Your guide to attending the Flower Show on a budget, and supporting Philly gardens year-round

PHS presents the 2024 Philadelphia Flower Show: United By Flowers

6 minute read
Colorful view with hundreds of tulips, clouds of hanging purple flowers, reflecting water & a trees full of pink blossoms.
A view of the 2024 Flower Show Entrance Garden. (Photo courtesy of PHS.)

There’s more than one way for Philly garden lovers to get their plant and flower fix. One is attending the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s (PHS) flagship annual event, the Philadelphia Flower Show. This year’s show, themed United By Flowers, is open at the Pennsylvania Convention Center through March 10, 2024. But the Flower Show is not the only way to enjoy gardens within our city limits—and there are many ways to enjoy the Flower Show without full-price tickets, which at $49.99 each are out of reach for many Philadelphians.

Writer and gardening enthusiast An Nichols has more.

22,000 square feet of displays

I am a long-time fan of PHS. I have participated in its tree-planting events, shopped for seedlings at Meadowbrook Farm, and received a free rain barrel. And I’ve attended the Philly Flower Show on and off for the last decade, but I have never paid for tickets. What?! How? I’m glad you asked.

If you’re a student or getting by on a low income and still want to encounter nature, you too can live that baller Flower Show life, even on a gig worker's budget. (I should know: freelance journalists, including BSR writers, aren’t in it for the money.) Here’s how to attend the Philly Flower Show at low or no cost.

A large wooden arbor over a stone-edged pond draws the eye into a naturalistic garden with lots of greens.
A Flower Show display by Irwin Landscaping and Prairie Wind. (Photo courtesy of PHS.)

In 2014, a standard Philly Flower Show ticket cost $27. This year, it’s $49.99. As PHS PR director Sin Gogolak explains, sourcing issues have changed since the pandemic. And in the Convention Center, PHS has to fill out a 10-acre mini city: 22,000 square feet of garden displays.

Creative ways to access the Flower Show

But what you might not know is that there are many opportunities to enter the Flower Show as a volunteer. You can receive discounted merch, meet the most intriguing people, and have special behind-the-scenes experiences, all without paying. In 2015, I volunteered for the Garden Tea Room and had first access to the Gone with the Wind Hollywood costume collection. I learned the ins and outs of food service on the fly. When I worked the PHS merch table, I snagged a ton of discounted super-cute aprons while advising people on the best plants for cleansing energy. And if you aren’t interested in sales, standing, or potting parties, no problem! There are volunteer positions for all capabilities, including proofreading, information booth assistance, and data entry.

If you’ve got writing or media skills, consider requesting a press pass. Nowadays, the Flower Show is full of influencers in the wild getting the perfect shots, but there are also lots of hyper-local media outlets, like BSR, which are open to pitches from freelancers.

A Black man & woman lean intently over a small table with blossoms and craft supplies.
Two Flower Show goers enjoy an onsite activity. (Photo by Morgan Horell.)

If volunteering or joining the modern press corps isn’t your bag, the discounted twilight tickets are the best bang for your buck. This year, PHS has increased the after-hours time slot for the pass. Tickets are $29.99 after 4pm Monday through Thursday and $39.99 on weekend evenings. There’s also a student option (ages 18-24 with valid ID) for $35, a family discount, and $25 tickets for kids ages 5 to 17.

PHS freebies (for you and your community)

Even if you don’t go to the Flower Show, there are plenty of chances to dig into city gardening programs year-round. PHS basically provides free swag bags for the environmentally minded. There’s the PHS/PWD Rain Check program that gives you free rain barrels for your backyard. There are free seedlings for community gardens through City Harvest. My Tree Tenders instructor also provided us with free seedlings from her garden. If that isn’t enough, PHS also offers FREE street and yard trees as a part of its "Environmental Justice" initiative.

