Without the benefit of imported orchid flowers, local lei stringer still manage to do lei with orchid and carnation; turberose with ilima; crown flower with roses; and plain plumeria. There is no need for plastic flower substitute. Crown flower lei are selling at $5, the old price of the “cheap” orchid lei.
The trick to graduation lei is for the parents to buy a few really nice lei for the graduated to wear at dinner or project grad after the lei pile up. The remaining lei should be “cheap” colorful or fragrant lei for the greatest pile up impact. Purple orchid, yellow plumeria, color carnation was always a good choice for that.