Sales, marketing and design ideas for these annual celebrations of educational achievement

By Nita Robertson, AIFD


As the main graduation season for most educational institutions approaches—typically mid-May to mid-June—florists have an opportunity to contribute to yet another celebratory occasion in their customers’ lives by offering an array of thoughtfully curated flower gifts that laud students’ years of hard work, achievements and accomplishments and hails their growth and the new beginnings that lie ahead for them.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the average spending per person for graduations last year was projected to be $116.19, with a total overall spend of $6.4 billion. These figures come from NRF’s “2023 Graduation Spending Survey,” which also revealed that 36 percent of the 8,414 respondents indicated they would buy a gift for—or give cash to—a high school or college graduate. Cash was the No. 1 gift of choice for the majority—52 percent—of survey respondents, but if you effectively create and market floral gifts that appeal to the traditional high school and college graduate age group (and their family and friends), you, too, can get a piece of the graduation-gift pie. While the majority of graduates are Generation Zers, that is changing a bit, as increasing numbers of millennials and those even older are going back to school—so don’t forget about them, as well.

As with any holiday and special occasion, it is important to plan well in advance for greater efficiency and profits—which, for graduations, means now. With the right preparation and marketing, graduations can be a boon for your business—not only in sales but also in alluring a new generation of flower buyers. To start, find out the graduation dates for all public and private schools, technical and vocational schools, and colleges and universities in your area. It is also important to know the school colors and mascots of all such educational institutions in your area so that you can stock an abundance of flowers, ribbons, tissue paper and gifts geared to each one. Additionally, many schools need large podium and stage designs and other floral décor for their commencement ceremonies and receptions, so be sure to contact all of them right away to learn of their needs and to offer your services.

When planned for and marketed well, graduation days will likely garner many walk-in customers at your shop, especially early in the morning, so plan ahead for that, and make sure you’ll be open early, adequately staffed to handle the rush, and well stocked with creative ready-to-go items in a range of price points. Also, make it easy for customers to place orders online and to either pick up in store or have delivered to their favorite grads.

grad with big bouquet


Flowers can be the perfect accolades for these annual recognition rituals whether they be a festive presentation bouquet, a celebratory lei or flower crown, or other options that would excite consumers in your area, as well as their visiting relatives and friends. By applying creativity and thoughtful touches, florists can play a crucial role in making these milestone events even more memorable.

Consider incorporating elements that evoke a sense of accomplishment, possibly vibrant colors and/or bold blooms, or graduation-themed accessories like mini diplomas, mortarboards or symbolic charms. Customizing your floral gifts for the graduates, such as with nods to the year and/or the institution from which they are graduating, will make the gifts more memorable and meaningful for both the givers and the recipients. Another suggestion: Develop “graduation gift packages” that include a collection of the floral designs that follow, as well as other gifts, that acknowledge varying budgets. This often simplifies the decision-making process for customers and results in higher sales.

Wrapped Bouquets

Wrapped bouquets of fresh flowers have always been popular gift options for giving to graduates. When selecting flowers for graduation bouquets, opt for blooms that convey a sense of achievement and success. Bright and bold flowers like sunflowers, lilies and roses are popular choices. Remember, though, to select hardy flowers that will last through the day’s festivities. Because wrapped bouquets will likely be out of water for a long period, offer a water source to keep them fresh, such as water tubes; hydration wraps, such as FloraLife® Bouquet Wraps, Chrysal Arrive Alive® and Arrive Alive® Eco, and EcoFresh Bouquet’s Eco-Wrap; and even FlowerBox Grab & Go Bouquet Vases.

Goods by Lindsay
Goods by Lindsay

Also consider incorporating the graduate’s favorite flowers or selecting blooms that align with their school colors to add a personalized touch. Some florists offer upgraded wrapped bouquets that include small graduation-themed plush bears nestled within the bouquet, but you can also accent your bouquets with small graduation caps or tassels, graduation picks, small air-filled foil balloons and more. It’s all about the upsell and increasing price points—and revenues.

