Roses are red, violets are blue, and it's time to put buying roses on your list of things to do.

Roses are red, violets are blue, and it's time to put buying roses on your list of things to do.

“The men like to wait until (Valentine's Day), and the selection gets pretty limited,” said Lynn Kurlansky, owner of Barry's Flower Shop in Braintree, Mass. She suggests ordering flowers a week ahead of time.

Kurlansky said buyers should look for roses that are tight and not yet open. Those that are open will be past their prime by Valentine's Day. If you squeeze the head of the rose, it should be firm.

Red roses are the most popular, but roses also come in pink, lavender, yellow, white and even orange. Kurlansky said personal preference is most important in choosing a color, and urges buyers not to follow the crowd.

“I think ladies appreciate a different color,” she said. “I think they get bored with just red.”

No matter what color you choose, roses should last a week with the proper care, said Jennifer Torres, designer at Fabiano Florist in Quincy, Mass. She suggests using the flower food packages that come with most roses and making sure to keep the flowers immersed in a full vase of water. The water should be changed if it gets cloudy.

And by all means, don't leave a bouquet of roses in your car on a cold day.

“Don't let them get cold, don't keep them in too hot of a room, don't keep them next to a radiator,” she said.

A dozen long-stemmed roses on Valentine's Day can cost $60 to $90. The florists say growers charge them more around the holiday.

There are alternatives if you're looking to spend less.

Kurlansky and Torres say shorter-stemmed varieties are cheaper and still beautiful.

But they say you should be wary of buying from a street vendor or someone selling roses from the back of a van.

“That's a much lower quality, and they're not going to last as long,” said Torres. “You get what you pay for.”

Julie Onufrak may be reached at