How Millions Of Roses Are Ready Just In Time For Valentine’s Day

Image courtesy of Chris Blakeley

It would make a lot of people in the flower business very happy if we would just reschedule Valentine’s Day to sometime in July. If we would do that, they wouldn’t have to rush to transport millions of roses from warm climates to colder ones before the very firm deadline of February 14. We’re stuck with that date, and that’s why farmers and wholesalers need to use plant hormones, heaters, fans, and passenger jets to get roses ready at just the right time.

NPR’s Planet Money followed both ends of the transaction on Valentine’s Day 2015: they were on hand in a flower shop in Manhattan when a man with sticker shock bought roses for his wife. They also sent a reporter to the farm in Ecuador where those exact roses were being grown, to meet the farmers responsible for making sure that the roses bloom at exactly the right time.

Getting Valentine’s Day right is crucial for everyone involved in this transaction: the spouse, the florist, and the grower. Ultimately, how much we pay for a dozen roses on the holiday depends on the weather in South America or Africa where so many of our holiday roses come from. Growers can only guess at what the weather will be like in the coming months, and temperatures dictate the speed at which a rose grows. If it’s too warm, an entire harvest could be lost if it peaks too early for the Valentine’s Day rush. When there are too many roses too early, they get dumped on the market at too-low prices, or are simply thrown away.

This year, the harvest at this particular farm in Ecuador missed its target by one day, which wasn’t so bad. Roses were plentiful in stores, and at least one farmer didn’t lose money or have to trash piles of roses.

Episode 603: A Rose On Any Other Day [Planet Money]