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With the increased interest in gardening and so many in-person restrictions, you may want to consider purchasing some of your plants and seeds online.

But is it worth it to buy your plants online? Where are the best places to buy outdoor plants, shrubs and trees online? What about seeds? Are there any online nurseries to stay away from? So many questions.

In this article, I’ll go over my experiences with ordering from several online nurseries as well as which ones you can trust, which you can’t and what to look out for.

If you’re new to purchasing plants online, be sure to check out my article about the pros and cons of purchasing from online plant nurseries. That will give you a good foundation before you place your first order.

Where to Buy Plants Online

If you want to shop online, here are some places that I’d recommend either from purchasing directly or receiving recommendations from other gardeners.

Nature Hills Nursery

Nature Hills online nursery is an excellent place to shop for plants online. They have a GREAT selection (honestly, it’s huge) and often have free shipping on orders over a certain amount. The plants I’ve ordered were healthy but definitely on the small side. So, keep that in mind when you’re ordering.

This is true when purchasing plants from most online nurseries, though (more about this here).

Select Seeds

Select seeds has more than just seeds as one may think. I purchased some annual black-eyed susan climbing vines for just $7 each and they arrived in perfect condition. They were actually A LOT bigger than I expected and arrived in less than 2 weeks.

black eyed susan plants shipped and growing on arbor
I received these well-packaged black-eyed susan vines from SelectSeeds in April, 2020. The photo on the right are the full grown vines near the end of September, 2020, on the arbor in my backyard. These were beautiful, healthy plants that I’ve ordered again this coming year. Photo by Pretty Purple Door.

Overall, I’m really pleased with the prices, condition of plants and quality of plants and seeds (more on this later) from SelectSeeds. I will continue to order from them in the future.

Bluestone Perennials

Some of my gardening friends also recommend Bluestone Perennials for their selection of online plants. I have purchased from Bluestone a handful of times. The plants are potted, but still very small.

I ordered 2 Butterfly Weed plants and 1 Globe Thistle (echinops) plant in August 2019. Each plant was about $15 and shipping was about $12. My order was scheduled to ship in late September.

The 2 Butterfly Weed plants did ship on time in late September. They were SO small, though. They survived the winter, but I ended up finding butterfly weed locally and purchased 2 much larger plants so I didn’t have to wait 3 years for these tiny guys to flower. I don’t think this purchase was worth the cost.

I received a message informing me that my Globe Thistle was on backorder and would not arrive until spring. They asked if I would like to replace the plant or keep the order and I chose to keep the order. I contacted them on April 11, 2020 to check my order status and received a very quick response. They shipped my order on April 28, 2020.

purple globe thistle flowers in the garden
In August of the same year, my globe thistle from Bluestone Perennials were in bloom. Photo by Pretty Purple Door.

I was happy that I did receive a response and a healthy plant in the mail. It was small, but ended up growing and even flowering in August of the same year.

Fast Growing Trees 

I’ve purchased trees and large shrubs from this online store several times. Fast Growing Trees is a place I’d recommend, especially because they have options for purchasing larger, more mature trees and shrubs (if you’re willing to pay a bit more).

The trees and shrubs I ordered from them were accurate to the sizes described on the website and were very healthy when they arrived.

Newly planted Ginkgo Autumn Gold Tree
I purchased this 4-5 ft Ginkgo Autumn Gold tree from Fast-Growing-Trees.com. The fence in the background is 4′ high for a reference to its height. Photo by Pretty Purple Door.

In July, 2017 I purchased this Ginkgo Autumn Gold 4-5′ tree from Fast-Growing-Trees.com for about $100. It shipped the very next day and arrived healthy.

The tree cost more than I would pay locally for a similar tree of this age/size. But, I could not find this variety locally and was happy to pay for it.

The ginkgo tree is slow-growing in nature, but has been thriving since planting. It’s even turning bright yellow in fall before the leaves drop and it’s already quite the show-stopper.

Breck’s

I have ordered many bulbs online from Breck’s. They have a lot of really unique varieties to choose from. I’ve purchased many allium, tulip, iris and crocus bulbs from this online nursery over the years. I’ve also purchased live plants from them.

Tulips planted in flower garden bed
Here’s some of my tulips purchased from Breck’s mixed with sedum ‘Angelina’ and blue juniper shrubs. Photo by Pretty Purple Door.
4 Large Allium round purple flowers along a fence
Here are my Beau Regard Alliums along the fence line. I purchased these from Breck’s back in 2015. Photo by Pretty Purple Door.

Breck’s offers lots of other live plants, too, of which I’ve purchased a few.

Silver Heart Siberian Bugloss Shade Plant in Garden
Silver Heart Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Silver Heart’) purchased from Breck’s in May, 2018 is still thriving. Photo by Pretty Purple Door.

At one point I contacted customer service via email and the representative provided a very friendly and helpful response about a day later. Breck’s guarantees all of their purchases for LIFE. In fact, the customer service rep I spoke with stated,

“We guarantee all of our plants to reach you in perfect and healthy condition.  What’s more, any item that does not grow and flourish to your complete satisfaction will be replaced free, with no time limit, for as long as you garden.”

