12 steps in selecting and buying new plants from online catalogs

As the gardening season approaches, many of us are eager to enhance our outdoor spaces with new plants. Online catalogs offer a convenient way to explore a wide variety of purchasing options from the comfort of our homes and long before the weather allows us to play in the garden. Spending countless hours scrolling through online catalogs to plan my garden for the upcoming season has taught me a thing or two about selecting and buying new plants. If you’re considering adding plants to your garden for next summer, here are 12 steps in selecting and buying new plants from online catalogs. I hope they will help you make the most informed choices.

1. Review your existing collection

Regularly review your existing plant collection to avoid purchasing duplicates and ensure new additions complement your garden design. Consider scheduling this review annually or seasonally to stay organized. Keeping a database-style table (using Excel or Google Sheets) or pinning pictures with names on your Pinterest, is invaluable for managing your collection effectively. These tools help track plant varieties, their locations in your garden, and any specific care instructions, ensuring you make informed decisions when browsing online plant catalogs.

2. Set a budget

Determine how much you’re willing to spend on new plants and stick to your budget. Online catalogs offer a wide range of options at different price points, so setting a budget will help you narrow down your choices and avoid overspending.

However, be mindful of the balance between quality and rarity, versus quantity and price range. Sometimes, it’s worth paying a little more to obtain the plants you truly want and need.

3. Research local nurseries

Start by researching local nurseries that specialize in plants you’re interested in. Look for nurseries with a good reputation for quality plants and reliable service. Purchasing from local nurseries can often ensure that you receive healthy plants that are well-suited to your climate and growing conditions.

Whenever possible, consider purchasing plants from locally-based online catalogs or nurseries. Supporting local businesses not only helps to stimulate the local economy but also reduces the environmental impact of shipping and transportation.

Consider also visiting local nurseries to compare prices and availability. Buying in-store sometimes means purchasing a rooted plant rather than a bare-rooted one, ensuring faster garden establishment.

4. Compile a list of online catalogs

Compile a list of online catalogs to streamline your plant selection process. Include both general plant nurseries and specialty nurseries that offer plants you’re interested in, such as peonies or lilies. National and international associations can be valuable resources for exploring vendors.

For example, when I became interested in peonies, I found a useful list of vendors on the American Peony Society’s website. Having a list of potential sources handy allows you to easily browse through multiple catalogs, compare offerings, and find plants that best suit your garden needs.

5. Stay updated on online catalog openings

Some online catalogs operate on specific opening dates, and highly sought-after offerings may sell out quickly. To ensure access to your desired plants, stay informed about these opening dates and prepare to select early. You may even order a printed catalog from these companies if they publish one.

It’s helpful to create a wishlist in advance, possibly based on the previous year’s offerings, enabling you to swiftly add your preferred plants to your cart once the catalog opens. Proactive planning is key to securing your favorites before they’re out of stock. I have peony friends who are among the first ones when a peony vendor announces its opening!!

6. Look for discounts and special offers

Keep an eye out for discounts and special offers when browsing online plant catalogs. Numerous online nurseries provide promotions, especially during specific seasons or if you sign up. These offers can help you save money, especially when they include perks like free shipping. Additionally, some promotions are tied to a minimum spending threshold, making them too tempting to resist in most cases!

However, be cautious of false sales; some catalogs inflate their “regular” prices, making discounts seem larger than they are.

7. Read reviews

Take the time to read reviews from other gardeners who have purchased plants from the online catalog. Look for feedback on the quality and good identification of the plants, packaging, and customer service. Positive reviews can provide reassurance that you’re making a good choice, while negative reviews may indicate potential issues to be aware of.

As a prudent step, consider placing a small initial order—a sort of test order—to assess the quality of plants and evaluate the level of customer service provided. This approach enables you to make informed decisions and ensures a satisfactory experience with your online gardening purchases.

Additionally, check reviews about the plants themselves to ensure the vendor provides accurate information about their characteristics and care requirements.

8. Check payment and shipping policies

Prioritize reviewing the payment and shipping policies of the online nursery before placing your order. Read the disclaimer about cancellations, returns, or unsatisfactory received material. Ensure they deliver to your location and that their shipping methods align with the plants you’re purchasing.

Consider questions like: are payments processed immediately or only upon shipping? Are taxes or additional fees applied to special items? International shipping may incur extra costs and may be restricted due to phytosanitary regulations. Additionally, inquire about the nursery’s policy on substituting out-of-stock plants during shipping. Be vigilant about shipping costs.

9. Check availability versus your garden’s needs

When browsing online catalogs, prioritize checking the availability of plants, especially novelties that catch your interest. Additionally, beware of “false” plants that may not actually exist or have enhanced photos, which can misrepresent their appearance and characteristics.

Pay close attention to plant descriptions, photos, and any specific information regarding planting time, growing requirements, and characteristics. Consider factors like sunlight exposure, soil type, available space, and your hardiness zone to ensure the selected plants are well-suited to your garden’s conditions. However, if you’re looking for indoor plants or annuals, adapt your selection accordingly.

Before placing an order, take a moment to review your cart or wishlist if the nursery allows it. Consider creating a customer profile or accepting cookies from the nursery’s website to facilitate this process.

10. Prepare your space and schedule

Once you’ve made your plant selections and placed your order, it’s essential to organize and track them effectively. Consider adding them to your database or platforms like Pinterest to keep a record of their details easily accessible.

Before their arrival, review online planting instructions to understand the specific care requirements of each plant. Some may need pre-planting treatments like soaking, while others may require protection from sunlight or frost.

Prepare a designated space in your garden for their arrival, ensuring that it meets their needs in terms of sunlight, soil, and space. Planning ahead and scheduling time for planting upon their arrival is crucial for their healthy establishment. Personally, I’ve found that creating a planting plan for my acquisitions helps streamline this process.

Additionally, have potting materials on hand in case any plants need temporary accommodation or repotting upon arrival.

11. Let the nursery know about your satisfaction

Providing feedback on your purchase is essential for ensuring a good follow-up on customer satisfaction. Don’t hesitate to communicate with the company, whether you are very satisfied or not. This is particularly important before leaving a negative review on social media or elsewhere.

For example, I never hesitate to inform a nursery if the plant has the wrong identification or if the substitution was not to my liking. A reputable company will offer solutions or reimbursement.

12. Group purchases for savings

Another savvy approach to buying plants from online catalogs is to consider making group purchases with friends or fellow gardening enthusiasts. By pooling your orders together, you can often benefit from discounts and reduce shipping costs, ultimately saving money on your plant purchases.

Once you’ve gathered everyone’s wishlists, place a combined order with the online nursery. Not only does this approach help you save money, but it also fosters a sense of community among fellow gardeners. You can share tips, recommendations, and the joy of gardening together while enjoying the benefits of discounted prices and reduced shipping costs.

Before initiating a group purchase, be sure to communicate clearly with your fellow participants to coordinate preferences, payment methods, and shipping arrangements.

By following these 12 steps, you can confidently select and buy new plants from online catalogs, as they offer a convenient way to explore a wide variety of purchasing options.

Your new plants will add beauty and diversity to your garden for the upcoming summer season, all while staying within your budget and avoiding duplicate purchases.

Whether you’re adding peonies, lilies, daylilies, or other plants like I do, careful planning and research will help ensure a successful and thriving garden that reflects your unique style and preferences. Creating your ideal garden is what it’s all about!

To my readers: I thoroughly enjoyed using Microsoft Bing AI Copilot GPT to create images for the first time. I hope you enjoyed them.

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