Article updated on 9th November 2017 – Added additional retailer to list Most of us realise (and accept) the internet is changing our behaviour in many different ways and buying plants or seeds for the home garden is one them! I personally think the move towards online plants and seeds is a good change for both consumers and retailers.
I understand some people may have reservations about buying live plants (including cuttings) online but this method has come a long way over the past decade to become much safer for three main reasons: A) Improvements in parcel postal services; B) Better packaging of the plants being sent by the seller; and C) Better online fraud protection when paying with credit cards or PayPal. I buy the majority of my plants online and I'm happy to say I have never had an incident whereby my plants have arrived dead or not arrived at all. I'm not saying mistakes don't happen but I will defend the buying of live plants online from my own experience as a low-risk venture as long as you buy from a reputable or researched seller (more about those criteria later in this article).
Typical packaging of a fruit tree sent in the post from an online seller (image above)
Why buying plants online is growing in popularity
Yes, there will always be a place for nurseries, Sunday markets, and the odd garden expo to buy and sell plants in person but the trade in purchasing plants online is growing like a beanstalk. However, before I detail some of the BEST places to buy plants and seeds online, first let's look at the reasons WHY buying plants online is becoming so popular:
- Choice – Shopping online opens up a world of nurseries congregated together on a persons PC or hand held device, so if it's a certain type of plant you're after or a bigger variety of products (like seeds) to browse, then the internet is for you. Obviously, it's impossible to physically visit every plant or seed seller on the planet in person (even just the ones in your area would take a day); however, with our friend Google and potentially thousands of retailers online we can locate plants and buy them in just a few clicks! Also, how many plant retailers have you seen selling the same stuff? There's a much bigger choice for plants online and combined with auction sites such as eBay there's now, even more, sellers such as hobby growers who can make their own backyards a virtual mini nursery.
- Convenience – I guess the first point (choice) touched on this, but what could be more convenient than surfing the internet on your home PC or mobile device to get the plants you want? You simply look at the Website's available product lists, select your plants, buy them, and in a few days the postman delivers the plants to your door step – easy. This is a particularly convenient way to buy plants for those who are busy or unable to easily get to the nursery such as the disabled.
- Discovery – If it wasn't for buying over the internet, I wouldn't have known half of my food plants in my garden today even existed. The internet isn't just a great tool for finding out information on rare plants it can also allow us to find where they are and buy them. Hunting for new plants to grow that you have never tried before is fun and exciting and in my opinion, there's no better way to do this than via online shopping.
- Price – There's no doubt online shopping has lowered the overall price of plants. You would think to buy plants or seeds online would mean they are more expensive due to the extra postage costs but generally, this is not the case. In fact, backyard sellers with small overheads can afford to sell plants and seeds much cheaper than traditional stores.
What are some of the best places to buy plants and seeds online?
Let's break this list down into country locations the USA, Australia, & UK since it's these countries I have the most information about in regards to online plant retailers. Naturally, I'm going to recommend just a few of the main sellers I'm familiar with, but feel free to research and find more!
USA online plant and seed retailers
The following is a small list (including the link to their Website) of online plant and/or seed sellers in the USA:
- eBay USA – Has become one of the best places to buy live plants and seeds online. Type any plant or seed into the search bar and you're bound to find more varieties than you could ever imagine! The best thing I like about shopping on eBay for plants and seeds is the hobby sellers because these individual "backyardists" have the greatest selection of rare and interesting food plants to choose and I could spend hours scrolling through their selections. If you are concerned about buying from eBay plant sellers you shouldn't be… All you need to do is check the seller's reputation (available next to the product) and also check out the background of their reliability via feedback they receive from buyers (contained in the feedback area).
- Amazon USA – Is very similar to eBay and often has many similar live plants or seeds for sale but it does pay to check out their Website because they do offer different products also. Again, Amazon does have a rating and review system as a way for the buyer to research the product and seller they're interested in before purchasing. Both Amazon & eBay haven't got big from being "big" they're successful because they generally provide a good safe online platform for people to easily buy and sell products.
- Direct Gardening – Is based in Bloomington IL and sells a large range of both food and ornamental plants plus seeds. They are mostly food crop orientated (which is what interests me mostly) so for people in the USA into their vegetable gardening have a browse of their Website.
