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Buying plants online – it’s not all rosy

Green computer mouse in grass

If our experiences are anything to go by, buying plants online can be a lottery. Our Gardening team used several well-known suppliers and got a mixed bag of deliveries. Some plants were damaged, others diseased.

Four members of the Which? Gardening team ordered an assortment of young plants for trials this summer, from well-known online suppliers and one smaller specialist website.

While many of the plants arrived on time and in perfect condition, we had quite a few letdowns. They included:

  • Small plants that were little more than cuttings
  • Damaged plants
  • Plants with dried-out roots
  • Diseased plants
  • Plants that were the wrong colour
  • Plants that were incorrectly labelled

Plants that are incorrectly labelled can especially wreak havoc with our testing, since if we can’t be sure that a plant is what it claims to be, we can’t include it in our trials.

We’ve also had problems with the delivery of the plants themselves. Many deliveries were held up in the post, came late, and in one case, not at all! Again, this makes co-ordinating our trials a bit tricky.

Your rights when buying plants online

Of course, when ordering a product by post or online, you have some legal protection from the Sale of Goods Act, meaning most companies will offer to refund or replace an item.

But it’s not so straightforward with plants. It’s not always obvious that something is amiss straight away – it may be several weeks or months before they flower, for example. By the time you’ve noticed the flowers are the wrong colour, it may be too late to organise a replacement in time for the growing season.

Have you been satisfied with the plants you’ve received after ordering them online, or have you had some disappointments? If so, what were they?

Joy Baker says:
21 April 2018

I have just taken delivery of 6 begonia firewin plugs from J Parker. Upon opening to replant there was more leaves left in the packaging than on the plants. I have potted up but I’m really not very hopeful for these plants. Very disappointed as I paid £12.99 and £3.99 for p&p

Check the leaves Joy for signs of fungus or spider mites, if not its possible rough handling could cause it also too dry conditions but watch it’s easy to overwater. Begonias need the right conditions to flourish. You are not alone others complain of leaf drop on internet bought Begonias, professionals say its because of the length of time in dry conditions but be very careful in watering it.

I purchased some plants online from Gardening express, when plants arrived they were in poor health, dry and some almost dead.I informed the CS dept but the reponse was unhelpful and obstructive.The main issue was with the Acer’s, leaves were brown and some dead.They said it was fine and would recover. But I should have got healthy plants in the first place and its not for me to nurse the plants back to good health .I asked them to collect the plants and credit, as per my rights. They would not.So eventually after many emails, I had to take company down the small claims route to get money back.

Rach says:
27 June 2019

I bought 3 jasmine plants from gardening direct & all died within 6 months. I have no idea why but they never thrived. Bakker sent me iris rhizomes, 2 bags of 5 varieties instead of the 10 different varieties I ordered. 2 of them were rotten. Finally I spent alot of money on plants from Hayloft. All were small but the Millettia Reticulata is nothing but a barely rooted cutting that cost me £22. I am not impressed.