8 Unique Green Alternatives to Cut Flowers

man in cream sweater displays small bonsai tree houseplant as gift

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Say I love you with these lovely living gifts that go easy on the planet.

Oh how we love to give flowers to our beloved on holidays. It's estimated that sending 100 million roses – the number of roses American will give their Valentines alone each year – produces around 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions between field and florist. (The average American household has a carbon footprint of 48 metric tons a year, notes The Washington Post in an article on the topic.)

That hefty footprint comes courtesy of the fact that 80 percent of the flowers are imported, most grown in energy-guzzling greenhouses and drenched with toxic chemicals – and once cut, require a long journey under refrigeration to arrive at your local florist. And for what? To land on your sweetheart's table for a week before heading to the landfill where they will face a long slow decline, emitting methane all the way. See? I'm totally a romantic!

Anyway. If you want to not participate in all of that, you can get sustainably sourced flowers – which is great (see more here: Show your love with earth-friendly flowers). But you can also jump off of the cliche wagon and do something a little different too. Which is where this list comes into play.

1. A Bouquet of Herbs

a bundle of fresh lavender laying on wooden fence is a lovely valentine's gift

janthonymartinez / Getty Images

Beautiful and unexpected, less costly than roses – and won't be tossed in a week. Fresh lavender and rosemary (and whatever else your heart desires) can all be dried and doled out throughout the year for cooking or using around the house.

2. Cocktail Grow Kit

a cocktail grow kit features seed packets for herbs in a recycled egg carton

Courtesy of Uncommon Goods

Kick off cocktail hour with seed packets for thyme, lavender, Thai basil, mint, lemon balm, and blue borage — this gift comes in a recycled egg carton, giving it an extra eco-twist. (Cocktail Grow Kit, $12)

3. Edible Flowers Kit

an edible flower kit that includes peat pots and organic seeds and soil for valentine's

Courtesy of Grove Collaborative

Who doesn't love edible flowers? They are delightful. They add color, flavor and whimsy; they make you feel a little magical. Who wouldn't prefer a little edible flower garden over a bunch of going-to-die-soon flowers that you can't even eat? This kit comes with non-plastic tubes containing USDA organic, non-GMO seed types (borage, dill, nasturtium, sunflower and Thai basil), soil discs, peat pots, and custom wood-burned plant markers. You could also put together your own little kit, see 42 flowers you can eat for more ideas. (Edible Flower Seed Kit, $30)

4. Succulents from Lula's Garden

xoxo succulents in a white wooden gift box for valentine's day

Courtesy of Lula's Garden

Someone give this to me, please. They are succulents in a box ... and the gift box itself serves as a planter. Open, enjoy; no fuss, all love. This one is the XOXO Garden, but there are a bunch of other cute love-themed options as well. (XOXO Garden, $35)

5. An Herb Garden

Kitchen herbs stay fresh in this mod white container with watering hole

Courtesy of Amazon

Another herbs-for-flowers swap, because having a wee garden of herbs on the kitchen windowsill is such a gift. Little flourishes of flavor are always on hand and waste is reduced when you can snip a few leaves rather than buying a whole bunch. Any cute pot will do – this Scandinavian mod number from Sagaform is nice for starters. (Sagaform Herb Pot, $52)

6. Forced Bulbs

three amaryllis forced bulbs in red flower pot next to city window


I have an amaryllis bulb purchased in early November that bloomed twice and then shot up a quartet of green stalks that are a statement bouquet all on their own. Almost three months of flowers/greenery for one bulb! Bulbs are wonderful – they start as a sprout and grow into an incredible bloom (or several, apparently), lasting much longer than a bunch of stems. And when all is said and done, some bulbs can be planted in the garden or forced again; the others are a small addition to the compost bin.

7. Flowering Bonsai

Flowering bonsai trees with bright pink flowers in rectangle containers

Courtesy of Eastern Leaf

A little tree. A little tree that flowers. For the giftee looking for a new hobby, these beautiful flowering trees can be ordered with the complete kit to get started in the art of bonsai.

(Satsuki Azalea Apple Blossom Bonsai, $45 / Bougainvillea Bonsai, $49)

8. Terrarium necklace

a glass bottle necklace filled with mossy terrarium plants hangs from a chain

Marcelo Costa Barros / Getty Images

This may be stretch if your intended is expecting flowers, but there's something wonderful about combining some greenery with a piece of jewelry – and these terrarium-filled necklaces feel like they hold special secrets. (Terrarium necklaces on Etsy / prices vary)