HOUSTON -

Days before Valentine's, viewers are asking KPRC Local 2 investigative reporter Amy Davis how to get the biggest bang for your buck on flowers.

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The average consumer will spend about $80 on flowers this year, so you'd like to make sure your sweetheart's bouquet reflects the hard-earned money you shelled out.

Davis asked the experts for advice how on to make sure you get what you pay for.

We showed you what we received when we ordered flowers from four online floral companies.

Local florists tell us that was our first mistake.

When you order flowers through a big company online, what's called a wire service, they turn around and give your order to a local florist. But they don't pass along everything that you paid.

For example, after delivery costs, we paid $50.97 for an arrangement through ProFlowers. The local florist who made it and delivered it only got $39.99. ProFlowers kept the rest.

Remember the arrangements floral students said looked nothing like the pictures featured on the flower Web sites?

Apparently, there's a reason for that.

Local florists tell us no one business can possibly have every ribbon, every vase and every flower offered by the big floral companies online. They send you what they have in stock.

"We really recommend that you work with a local florist," said Jim Lerdal, the owner of the Houston School of Floral Design. "The local florists are invested in you. They're interested in having you back as a customer again, and you know where they are."

Lerdal says there's more to learn about his industry than how to arrange a bouquet, like letting the experts call some of the shots.

"A nice thing that we recommend is that you ask the florist, 'What do you recommend?'" said Lerdal. "I want to spend about $70. What can you do for $70?"

And guys: you can do something other than roses.

Sue Habib of Lexis Florist said lilies, orchids and alstromerias are also good picks. All can be less expensive and longer-lasting alternatives to roses.

But whatever you order, order soon. Since Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year, a lot of people want the arrangements delivered on Friday.

Lerdal says you should also pay for your order with a credit card. If the arrangement is sub par, and the florist won't make it right, you can always dispute the charges with your card company.