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Special roses grow 6 feet tall

7:23 AM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
USA TODAY retail reporter Hadley Malcolm stands next to 5-foot -plus high long-stemmed roses on sale by flower company FTD for Valentine's Day. (Photo: Denny Gainer, USA TODAY)
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Leave it to America, land of the Big Gulp, Monster Burger and McMansions, to supersize yet one more thing: the rose.

Make that a six-foot rose, just in time for Valentine's Day.

This flower-on-steroids -- it actually gets this big from special breeding and soils -- comes courtesy of several companies, including FTD, The Ultimate Rose and FiftyFlowers.com. Sales are taking off as florists promote the gargantuan blooms, which also come in three-, four- and five-foot varieties. The companies won't release exact numbers, but FTD says sales have increased 50% year over year since it started selling the roses four years ago.

The allure: size. For Valentine's Day, gift sellers are desperate for consumer attention, and some consumers are desperate to make a big impression. Nothing like sending your sweetie a dozen roses that are taller than she is, right?

"They're shocking, and that's the point," says Kit Yarrow, a consumer research psychologist.

The roses are not only taller than average, they have almost twice as many petals. To get that way, they're grown 10,000 feet above sea level, in the humidity and volcanic soil of Ecuador. The flowers are left on the stem for about 16 weeks, rather than the typical eight, says FTD Vice President of Design Michael Skaff.

Skaff says FTD has already sold out of the five-foot variety and had to order more to meet demand ahead of Valentine's Day. The Ultimate Rose, which supplies the giant roses to FTD and also sells them on its own site, says sales jump this time of year.

"They've been extremely popular," says Alexandra Crissy, marketing manager. "People go crazy."

A dozen of the five-foot variety plus a vase cost nearly $300 through FTD. The six-foot tall roses from FiftyFlowers.com are only available in bulk: 96 for about $600. The site mostly does sales of the six-footers for weddings, but says it still gets individual customers buying the huge roses for Valentine's Day.

Raleigh Matthews, 55, of El Paso, has been buying the roses for friends and family for the past four years. How does he outdo himself each year? By always buying a variety of sizes and colors. He plans to send a mixed dozen of the three-, four- and five-foot varieties to "the first lady in my life," on Valentine's Day this week, he says.

Hadley Malcolm, USA TODAY

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