This guarantee is certainly not the norm. Most nurseries will guarantee anywhere from a few months to a year after purchase… but for a lifetime is very impressive.

Not all plants and bulbs I’ve purchased from Breck’s have survived, though. I purchased Dutch irises and fall blooming crocuses that to my disappointment did not bloom (not a single one). After contacting support, they gave me a credit to replace my purchase with other plants.

Even though I’ve gotten some duds over the years, my experience with Breck’s has been positive and I continue to order from them. They have a lot of unique/rare plants that you can’t find elsewhere and they stand behind their “lifetime guarantee” with friendly service.

Etsy

Etsy is another surprising place to find some nice plants online! Many Etsy sellers are shipping plants to your door and that’s a great thing.

Just an FYI: Etsy is a marketplace of individual sellers. So, you’ll need to make sure that the person you’re purchasing from is legitimate. The best way to do this is to check each individual seller’s reviews before you buy. You can always contact an Etsy seller directly from the product listing page if you have any questions about the item.

Homestead Farms Nursery

Located in Owensville, MO, one of my readers from Missouri highly recommended Homestead Farms Nursery. She says,

“The plants are large so they are showy in your garden quickly. They aren’t the cheapest, but very much worth every penny. They specialize in daylilies, and container-grown hostas, hardy ferns, clematis and peonies. Another great nursery is Gilbert H. Wild of Sarcoxie, MO. They are the largest daylily nursery in the country, but also have a wide variety of perennials and spectacular Iris plants. They are huge!”

-Maureen

I don’t have experience with this particular nursery but I do plan to give Homestead Farms a try in the future per her glowing recommendation. If you live in Zone 7B it’s definitely worth looking into this nursery..

⚠️WARNING: Stay Away From DirectGardening⚠️

Out of all of the online nurseries I’ve tried, DirectGardening.com has been the worst. I will preface this by saying that 2020 was a difficult year for all online plant nurseries. But, I did not have a good experience with them.

In April, I ordered 2 top hat blueberry bushes (Vaccinium ‘Top Hat’) and skyracer purple moor grass (Molina caerulea ssp arundinacea ‘Skyracer’) from DirectGardening. I did not receive an email/order confirmation of any kind. I checked my order online, but it was not updated in their system. I had no idea if/when the plants would arrive. I knew it wasn’t looking good from the start.

About 3 weeks went by before I inquired about my order status. The customer service rep told me that my order would be scheduled to ship after processing if the plants were available, which usually took 2-4 weeks. I must admit this really bothered me. I thought that purchasing and paying for the plant would ensure that I would receive it, but apparently that’s not the case at DirectGardening. I stated my concern about this and did not receive any reply.

Plants arriving in plastic bags with broken branches
These top hat blueberry bushes were so sad upon arrival. They were shipped with their roots in plastic bags and tossed into another plastic bag for shipment… no padding was provided at all. As a result, the bushes arrived close to dead with lots of broken branches from being tossed around in the mail. I would definitely not recommend purchasing from DirectGardening.

Here’s how my experience went:

  • April 27: Order placed
  • May 15: Requested shipping update, was told 2-4 weeks processing.
  • May 15: Replied to email support. No response received.
  • June 13: Moor Grass arrived dead. “3 Hardy Gladiolus” bulbs arived as a free gift, I planted these and they never grew either.
  • June 20: Blueberry bushes arrived and looked like dead twigs. I planted anyway and tried to nurse to health.
  • Aug 20: Blueberry bush and Moor Grass replacements arrived dead on arrival. They would not replace the replacements.

This was the absolute worst online plant ordering experience I have ever had. Save yourself the headache and stay away from DirectGardening.

Where Buy Seeds Online

Select Seeds

I mentioned Select Seeds above for their live plants. I also love getting my seeds from them, too.

Cleome seeds and the flower I grew from them.
I purchased cleome (spider flower) seeds in March, 2020 and received them in April, 2020. On the right is a photo of the cleome that I grew from these seed, a photo that I took in September, 2020. Photo by Pretty Purple Door.

Definitely give SelectSeeds a try.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Johnny’s has set the standard for high seed quality over the past nearly 50 years by meeting or exceeding federal minimum requirements for germination rates, pathogen testing and traceability.

Rare Seeds

One of my readers also recommended RareSeeds as an option for purchasing seeds online. I haven’t personally tried them, though.

Ernst Seeds

Located in Meadowbrook, PA, Earnst Conservation Seeds has an outstanding 50 year reputation in helping to restore native landscaping.

They grow, process and sell hundreds of species of native and naturalized seeds and live plant materials for ecological restoration, sustainable landscaping, reclamation, wetlands and natural resources conservation.

Check out their seed finder tool or request a catalog on their website. They have some of the best native wildflower seed mixes available today.

Wrapping Up

Purchasing seeds, plants, shrubs and trees online certainly has its pros and cons. Most online nurseries are reputable and will provide you with a lot more variety than what you may find locally. They are are a great option to get exactly what you’re looking for. Just make sure you check their online refund policies and guarantees before making that purchase.

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