After Sheila Adkins sends her mother flowers, she always asks for details about the arrangement.

It's not only a matter of curiosity for Adkins, a spokeswoman for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. She wants to make sure she got her money's worth.

"You don't want the person receiving low-quality flowers that are brown or dead," she said from her office in Arlington, Va.

Checking up on florists is a good idea, particularly on Mother's Day, when demand for flowers is great, said one consumer expert.

Mother's Day accounts for one-fourth of holiday flower purchases, according to the Society of American Florists in Alexandria, Va.

It especially may be important to follow up if mom lives out of town.

The opportunity to tell a florist how you want the arrangement to look is crucial, said Leanne Kesler, director of the Floral Design Institute in Portland, Ore.

Experts offered the following tips for ensuring a beautiful arrangement.

--If your mother lives in another city, go online, find a florist in her area and place the order directly with that shop.

--Don't wait until the last minute. Place your order at least a week in advance.

--Be sure to ask whether the store delivers on Mother's Day or if the flowers will arrive on Saturday.

--Find out how much the shop charges to deliver.

--Be prepared to share your mom's likes and dislikes. Details like your mom's favorite color or flower can help the florist create a special arrangement.

--Use descriptive words to tell the florist what your mom would like. Tell the florist whether your mom would prefer flowers that look like they were grown in grandma's garden or a jungle. Details about her house are helpful, too. Knowing whether mom is shabby chic or Saks Fifth Avenue is useful to a floral arranger.

--Ask the florist how large the arrangement will be, whether the bouquet will come in a vase or box and what varieties of flowers will be used.

--If you are ordering an arrangement shown on the shop's website, be sure to ask whether you will be notified about any substitutions. If a flower shop runs out of a certain flower, workers will sometimes substitute it with another one.

--Make sure you understand the store's guarantee. Find out how customer complaints are handled and what recourse you will have if the arrangement is not satisfactory.

--If you choose to use a national flower delivery service, find one like FTD or 1-800-flowers that offers a satisfaction guaranteed policy. The national companies also offer set prices and prearranged designs online.

--Websites such as ftdflorist.com and Locatemyflorist.com can help you find a local florist. Even if you are ordering an arrangement you saw online, it's still a good idea to ask about substitution policies.