Valentine's Day is one of the busiest times of the year for flower sales.

But what options do you have if you also want those blooms to let your beloved know you're socially and environmentally-conscious?

For one, think about a plant instead of roses.

While not the same symbol of romance as cut flowers, a plant better represents a relationship: it grows and can last many years but also needs a lot of care and attention.

"Plants are a great sustainable option," said florist Joseph Delarge, who is the owner of eco stems flower shop,

He sells many plants this time of year, but does more business — a couple weeks worth of sales in one day — with ethical flowers for Valentine's.

He sells three kinds: locally grown, fair trade or organic flowers.

"There's a lot of unethical practices in the floral industry," he told Metro Morning.

He said there can be long working hours at poor wages to get flowers to Toronto. Many of the labour violations directly affect women, who tend to work in the industry. They are exposed to pesticide and work precariously, sometimes while pregnant.

There are also huge environmental concerns.

Delarge does not use flowery language when discussing the human and environmental abuses.

"There are a lot of [problems] that come along with flowers. And if you're not making the sustainable choice, you're often a part of those problems," he said.

How to find an ethical flower

The Toronto florist gets his flowers from places like Ecuador and Colombia, plus flowers grown in greenhouses in Ontario. But he doesn't so much pick the flowers by country than by farm — researching each farm rigorously.

If the flowers are local, they have a Made In Canada seal. In 2013, eco stems started selling "uber-local" organic flowers grown within the boundaries of the city of Toronto.

If the flowers are fair trade, they should be labelled with the country of origin along with a seal from organizations like Rainforest Alliance Certified, VeriFlora Certified, Sierra Eco Certified or FloVerde.

If the flowers are organic, the seal should read "USDA Organic Certified."

"Often the fair trade or organic flowers are a higher premium flower, but not much more expensive typically than a good flower shop," he said.

Sometimes high-end florists will have ethical flowers, but won't advertise them as such because the florists believe consumers don't care, he said.

But part of his mandate at eco stems is to promote knowledge about the flowers and plants. Starting in January, the shop began running terranium workshops teaching its customers to grow cacti amd succulents. He also offers private workshops for hands-on floral and botanical education.