All photos: Rio Creative Studio
What’s bigger in Texas? Homecoming corsages, known in the Lone Star State as Texas Mums. You could hide a teenager behind one.
Could you also introduce Texas-sized corsages as part of the homecoming tradition in your area? They’re fun and personal—and bigger could be better for your profits.
Abel Gonzalez Mencio TMF, floral design engineer at Casa Granada Floral & Design in La Feria, Texas, shares here 13 of his designs for girls and boys, his 12 steps for making Texas Mums and his marketing process.
Mums is the word
Commonly called homecoming mums, corsages in the Lonestar state were originally a single fresh chrysanthemum with a small bow in school colors given to girls by their dates.
“Mum is short for chrysanthemum, the fresh flower used in the 70's and 80's,” explains Abel.
Today? Elaborate homecoming mums are now a Texas Institution, according to Abel. When the fresh mums were produced in the smaller form in the 80's, many florists switched to faux mums. Over time as the corsages started getting Texas-sized, they soon discovered using faux flowers allowed making the time-consuming designs during slower summer months.
Prices vary according to location, style and budget. Mums now range from trendy for $35 to over-the-top for $350, with the starting price in many shops $85 for unique designs.
Abel’s 12 Steps for Designing mums
- Trim cardboard backings with ruffled ribbon or assorted ribbon loops in school colors.
- A cascading collection of ribbons in assorted widths, varieties and styles are cut and stapled onto the backing. 36-inch strips are most common but can vary with the girl’s height.
- Additional curling ribbons, sheers and fancy ribbons are added for volume.
- A chenille stem is inserted into the silk flower head, through the bottom calyx, wound and pulled back to "hold" the petals from shedding. This chenille and calyx are hot-glued into place on the backing. Ribbon is added to "fluff up the flower.”
- Assorted braids are added. Braiding ribbon is the most tedious task and can take hours to complete. Feather boas are attached to the sides for fullness. Trinkets such as miniature footballs, helmets and cowbells are tied to the curling ribbon or smaller sheer ribbon and designs are finished off with small coordinating bows.
- Extra trinkets are glued into the flower petals for personalization. Rhinestones, bows, bears, helmets or even school mascots charms or miniature stuffed animals are used according to budget.
- Hanging ribbons are personalized with Colorco silver, sticker letters or written on with Elmer's glue and sparkly glitter. The letters can be changed to any school color by simply coloring them with Sharpie brand markers! The most popular saying for the ribbons is “I Love You!” followed by homecoming, the boy or girl’s name, team vs. team names or graduating year.
- To add sparkle and shine, more glitter is sprayed onto the flower and ribbons.
- Since homecoming mums are heavy, some designers use bandannas, cording or adjustable straps around the neck for support.
- Smaller designs have a loop of ribbon glued onto cardboard that hides the mechanics and staples. Pearl corsage pins are included.
- As a finishing touch, many designers mist with scented sprays to give designs the pleasant fragrance of a rose, carnation, etc.
- Attach a business card or apply a label to the back of the design to promote your business.
Sales strategies differ
Most florists find personalization helps increase the popularity and price-point of their designs.
Shop signature styles vary. “Many shops do certain braiding and glittering techniques that only they use,” says Abel. “My signature trademark is a small American Flag that I add to every design.”
You can extend the sales season by marketing to schools in surrounding communities. This includes middle schools, which are beginning to celebrate homecoming on a lesser scale.
Some floral shops mass produce homecoming mums using the same basic ribbons, charms and trinkets or just one simple braid.
The tradition continues to grow
Over the years, the tradition has evolved into elaborate gift-giving from parents, grandparents, friends, sweethearts and football or cheer buddies.
“The girl never buys her own mum and the more popular the girl the more mums she gets!” says Abel. “It’s not uncommon to see a girl wearing multiple corsages all over her chest, arm, legs and even back.”
“It’s customary to hang the mums on their bedroom walls until they graduate from high school, amassing quite an array of designs.”
What’s new for mums?
An emerging tradition is the mum reveal, where kids gather to see their designs and have a party.
Homecoming garters are a miniature (18-22 inch) version of a mum given to a boy with all the same trinkets and accessories used for the girl. Designed on an elastic wedding garter, these are worn on the arm and are also popular for dance teams and small children.
Football players often wear multiple arm garters given by family and friends, girlfriends and cheer buddies. In return, girlfriends get a personalized mum and buddies a nice mum with the player’s name and jersey number.
Newer trends include the sash mum that goes completely across the chest and saddle mum that straddles the shoulder from front to back.
Homecoming week themes
“Most floral wholesalers in Texas carry a vast array of ribbon, trinkets, silk flowers and charms that complement homecoming themes,” says Abel.
“Popular color combinations this year include rose-gold, coral, turquoise, lime green, blush and pink, with fancier designs incorporating burlap, rhinestones and denim.”
Disney themes such as Frozen, Lion King and westerns are always popular. For an October homecoming, students often request a touch of pink for Cancer Awareness month.
One year, Like a Virgin, a mum named for the singer Madonna featuring creations of white/silver or gold /white, was hot. Last year the movie COCO featuring Day of the Dead traditions was a popular theme.
The sky's the limit when it comes to adding plush animals too! Unicorns. Dogs. Cats. Lions. Tigers. Bears. “I‘ve seen students in a local high school carry around huge 4-foot decorated stuffed panthers that sell for over $300 each,” Abel says in amazement!
Word of mouth is still the best advertising. Posting photos on social media pages is important.
“An ad in the football programs sold at home games promotes photos of your work for a minimum investment,” suggests Abel.
“Establishing a loyal relationship with highly visible students, like cheerleaders, influences others and is like cash in the bank for homecoming, prom, Valentine’s and Mother’s Days, etc.,” he confides.
“I find donating a fancy mum for a cheerleader’s fundraising raffle always brings me more business.”
Will the trend continue to grow?
Business-savvy florists continue to customize their designs and services to keep their mum business strong in the face of growing competition and school regulation.
“Larger cities such as Houston, Spring, Dallas and Austin are big into the homecoming mum scene. Surrounding states like Louisiana and New Mexico are trying to introduce them, but they still aren’t as popular as they are in Texas.”
While most Texas florists say the mum trend is growing in popularity, others are challenged by increasing competition causing some florists to discontinue selling mums altogether.
Local craft stores sell a limited number of supplies to make mum corsages some parents offer for sale through their kids.
“Some Texas schools have students who study agriculture and floristry.” According to Abel, “these groups create designs in the classroom and sell them as fundraisers, as do many cheerleader and dance-team booster clubs comprised of students and families.”
“There are some areas hit hard by school administrations,” he explains. “They either ban or limit the use of the mums due to new no disturbance in the classroom rules. The biggest complaint is noise in the hallways since most mums have two to 10 cowbells attached.
“Every US region has its own rich traditions and Texas is no different,” says Abel. Florists across the country can use this Texas-sized idea to develop new sales and make more money with very little investment.”
Can you incorporate this profitable Texas trend into your homecoming dance business and two-step your way to new profits?