My partner and I frequently buy flowers — even though we have an apartment full of plants. There's just something so lovely about a fresh bouquet, and while I enjoy making my own during the summer, the rest of the year we seek out fair-trade and locally grown bouquets. Yes, you can find local flowers that are grown in greenhouses even in northern areas. For example, I recently found beautiful tulips grown in New Jersey when I was in NYC! This smart option avoids the long transit times from more southern locales, saving transportation emissions — and it means they're fresher and you're supporting a local business.

We never buy roses. They tend to be expensive, and there are so many other beautiful, less-expensive flowers and greenery to choose from when giving a floral gift — some not even flowers! With Valentine's Day coming up, consider switching up your routine with one of these alternatives to roses.

Tulips, as mentioned above, are commonly available this time of year and might even be grown near you. They generally last for a good week. (Look for tulips that are tightly shut when you buy them so you can enjoy the blooming process for longer.) They come in a huge variety of colors, which you can mix or match. Tulips also look great on their own, without other "filler" flowers or greenery, and a simple mason jar makes a perfect reusable and inexpensive vase.

Sunflowers in a vase. Sunflowers are bound to bring a smile with their exuberant color. (Photo: Scott Rothstein/Shutterstock)

Sunflowers are just so joyful — so they make a great gift for anyone who needs a spot of sunshine, and they're not pricy, so you can buy a big bunch and make a real impact. Because they aren't typically associated with romance, sunflowers are also great Valentine's gifts for someone who isn't a romantic partner. They tend to last a good while, but be sure to cut their ends before you put them in water and refill the water often because sunflowers have thick stems and will drink quite a bit of water.

A group of colorful Gerber daisies over a wooden background. Gerber daisies are all about color. (Photo: Morgan Studioes/Shutterstock)

Gerber daisies are inexpensive and come in a huge variety of intense colors, so if you know someone who loves a splash of red, bright pink, orange, yellow (and plenty of other bright hues), this is a joyful option.

A variety of succulents from various genera, including Senecio, Graptopetalum and Sedum.An arrangement including succulents from various genera, including echeveria, senecio and sedum. (Photo: asharkyu/Shutterstock)

Succulents are probably my favorite bouquet alternative, because you can keep them around for years (so no waste!). You could make a group of small succulent plants into a unique bouquet, or go bouquet-free and give a living wreath, like this one from Organic Bouquet. Succulents come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, and while they need light, all they require otherwise is infrequent watering.

And who says it has to be flowers?


Cupcake bouquets are a great alternative for those who don't love flowers but do love dessert. They're also fun (and potentially low-cost) because you can make them yourself, which is a true gift from the heart. The tutorial video above will get you brainstorming about the fun cupcake flowers you could create and shows how to present them together as a "bouquet." If you use recycled or upcycled materials for the base, this can be a low-waste gift too.

Roses made from chocolate. Chocolate flowers may very well last longer than the real thing, depending on your sweetheart's sweet tooth! (Photo: Guryanov Andrey/Shutterstock)

Instead of flowers and chocolate, how about flowers made from chocolate? This is another potential DIY project that could be fun to try at home. Simply buy a big bar of organic, fair-trade chocolate, melt it down, and use a mold (or design your flowers freehand on wax paper if you're an artistic sort). You could add pumpkin seeds, sea salt, cayenne pepper or any number of ingredients to fit your Valentine's tastes.

A bouquet of plush kittens. It's a bit silly, but definitely fun to show up with a kitten bouquet. (Photo: Courtesy ThinkGeek)

Kitten Bouquets are not made with real kittens, nor do they advocate using animals as gifts. (Pets should never be given as presents unless the recipient is well-aware of the situation!) So you can relax, knowing we are just talking about adorable plush kittens from ThinkGeek.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.