I hope you get an answer because I've wondered about this myself.
Pesonally I like going to my local nursery. Sometimes it costs a little more but I can see the plants, how healthy they are and pick the one I want, get advice on planting and returns or exchanges are easy. Now that they know me I am greeted when I visit, sometimes they will have plants in mind they think I may like because they know what I have bought or what I am working on. It is a very enjoyable experience.
When I first started gardening I ordered everything by mail. It seemed easier and there was always a sale going on. I tried several companies and liked them about the same. Usually the plants were on the small side, sometimes tired looking and even tho' they also came with a 1 yr. guarantee it became a hassle to return, wait for a replacement or be told they were now out-of-stock.
*** I vote for the local nursery. ***
Hi Sandy, you should read this post, lots of feedback from others about ordering plants online, and who they trust: http://www.hometalk.com/166457/does-anyone-know-what-this-is
I agree with Dee about local, independent nurseries and think they should always be your first stop. As wholesalers have gone out of business or cut back, however, it is sometimes difficult, or impossible, for a local nursery to get everything they once did, and mail-order nurseries help fill that void. I cannot tell you the number of times i have been told, "Oh, I used to have a place that carried those, but..." I ran into exactly that situation when I was looking for a very particular pond cypress last fall, and ultimately purchased one from a place in Oregon.
There are many good mail-order nurseries that have been recommended in responses here on Hometalk. In addition, the "Garden Watchdog" section of the Dave's Garden website has reviews and ratings for more than 7500 mail-order gardening companies. They have a "Watchdog 30" of the companies with the best ratings, and I would order from any of those with confidence. In addition, if you are looking for a specific plant, you can search for it and the places that stock it will come up.
@ Douglas-thanks for the link, I'll be saving it because.....you never know..
@Dee: Just call me the enabler.
@Douglas-yes, you are THE enabler!!! lol
not a good idea...i had a bad expirience with this.....they ship the trees in fall and winter when the ground is too had to plant them so my choice was to over winter in the garage which meant trying to keep them alive for many months...(if they were alive when i recieved them)how would i know since they are shipped dormant....but only 1 had foliage in the spring the rest were dead ....my order was 280.00 worth of trees and only 1 apple tree survived....i could have bought 1 apple tree for 19.99 locally and it would have been during the appropriate time to plant it and it would have had leaves that i could have told whether or not it was a living tree....and if you buy locally from a chain store you will typically get things which are for your zone and they will be cheaper
A few years ago I fell in love with Caladiums and for the first couple of years I planted them, I had a great experience finding them locally. I was able to buy by color and size and then suddenly the supply seemed to have dried up! Even the big box stores did not carry but a few. So I was forced to look on line and found a supplier in Florida. I have purchased his mixed box of over 200 bulbs a couple of times and have had excellent results. I have not bought other plants on line so I have no experience to offer you.
I've purchased quite a few fruit trees online, mostly from Stark, but others also. I live in the very deep south, zone 9, so the best planting time for trees here is early fall. You should always order well ahead of time, to get the best trees and to get them at the proper time. If there's a "premium" selection, I've always chosen that. It might be 5 to 10% more in cost but I figure the plants will be a better quality and they'll also usually trim it properly for you before shipping. We're talking about trees you want around for many years, so a few extra dollars tend to go a long way. I've always bought dwarf or semi-dwarf trees because of the size of my yard and for ease of picking. I don't need anything more than about 15' tall. I've had good luck with just about everything I've ever purchased. I've always either soaked bare root plants or planted them right away, depending on what they recommend. Be ready once you order. Just about every tree I've received, I plant them in pots at first instead of the ground. That way I can move them around to see exactly where I ultimately want them and I can give them extra protection that first winter if necessary. I've left some in pots for 2 or 3 years before permanently planting them in the ground. That way you can see just how they grow, whether tall or spreading, or if one direction looks best.