How to shop the wholesale flower market

Oh, you mean the most wonderful place on the planet? Look how happy I am. It’s almost like you just told me that I could freeze Bearcat’s eggs and modify the genes so I could make ten miniature Bearcats and run away with them to Bali. I’m THAT happy at the flower market.

So today’s post is all about how you, a normal non-wholesaler, can shop the wholesale flower market. Get your unironic mustache disguise ready because you are kinda sneaking in.

A GENERAL BREAKDOWN:

The wholesale flower market is where florists, stylists, and designers buy their flowers and plants at a wildly reduced price. It’s a huge building (or three, but I just go to my go-to’s in one of them) of flower vendors in downtown LA (and yes, most major cities have them in the sketchy party of town). A lot of them sell the same sort of deli/grocery store flowers, but many specialize in branches or succulents or just BETTER flowers. The prices are basically the same throughout, but the selection can be better based on the vendor.

Rule #1.

Go early, and I don’t mean 10 am. They open at 2 am and close around 8 am. Some of them stay open longer, but the majority of the best ones are closed by 9 am. If you are a wholesaler you can go legally at any time, BUT if you are not a wholesaler, there are times when technically you can’t be there and then yes, you have to be very sneaky.

flower market hours

That’s right. So on Monday if you are wholesale you can go to the flower market at 2 am. Why, oh why, am I not going there after the bars? (Remember when you were young and you said stuff like “The Bars,” like, “Hey Suzy, Wanna go to the bars?”)

But if you go at 8 am everyday you are good to go — they are still open, and it’s legal. What you do is park in the above ground parking lot on Maple between 7th and 8th. Then get out of your car, look cool, go into the really sketchy entrance of the building ON THAT FLOOR, and then take the escalator down. BOOM. You are in. If you bring cash when you purchase, you’ll be fine. And you are paying for parking up there so you are still supporting their business.

Right at the bottom of the escalator is my favorite flower dealer, Mayesh. They always have good standards and then a wide variety of seasonal flowers. They have the weird stuff like the pods, figs, clementines, berries, garden roses from ancient Europe, yadda yadda. They are good, and often they are the only place I go.

Prices are about 1/3 of what they are at a florist. This should NOT make you buy from florists any less; you are not getting ripped off, instead florists are curating the flowers for you so you don’t have to go downtown at 5 am for some peonies. It’s like buying from your local butcher — they find the best cuts of meats from the best farms and make it a convenient and beautiful grocery experience.

But, that brings me to this: a lot of florists have standing orders of what gets purchased the most, not what is the most beautiful. And that is why I go down to the flower market — to find the most beautiful that day instead of choosing between red roses and gerber daisies at the local Vons. So the real reason I go downtown is for the selection, not the price.

LA flower market

Alright, you are in. When you see a bunch you like, grab them and put them on “your cart.” If a cart already has flowers on them then that is someone else’s  and they DON’T like it when people try to steal their carts. Or you can carry them around if you don’t buy too much.

LA flower market

There are no prices as they change with the season, but you start to get used to it. Before they ring you up they normally give you pricing, or you can ask if there is anything really expensive here, because sometimes you’ll have three stems of tiger anenomies picked from Mars’ red soil that are like $65 each. That whole pile you see above cost me around $50, but most of them aren’t/weren’t too fancy — it was for my flower styling DIY that you can watch HERE.

If you aren’t wholesale, then you can pay cash of course without feeling any stress. But I pay card almost all the time. If they ask for your badge, just say “I’ll pay tax,” which isn’t a lie, it’s actually what I do. Some wholesalers like to pay tax and some don’t (it gets messy on the back end by paying tax although I know there are a ton of advantages to it).

plant shopping And yes, you can get plants there, too. Big old fiddle leaf figs to small succulents. The ones I’m holding at the top of the post were $6 and $8 (I believe), but basically they are about 30 percent less than Home Depot with a way better selection. HUGE maiden hair ferns for $12 … that I’ll kill in 12 days.

I tried going to the flower market once in Portland without a badge and got kicked out. Samesies with San Francisco — they are like, HARD CORE. But just so you know, getting a “badge” isn’t that difficult, so if you throw a ton of dinner parties it might be worth it. It’s just some paperwork and you wait a month.

LA and New York have fairly loosey goosey badge policies and if you go at 8am you are all legal. I get it, they want to protect the industry, but ultimately most people reading this post that buy from florists won’t stop buying from florists, but that one time a year for that expensive party they might head downtown and not be terrified by the foreign nature of the whole experience.

flower market downtown

As far as favorite neighborhood florists in LA?

Clementines on Sunset and Dandelion Ranch by appointment for parties. Those both always have unique flowers all the time, SUCH good taste, and you know you aren’t getting anything generic. They aren’t overpriced either, just right.

I did a quick easy cheap flower tutorial the other day for you to check out as well as a “10 rules to arranging flowers” post a while ago (please excuse how the photos work in the new format — I’m sure Bri wants to kill my past blogging self).

And of course we made a video of us just having the best time at the flower market. Dancing, laughing, making love surrounded by the sweet sweet fragrance of North Holland wild tulips.

