Buying Guide to Online Plants and GroundcoversBuying plants and groundcovers online can confidently be done economically and free from unpleasant surprises. This advice will guide you to locate a reputable supplier of the plants you seek, usually at a lower price than you can find locally (even with shipping). Add the convenience and time savings of delivery, and online purchase of plants is now the best way to go in terms of selection and value.
Reputation is the most important consideration. Millions of opinions have already been formed by past purchases, they are the best indicator of which vendors are most likely to please you.
If you search online for reviews, be careful to consider the source for impartiality. Blogs and some other (usually small) websites sometimes accept payment to paint favorable reviews of websites, it's better to consider the reviews of long-established well-regarded sites. Dave's Garden has been a primary internet gardening resource since 2000 [see feature segment on CNN about Dave's Garden].
Dave's Garden has over 50,000 comments about gardening purchases from more than 7,000 gardening companies, they are a great resource for impartial opinions. Their Watchdog 30 list gives you access to the top-rated 30 companies (Classy Groundcovers is a Watchdog 30 company and has two Top 5 ratings there).
Many of the mass-market gardening suppliers have less-than-favorable reviews there. Check the customer ratings for these places you may be familiar with: Spring Hill - Breck's - Michigan Bulb - Henry Field's - Wayside Gardens.
Cheapest is often not the best value. In the rush to quickly grow plants for sale, unscupulous growers often employ over-fertilization - resulting in plants with nice looking foliage but weak root systems that do not survive well. Pumping a plant full of fertilizers may make it look great for sale but it is no substitute for taking the time required to grow the well-developed root system essential to long-term proliferation. The huge volume growers that supply major chain stores often skimp in this way to maximize their profit.
If you are thinking of buying from a large retail chain, get one plant and remove the soil to examine the root mass before making a large purchase. Sometimes the root system of one supplier's pint plant has a larger root system than another supplier's quart plant - the larger root system will be the better value.
The retailer is a middleman who marks up the price. Local retailers are a middleman between you and the grower. They add costs (to cover the cost of shelf space in the retail building, salaries to unload, stock and take care of the product, etc.) that are often higher than the cost to directly ship the product (some online plant sources - such as Classy Groundcovers - offer free shipping).
When can you expect your plants? Read the reviews and consider whether it is important whether you feel helpless or confident about when you will receive your plants. With most online sources you have little or no idea when your plants will arrive (some online plant sources - such as Classy Groundcovers - have precise shipping policies and allow you to specify the exact day that your plants ship).
Place a small order first. If after your research you are still apprehensive about placing a large order, place a small order first and judge the quality of the plants. Not only will you be able to see how the plants handle the stress of shipping, but you will be able to see the quality of the plants that you can expect from this nursery.
Use common sense when ordering. Suppliers don't know whether you are planting indoors or outdoors and will not advise you if you do something silly like order bare root plants shipped to Minnesota in January. Do not expect them to "ship when appropriate", advise them when to ship if you do not want your order shipped immediately.
Water well the first season. Even drought-tolerant plants need to get established before they can tolerate drought. Be sure to provide ample water the first year.
Follow the advice above and you can buy your groundcover plants online, free from anxiety, and save money.