- Gardeners Supply Company – Not only sell live plants and seeds but they also stock lots of gardening equipment and other products. What's even more impressive is their up-to-date Website "culture" whereby they just don't sell stuff they actually maintain a regular gardening blog plus provide an "ask us" service for people requiring answers to their gardening questions. I like it when businesses show this type of commitment and extra customer focus.
- Mountain Valley Seed Company – Mainly focuses on edible produce seeds with some ornamental products (flowers). They also stock a modest amount of supplies for growing seedlings etc. Interestingly, Mountain Valley has a whole category dedicated to micro greens, which is pretty trendy and something I'm personally right into growing.
- Brighter Blooms Nursery – Based in Fort Mill, Southern California these guys have a very impressive website with an easy to follow design and good information content such as growing conditions on each product page to help with the purchasing decision. Apparently, Brighter Blooms is fast emerging as one of the biggest online plant retailers in the USA with a huge selection of shrubs and trees. Their selection of fruit trees caught my eye and if I lived in the USA there's no doubt I would be shopping on their Website.
UK online plant and seed retailers
The following is a small list (including the link to their Website) of online plant and/or seed sellers in the UK:
- eBay UK – Has a great selection of plants and seeds but perhaps not as many as eBay USA or Australia; nevertheless, it's worth a browse. One thing I should mention (as a negative I guess) is the unfortunate way Chinese and other foreign country sellers have tried to tap into the ever-growing popular eBay plant and seed market by offering varieties of plants with ridiculous traits such as: over huge tomatoes, blue strawberries, oversized berries etc, my advice is to buy plants or seeds from sellers who reside in your own country and if you're going to buy products from China then stick to electronics!
- Amazon UK – Has an excellent selection of fruit trees, vegetables, and seeds (I wish we had the same kind of online store here in Oz). What I really like about the Amazon set-up is the easy access to product ratings, which makes it much safer to purchase products knowing others have done successfully before you.
- Jersey Plants or Gardening Direct – Both domains lead to the same Website with a huge selection of plants and seeds. They offer free postage on their products with no minimum spend and I think that is pretty good because you can get an idea straight up what the overall cost will be without getting stung at the end on checkout.
- Garden Bargains – Has a well-organised Website and even their own TV show on the TV Info FTA circuit. They have a good range of live plants in particular fruit trees suited to the UK climate.
- Gardening Express – They seem to be concentrating on ornamentals at the moment with few choices in their fruit & veg categories but they do offer a 5-year warranty on their plants, which is quite shall we say… brave.
- Keen Gardener – Sells seeds for food and ornamental plants; however, this online gardening site is more geared to gardening equipment. It's a nice professional online shop and worth browsing.
- Marshalls – The Vegetable & Fruit Company – I love the set-up of their Website. Right from the homepage, you can tell they're into food crops with glossy magazine images and easy navigation hints to find your way around. Marshalls has a great selection of seeds and live plants – makes me wish I lived in the UK just so I could buy from them!
- Seeds 4 Garden – Such a simple name leaving no doubt what they sell but the interesting thing about this online seed seller is they're actually based in Holland and actively market to the UK (and several other countries). They have a good selection of seeds and pride themselves on excellent quality so definitely worth a peek.
- Suttons Seeds – Not just a very good seed seller they also sell grafted vegetable plants, which you don't see online very often, so I'd recommend surfing their Website for this reason alone. Suttons also sells trees, shrubs, gardening equipment, greenhouses, and heaps of stuff – it's a good site!
Australian online plant and seed retailers (some also post international)
The following is a small list (including the link to their Website) of online plant and/or seed sellers in Australia:
- Amazon Australia – Does NOT sell plants or seeds in Australia because for some reason the online store giant will only sell books to us Aussies, unfortunately. Amazon Australia do, however, have a big range of gardening books that can be purchased in hard copy or downloaded for Kindle etc.
- Daley's Fruit Tree Nursery – I've purchased many fruit trees from these guys in the past. Their fruit trees are always delivered quickly and professionally packaged – I've never ever had an issue with Daley's products being delivered to my door. The only gripe I do have is often they are out of stock and sometimes waiting on pre-orders for certain fruit trees can be long.
