If you have considered buying plants online, this is one of the best ways to find desirable perennials and shrubs that are hard to source locally. But as with any mail order shopping, it's up to you to ensure that you're dealing with quality businesses.
Good mail order and online garden suppliers should be able to provide the following:
- Ordering and shipping dates and deadlines. Since plants are live material, they are usually shipped in the spring or the fall when planting conditions are ideal.
- An order form that's easy to navigate. Be especially careful to fill the correct quantities and sizes when you buy plants online.
- Common and botanical names, so you can compare price and shipping size with other suppliers when you buy plants online. Some less than ideal companies promote ordinary everyday plants available everywhere with colorful names they've made up. Ever heard of a Blue Twinkle?
- Hardiness zone and growing information, so you can tell if a plant can handle your climate. Growing requirements — whether the plant is happier in sun or shade or needs special soil conditions — and how big it will get.
- Contact information, including a phone number and address and a returns policy. If you have questions about buying plants online, the seller should be happy to answer them. If call them and they say they can only take orders, hang up.
- Upfront shipping quotes and shipping dates appropriate to your climate. If your plants don't come within the time you specify, let the supplier know so that they can send out the plants before it's too late.
- Note whether the web site displays a padlock icon in the lower right-hand border of your browser window. This indicates secure encryption to protect your customer information.
- Print out a copy of your online receipts. It's a good idea to check these against your credit card bill, and to print and keep a copy of guarantees and return or replacement policies.
Garden writer, photographer and lecturer Yvonne Cunnington is the author of a book for beginner gardeners, Clueless in the Garden: A Guide for the Horticulturally Helpless. For more tips on buying plants online, see http://www.flower-gardening-made-easy.com/buy-plants-online.html | Visit her website, http://www.flower-gardening-made-easy.com for more gardening tips.