How to buy plants Buying plants online or by mail order

buying plants by post

Many of us now buy plants online or by mail order

Buying plants online or by mail order gives you access to a wide range of different plants that might not be available locally. It's also a great option if you're buying in bulk, or don't have a car. More and more of us are buying plants this way, so here's our advice on what to expect.

Bear in mind that plants are not necessarily sent out the day you order them but when the stock is ready and at the right stage to travel. For this reason your order may be split into several deliveries. 

Keep copies of order forms and emails, as it can be hard to remember what you ordered.

Buying plants online

Strawberries and fruit bushes, canes and fruit trees are sold online and by mail order by seed companies and by fruit specialists. Order them in summer and they will be delivered in the dormant season (late autumn to winter). 

Some woody plants (such as fruit bushes, shrubs, trees, roses) and hardy perennials are sent as bare-root plants (with the roots exposed, rather than in soil) when they are dormant (October to February). 

Buying bare root plants is a cheaper way of buying plants, but it means you could order in summer and wait several months for your delivery. Exactly what you are buying should be made clear in the catalogue/on the website. 

Buying plants in bulk

If you want to buy lots of bedding or veg plants, buying 'plugs' (very young, small plants) can be economical. Bear in mind that you will need to protect them from frost until it is safe to plant them out.

Buying bulbs in bulk can be an economical way of creating a great spring display.

Pay close attention to the last order date for plug plants, bedding plants or bulbs - it may be several months before the delivery date.

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The Which? Gardening Better Plants by Post campaign

According to a recent Which? Connect survey, 8 in 10 of us are happy with our experience of buying plants online by mail order. However 36% admitted that they have had problems. Common issues include: 

  • Problems with the quality of plants/bulbs provided (41%)
  • Package left on the doorstep while I was out/away (20%)
  • Package damaged/broken/thrown around by the courier/postal service (17%)

Which? thinks too many people experience problems when buying plants online or by mail order, and has come up with 10 best-practice criteria that it would like to see all retailers to adopt. 

If you've experienced problems when buying plants online or by mail order, our Q&A section gives you lots of useful consumer advice.

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