In Philadelphia, the highest-poverty neighborhoods have the lowest tree canopy. While Philly's tree canopy is 20 percent overall, it should be 30 percent for proper air quality and heat reduction. And there’s a 22-degree difference between the hottest and coolest areas of Philadelphia. The Environmental Justice initiative hopes to improve neighborhoods that have only 2.5 percent tree coverage.

A green-walled life-sized diorama featuring a narrow table set for 12, practically disappearing under massive flower bouquets
The Flower Show features many fanciful table-settings. (Photo courtesy of PHS.)

PHS provides ongoing community garden and vacant lot support. PHS “cleans and greens” around 13,000 of Philadelphia’s 40,000 vacant lots. There are also 170 community gardens for which PHS offers soil-testing assistance, funding grants, technical assistance, and knowledge sharing. Of those 170, up to 110 community gardens grow food for donation to local food pantries under the City Harvest program. PHS typically donates around 250,000 seedlings annually to those gardens.

It's worth it!

Everyone who pays a full or discounted price to attend the Philly Flower Show supports the numerous annual initiatives offered by PHS. This includes the community gardens, 67 percent of which exist near sections of the city with higher-than-average poverty rates. Clearly, I think a trip to the Flower Show is worth it, and that’s why I find creative ways to attend.

Next up, check out editor Alaina Johns’s take on this year's show.

Art meets flowers

This year’s PHS Entrance Garden, which boasts luxuriant hanging clouds of purple blossoms, joyful daffodils and tulips, blooming pink trees, and beautiful reflections from a mirror-like water element, is a welcoming showstopper.

There’s lots to see as you wend your way through the Promenade, including intricate flower-filled sculptures and scenes and more naturalistic spreads. It’s strange to see a recreated “vacant lot” or wildflower field inside the Convention Center, but it’s fun to marvel at the creators’ craftsmanship. (In his preview-day remarks, PHS president Matt Rader said this year’s show took eight days to load in.) I’ve always been partial to displays with water features, which add wonderful texture for the eyes and ears. (Find the trickling bathtub in a display from W.B. Saul High School, which imagines nature retaking a farm.)

A mix of spiky, leafy, flowering plants fill a large rectangular space bounded by chain-link fence and pieces of rusted metal
A display by Kelly D. Norris aims to recreate a vacant lot left to flower on its own. (Photo courtesy of PHS.)

This year’s show is also full of treats for art lovers: as an avid knitter, I enjoyed spotting many textile and fiber elements in this year’s displays, including a little yarn-bombed scene which reminded me of so many utility poles and chain-link fences that get similar attention from guerilla crocheters throughout the city. There are table settings—so many table settings. And do not miss the art on display in the Design Gallery: the watercolors and the collages made from plant material are particularly exquisite, and it’s fun to see art from local youngsters, too.

Know before you go

Here's one thing I forgot before walking into the main exhibition hall of this year’s Flower Show: it’s chilly to help keep all those flowers fresh! Especially since coat check will cost you $4, consider holding onto your coat. If it’s a warm day outside, be sure to wear some layers. And the flowers smell gorgeous, but for a lot of us, it’s probably a good idea to pregame with an allergy pill.

A prehistoric-looking display of logs, moss & ferns has a mural of dinosaurs behind it & a life-sized raptor stepping out
One of my favorite Flower Show surprises: a display incorporating ferocious dinosaurs. (Photo by Alaina Johns.)

This event is accessible for folks using all kinds of mobility aids or families with strollers. In the future, I would love to see more dedicated seating options throughout the space: walking on a concrete floor for a couple hours is hard on my feet, and I wish there were as many benches as there are “do not sit” signs. And be sure to plan for some food before or after you enter: I broke down and paid $8 for a plain pretzel to split with my date. Later, we went right to Chinatown for some noodles, dumplings, and bubble tea: a perfect way to wrap up a Flower Show outing.

What, When, Where

The 2024 Philadelphia Flower Show. March 2-10, 2024, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch Street, Philadelphia. $25-$49.99.


The Pennsylvania Convention Center is a wheelchair-accessible venue.

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