- eBay Australia – is where I get most of my seeds online and spend a lot of time browsing for new food plants to grow. I enjoy the eBay backyard hobby seed and plant seller community because of the choices and the commitment of these individuals to their small personal online businesses. Most of the sellers aim to please and take pride in the products they create to sell, which harnesses a great online environment to buy seeds and plants.
- Garden Express – Claims to be Australia's largest online nursery with a large catalogue of both food and ornamental plants on offer. Their categories and product lists are easy to follow and they do show clearly what plants are currently in stock and what are currently out of season (unavailable). Personally, I have purchased from Garden Express several times without any problems but their website is glitchy and that's why I have changed the link away from them to eBay.
- Green Harvest – is one of my favourite online seed shops. They're based in Maleny, QLD and have a large selection of seeds, bulbs, smaller plants, organic pest control products, and other gardening equipment. I like how Green Harvest strives to collect and sell many seeds that are rare or not widely sold anywhere else so it makes for an interesting site to browse when looking for something new to try in the garden.
- Fair Dinkum Seeds – Contacted me after seeing this article and I'm pleased to announce they also offer our readers a discount when purchasing from their online store! Simply enter the coupon code "selfsufficientme" at checkout to get a whopping 15% discount on your order + free postage! They also post international at a capped postage rate so that sounds like a great deal to me – go check out their store.
- Diggers – One of the first seed and plant companies to use the postage service to delivery items to their members, established in 1978. Today, the Diggers Club is still a leading online and postal plant/seed company with deep community roots (pardon the pun). I have purchased from Diggers before and been happy with the product. Personally, I'm not overly keen on the "membership model" whereby to claim better discounts you pay a membership fee but obviously many others disagree with me because this seller is very popular and good on them!
- The Seed Collection – Recommended by Jane (in the FB comments section below) this seed company emphasises the fact their seeds are heirloom, open-pollinated, non-hybrid, non-GMO, and they don't use any chemical treatments. Plus their packaging is plain and environmentally friendly. Worth checking out – I definitely will be!
- White House Nursery – I've purchased plants and seeds from these guys and was extremely happy with my order. They have a good range of fruiting and ornamental plants based in Victoria.
Tips for buying seeds and live plants online
Seeds – Sending seeds via post is pretty simple (usually in an envelope) and besides quarantine laws between states, there's nothing much to worry about. Generally, seeds are inexpensive so the loss isn't great if they do get lost or stolen but in my experience, this doesn't happen very often all. I've purchased and successfully received seeds here in Australia from the USA and Europe without problems; although, I would recommend buying them from within your own country where possible.
Plants – As I stated at the beginning of this article, buying plants online has improved dramatically over the past 10 years to a point where most sellers and the postal services are competent enough to get your plants to you on time and alive. When it comes to plant quality, although I'm a fan of buying from backyard hobbyists, you should be aware that some of these sellers may not have as much knowledge in plant reproduction as professional nurseries, therefore, the risk of getting say… a grafted fruit tree, which isn't grafted well or perhaps made with poor rootstock is increased compared to buying from a registered professional nursery. Having said that, I don't believe the risk of buying a dud plant from backyard sellers is high at all but I simply wanted to raise the point.
When you do receive your plants make sure you follow the instructions from the seller on how to care for them. You should open the box ASAP after delivery and place them in your own nursery or recovery area, give them a water, and let them recuperate from the journey before planting out.
Overseas – You can buy seeds from overseas sellers but you should be aware certain customs and quarantine laws prevent certain seeds from entering your country for various reasons. I limit my purchases from overseas to well-known vegetable varieties like tomatoes, carrots, regular vegetables, etc because they will likely get through the post no problems; whereas, exotics or little-known plant species may get blocked. It's for this reason, that I recommend the majority of your seed purchases should be from sellers within your own country or indeed in certain countries (such as Australia) you might have to stick to buying seeds within your own state due to strict quarantine laws.
At the end of the day, buying seeds and plants online is not a scary experience or something to be worried about. On the contrary, online shopping for plants is a fun, exciting, and enjoyable thing to do that might even save you some money.
I encourage you to visit the online seed and plant stores detailed above and feel free to use our comments section below to post links to your favourite eBay or Amazon sellers or any other Websites you'd like to recommend.
Happy online plant & seed shopping!