking, at least. The flower’s scientific name is Dianthus caryophyllus, which some believe was inspired by the myth of Diana, goddess of the hunt. One variation of her story is that after an unsuccessful day of hunting, she blamed her misfortune on a shepherd playing his flute. Angry, she attacked him and plucked out his eyes. She ended up regretting her behavior, and where the man’s eyes fell out, red carnations grew as signs of innocent blood. On a positive note, they do tend to last a long time, as do these 17 cut flowers that have longevity.

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Lavender might be a pretty and fragrant purple flower, known to help you relax, but your Valentine may be a little offended if you present them with a bunch. “While lavender can smell wonderful, they convey a message of mistrust,” points out Zaratsian. However, keep in mind that this belief stems from the Victorian era and, these days it more commonly symbolizes purity and calmness. Don’t want to go the flower route? Here are 50 gifts women actually want for Valentine’s Day.

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Baby’s breath

Baby’s breath is one of the most popular Valentine’s Day filler flowers—especially because it tends to go well with roses. However, Zaratsian points out there is one major reason why you should avoid it. “I’d never suggest sending baby’s breath on Valentine’s Day because they smell bad, and not everyone realizes that,” he says. Christina Stembel, founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, also points out that the combo is totally stale. “Only a skilled hand can make that combination look fresh instead of an entirely unironic throwback to 1982,” she says. “Save the #TBT for another time and skip the played-out pairing for Valentine’s Day.” Discover 14 Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world.

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On Valentine’s Day, you want to convey a message of everlasting love—not the kind of love that runs hot and dies out quickly. So you might want to consider sticking with blooms that have a little longevity. “Don’t purchase anything that will die quickly,” advises Zaratsian. “Tulips, for example, like a lot of attention, and would be less likely to last.” Want to keep your flowers around forever? Here’s how to preserve them.

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Long stemmed red roses

Long stemmed roses might be the go-to floral arrangement of Valentine’s Day, but Oleta Collins, owner of Flourishing Art Design Studio in Bakersfield, California, urges you to skip them. Why? Christmas, when red and white roses were popular, was just a few weeks ago, as were all the bowl parades with their amazing floats made of roses. At this point, farmers around the world have been hit with high demand, yet they’ve been holding onto their best red roses for Valentine’s Day. So “now is when the farmers do a big push to get those red roses tall enough to charge a premium,” Collins says. The majority of the roses you see in your flower shops, grocery stores, or warehouse stores are grown out of the country, which means that after they were flown into the United States, they likely spent an entire week getting into the wholesaler’s hands. By the time the florist has them, they are desperate for hydration and nutrients, Collins says. If your florist does not take care of them properly, they will never open, having actually been stunted by being harvested too soon. Find out how the world’s biggest flower companies prep for Valentine’s Day.

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Orange lilies

If your Valentine knows anything about flowers, avoid orange lilies at all costs. “In the Victorian Language of Flowers, orange lilies mean hatred, so avoid this one just to be on the safe side,” suggests Ashley E. Greer, owner of Atelier Ashley Flowers in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Do you want in on all the insider florist information? Find out 13 secrets floral experts aren’t telling you.

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Anthurium bouquets

An anthurium is a cheery, exotic flowering plant often used in tropical looking bouquets. However, Greer points out that it is also a pretty “suggestive” looking flower. “I wouldn’t send these unless you have something naughty on your mind,” she says. However, if you want to make an overtly flirtatious gesture, “in that case, it is perfect!”

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Yellow roses

Yellow roses might feel bright and cheery, but if your Valentine is a history buff they should be avoided. According to Teleflora, in Victorian times, the yellow rose symbolized jealousy—not exactly a sentiment you want to express on the day of love. Today, the sunny hued flower represents friendship, joy, and caring, so unless you want to put your Valentine in the friend zone, you should stay away. Not into the idea of roses? Here are other flowers your Valentine will appreciate.

flowers they dont liek tulips Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images

Something they don’t like

Probably the biggest V-day blunder you can make is simply sending your Valentine flowers they don’t even like. This could make them question whether you care enough to really know them and want to make them happy. “Nailing a Valentine’s Day gift is a long game,” points out Stembel. “Look at what they buy themselves at the grocery store or farmer’s market during the year and take note. Write it down somewhere you won’t forget and then use it come February 14th!” Find out what your Valentine’s Day flowers reveal about your relationship.

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Try instead: Ask your florist for the freshest flowers

One great trick to getting the freshest, most beautiful flowers, is simply asking your florist to custom create a bouquet for you with this in mind. Most florists get shipments of blooms in daily or at least weekly, which allows them to work their magic using freshly cut stems that will give your arrangement longevity. “Let your trusted florist select what’s best for you in the hues you are looking for,” suggests Collins. “I promise you the life of the flowers will be that much longer than a dozen long-stemmed red roses.” Find out why roses are so popular for Valentine’s Day.

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short stem roses Tom Merton/Getty Images

Try instead: Short stemmed roses

Okay, so you are totally set on roses. If you do order roses, Collins points out that sacrificing the long stems will buy you a lot more time. “Do not order long-stems,” she urges. “Instead, focus on just a beautiful bowl or square of roses.” Why? Their flower stem is shorter and easier to hydrate, which will double their lifespan over the 80 cm long stem rose. These have been preserved and will last up to six months. Shopping for your man? Don’t miss these Valentine’s Day gifts for him.

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mixed bouquetvia

Try instead: A mixed bouquet

When you’re in doubt of what your one and only loves when it comes to the floral world, play the odds with a mixed bouquet, suggests Stembel. “Our signature burlap-wrapped bouquets have, on the low end, five or six varieties of flowers in them and, on the high end, twice that amount,” she says. “With a little bit of everything, you’re increasing the likelihood that they’ll love at least one of the varieties included, so don’t be afraid to mix it up.” It’s not just your flowers that have a lot to say—find out the secrets your Valentine’s Day card reveals about the state of your relationship.

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Leah Groth
Leah is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor, mother and product junkie. Her obsessions include old houses, home design, fashion, beauty, books and anything that makes her life — which includes working full-time and taking care of two "spirited" children and a Vizsla puppy — a little bit easier. Her work has appeared on a variety of publications and websites, including Glamour, Prevention, Business Insider, Livestrong, Mindbodygreen, Fatherly, Scary Mommy, Wonderwall and Cosmopolitan.

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