Thank you so much Tessa Neustadt for taking these lovely photos and making this very fun video. Thank you, thank you.

  1. bookmarking this NOW. thanks for the tips, and i love that sweet video! can you and orlando come sneak into a boston floral warehouse with me please?

  2. Ooo that does look like fun and you and Orlando look like you’ve just gotten married in the next to last photo haha

  3. Laura

    Oh how I miss the LA Flower Mart!! Before I got my badge, they used to issue ‘Guest Passes’ for the day (this was back mid 90′s) Wonder if they still do that? Anyway, looks like you had fun!!

  4. I think this post made me fall in love with you, Emily.

    I am like a kid in a candy factory when I’m at the LA Flower market. Just the smell is intoxicating… So far, I’ve always been a rule follower, but now I know your invaluable secrets and can get in early and get better selection!! Awesomesauce.

    P.S. I too love Mayesh.

  5. Danielle

    So fun! And thanks for the great tips, too! I’m off to find out where the wholesale flower market is in Detroit. I visited the Produce Terminal (same concept, but with food) when I was in culinary school and it was so cool. The getting up before dawn bit, not so fun.

    Love the video, too – now when is your show coming back to HGTV?!

  6. Eliza

    I’m totally inspired by your style and love your blog! Rock on Girl! :D

  7. Dana

    First of all I almost spit out my drink in laughter about your minature Bearcats! Second, that video is amazing. I don’t watch a lot of videos on blogs (because I mostly read at work or while I’m watching TV) but you’re hilarious and adorable so I tuned it! So fun! Gorgeous flowers!

  8. I adore the LA Flowermart, although when I park my car on the street in that neighborhood, I always give her a look like it might be my last. We purchased $700 worth of flowers for $350 for my August 2002 wedding. I always go early Saturday mornings for dinner parties and spend about $50 for armfuls of lovely flowers. I scored a gorgeous piece of driftwood and giant white mums for my pop up dinner last year. http://lovesrobots.blogspot.com/2012/08/i-love-it-when-plan-comes-together.html. I am counting the days until peony season. Your hot pink belt wins!!!

    • Emily

      thats awesome. my flower budget for my wedding was $350, too. I can’t believe i pulled that off. my boss at the time did the flowers like a mother loving saint. :)

  9. LOVE going to the Flower Mart. Thanks for the tips I’ll def check out Mayesh next time I’m there.

  10. Susan

    If I lived anywhere near L.A. (I’m in Boston) I’d be there tomorrow! Thanks for such a pretty post. Love your blog, Emily!

    Susan
    simplymodernhome.com

  11. Chris

    Do you think this will work in NYC too?

    • Emily

      the flower market in new york is even easier – you just walk in and pay cash. but again, it closes by 9am at the latest. its on 26th between 7-8th i believe. good luck!

      • Chris

        Good to know! Thanks!

  12. Kate

    Thanks for the info Emily! Can I be totally lame and ask where you go your bag? I’m in the hunt for one and yours looks perfect.

    • Emily

      Madewell! Except last year…..But they always have good pretty leather bags. thanks so much!

      • Kate

        Thanks so much for responding Emily. So excited to find out it’s a fairly affordable bag! You rock!

  13. Sarah Thorne

    Love the video, your blog and your style! I second Kate’s request for more info on your bag-I’m sure it’s vintage, but it’s awesome!

  14. Joanna

    Love the photos and video. You and Orlando look so cute! Good job Tessa!!

  15. Alex

    Great post…that looks like so much fun! Do you know the name of the plant with the pink leaves in the first photo? I have never seen a plant like that!

  16. Rebecca

    I’m very surprised you had issues at the San Francisco Flower Mart- they’re open to the public Monday through Saturday 10am – 3pm. I’ve gone there before 10 and never had an issue, but many vendors are closed by 10.
    I feel you should update your post to be factual and not mislead Bay Area readers-http://sfflowermart.com/faq_frameset.html

  17. linda

    Love the photos! So well done. Ditto the video~ felt like being there!
    ~ Linda

  18. Sarah

    Does anyone know if there’s a similar market in Atlanta? Google didn’t reveal definite results.

  19. Megan

    love these tips! plants and flowers can be so pricey, and if you’re looking for a bunch all at once this is great.

  20. JeanneW

    Thank you soooo much for sharing this! I’ve always wanted to go to the LA Flower Market but I’ve been too intimidated….and let’s be honest, I can’t always drag myself out of bed early in the morn. Definitely bookmarking this page. A huge bunch of pale pink peonies are calling my name!

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  22. This is awesome and sent me on a Googling quest to see if there are any wholesale flower markets here in Grand Rapids, MI. It is a mid-sized city so I thought perhaps, but couldn’t find anything. Of course I know wholesalers in general are not the greatest at SEO. :/

  23. deanna

    hi! Im thinking of going to the la flower mart for my wedding but im not sure about the transporting.. our wedding will be up north about a 6 hour drive.. how would i transport the deco..

  24. Karin

    If you plan on transporting your flowers for a longer period of time (1-2 hours) is there any special attention they need (water, blast the a/c, etc)?

  25. Alix

    Thank you so much for posting this! We’ve decided to attempt this for our wedding! Well just the bouquets

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