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.

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  3. bonnie

    Do you know about the Boston flower exchange what time the exchange is good to go. and if it is open to the public.

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