Fresh Flower Leis

Fresh flower leis rank highly among the most exceptional and trendy gifts for graduates today. On the islands of Hawaii, gifting leis at graduations is a long-standing tradition. They express aloha (love), congratulations and wishes for good luck. This lovely custom has now spread beyond the islands into the mainland U.S. and many other parts of the world. Fresh flower leis are easy to wear and make graduates feel special. You can create your own leis or buy ready-made versions, depending on your time, demand, abilities and staffing.  For example, at, you can choose from a variety of ready-made orchid leis that are shipped directly from Thailand and delivered to your door overnight.

United Wholesale Flowers

Flower Crowns and Other Wearable Flowers

Flower crowns are also delightful and popular wearable for graduations, adding a whimsical and bohemian touch to the festivities. Beyond their aesthetic appeal, flower crowns offer great opportunities for memorable photos. The trend of incorporating flower crowns into graduation festivities, as with leis, aligns with a desire for creativity and individual expression, allowing graduates to stand out and make a statement on their special day.

head flower crown

“Flower crowns” for graduation caps (a.k.a. mortarboards) are a fun way for graduates to stand out in the crowd. These versatile designs are created to be attached under the flat square part of a graduation cap, but they can also be worn by a graduate, as a traditional flower crown, following the commencement ceremony.

In addition to flower crowns, flower jewelry—rings, earrings, necklaces, etc.—provides fun and modern options for grad gifts, but don’t shortchange traditional corsages and boutonnières. Have all of these items, in school colors, of course, displayed prominently and ready to go, to entice walk-in customers. They might even inspire multiple purchases. For all of the designs mentioned in this section, choose long-lasting small-to-medium-size blooms and accessory items.

Graduation Party Décor

Many consumers will host parties and special dinners to celebrate graduates’ milestone accomplishments, so create and promote a selection of fun, festive and modern centerpieces, along with more elaborate and customized décor options such as a flower-bedecked photo wall and other items from your wedding and party repertoire. The options for this younger crowd are endless and can be exciting to create for your designers—as well as highly profitable for your store.

As with many festive celebrations, graduation parties are ideal opportunities for selling balloons and balloon décor. Balloon arches, walls, columns, etc., make happy, playful and youthful backdrops, especially for the aforementioned photo walls and “selfie stations.” And, of course, be sure to offer balloon bouquets and stock a wide array of foil balloons for grads.

Present a variety of options in both flower and balloon décor, in a range of price points, and promote them prominently on social media and your website. Also, consider collaborating with local restaurants or event venues to ensure they are aware of your graduation party décor services.

Teacher Gifts

An important and often untapped sales opportunity is gifts that grads can present to their favorite teachers. Plants and bouquets are logical choices—easy to give and highly appreciated—so create and promote a selection of affordable floral gifts for educators. Grads often have multiple teachers, which could translate into multiple sales.


With the right marketing, the right amount of marketing and the right timing, you can position your store as your community’s “headquarters for graduation gifts.”

graduation background with school accessories

• Showcase all your floral options for graduation gifts and parties with high-quality images on your website and social media platforms. These modern marketing tools make it easy and affordable to engage with your audience and share photos of your offerings. You can also share educational content about the symbolism of specific blooms and colors, as well as the significance of flowers in graduation ceremonies

• Post about your graduation gifts and party décor—as well as your hours of operation, delivery schedules, etc.—on social media well in advance, to create interest and let customers know about all of the many exciting products and services you offer. Feature your graduation gift and décor items on your website, in a designated “Graduations” section, to make it easy for customers to find. As the dates get closer, send marketing emails relating to graduations. (Refer to our article, “Email Marketing Guide,” in the February 2023 issue, for great tips. You can also access it online, at Specifically target consumers who have graduates in their lives, which will likely require doing a little homework on your part (how appropriate!).

• Encourage satisfied customers to post positive reviews and testimonials on Google Reviews (you’ll have to establish a Google Business Profile first); your Facebook Business Page, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, Foursquare for Business or other business review websites you choose. Make it easy for happy customers to do this favor for you by providing them with a card on which your preferred review sites and instructions for accessing them are listed. This will also serve as a gentle reminder for them to actually post a review.