What To Know Before Buying Plants Online (& Where to Get Them)

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Kath Nash)

For design-aware individuals, plant buying isn’t a matter of picking up whatever potted plants the grocery store happens to have on display. No, we want that perfect snake plant that we already have the ideal stand for, or that fiddle leaf fig that we envision arching just so over the reading chair in the living room. Whether you’re shopping for interior plants, privacy hedges, or container gardens, you probably have something specific in your mind’s eye. But what to do when your local nursery’s selection is hit-or-miss or you don’t have easy access to one? Why not try online plant shopping?

What to Keep in Mind When Shopping For Plants Online

This might sound funny, but don’t forget where you live when you’re shopping for plants online. IRL nurseries usually have native plants in stock that do well in their local environment, but that kind of goes out the window in the world wide web (though this applies, of course, more to outdoor plants than indoor ones). To make sure the plants you’re interested in will not only survive, but thrive, under your care, look up your USDA hardiness zone and match your plant’s zone to it. To avoid falling in love with something and being disappointed in realizing you can’t grow it where you live, filter your plant search by zone first.

Indoor plants offer you a wider range of possibilities, since most plants enjoy the temperature range we humans are comfortable in. Paying attention to an indoor plant’s needs for water, light, and humidity are all still relevant, of course. Be sure to check these requirements for the plants you’re interested in and ensure that you have a suitable place for it before purchasing.

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

What to Avoid When Shopping for Plants Online

Something to keep in mind when going digital with plant buying: Don’t go into it with an unrealistic expectation of what size your plant will be when it arrives. Usually the description will note a range of sizes it will be upon arrival (typically something small that’s easy to ship/deliver), but it’s also a good idea to learn more about how large a certain variety will grow to be. Also, keep in mind that you may need to be patient when it comes to outdoor plants. These tend to arrive during a good time for planting—spring time for trees and many shrubs, or fall for spring-flowering bulbs, for instance. Indoor plants, however, are usually available year-round.

A Few Questions to Consider

1. Is Buying Plants Online More Expensive?

Well, probably. While you may be able to find “trendy” plants on sites like Amazon, you’ll almost definitely be paying more than if you could find them locally. However, if you have a specific plant in mind and are having a hard time buying it where you live, think of the premium you’re paying not compared to what that plant could cost elsewhere, but as what it will cost you to get the exact plant you’ve been wishing and searching for. Also keep in mind that many reputable growers sell their plants online and the quality of your plant may be superior to one you could find at, say, Walmart.

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

2. What Can I Expect When I Buy Plants Online?

Your plants should arrive packaged safely in boxes. They will either be potted, have wrapped-up soil, or be what’s called “bare root,” which means that your plant isn’t in a pot or much soil at all. Bare root plants should be planted as soon as possible, being kept in the refrigerator crisper drawer in the meantime, if necessary (and small enough!).

Outdoor plants purchased online may not arrive until the growing season and they could be dormant when they arrive, so don’t be alarmed if they don’t seem to be flourishing yet. Mike’s Backyard Nursery offers a look at what you can expect in terms of packaging, etc. Indoor plants should arrive more quickly and will look alive when they get to you.

3. Where Do I Buy My Plants Online?

  • Monrovia has a nice selection of plants available for purchase online, and a robust filtering system for finding not only just what you want but what will work in your zone.
  • Terrain is Anthropologie’s plant-focused sister site and boasts a tempting collection of indoor flowering bulbs, terrariums, and all kinds of beautiful tools, planters, and more.
  • Etsy has an impressive collection of plant sellers, and its crowd-sourced user reviews give you peace of mind when purchasing. Just search for the plant you want to see if someone is selling it.
  • Amazon just entered the green arena, offering up a variety of affordable options, from succulent cuttings to bonsai trees and even the ever-popular fiddle leaf figs. You’ll also find accessories and more exotic plants…some even with two-day Prime shipping.
  • Urban Outfitters is also a newbie to the plant game, but really only tapping the succulent market so far. You can get a set of 12 assorted live succulents for $49.
  • The Sill has perhaps the best interface for online plant shopping, organized by low-light varieties, good for beginners, pet-friendly plants and beyond (though mostly indoor types).
  • Pistils Nursery in Portland, OR is a worthy Instagram follow for any plant lover and has an online selection of beautiful plants, notably their hard-to-find Specimen Plants collection.

Are you a seasoned virtual plant shopper? Chime in below with your own tips and online treasure troves for where to find the best greenery!