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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?


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

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Loopy loo says:
12 May 2020

I placed an order with J Parker’s the plugs Busy Lizzy and Lobelia arrived about three weeks apart they were supposed to be garden ready couldn’t believe how small they were. My plan was to make up straight away hanging baskets ect. The shrubs I ordered 6 were like dry twigs out of the 6 only three look as though they are starting to grow. I am so disappointed as in self isolation now 7 weeks thought this would help me put colour into my garden So would not recommend or use again !

To “Loopy loo” – As it happens I have a catalogue from J Parker’s in front of me as I write. I am not ordering but like to look through it as a substitute for going round a garden centre to get ideas.

On page 6 of the catalogue it says exactly, and in considerable detail, what purchasers can expect to receive in the different formats with pictures giving indications of size and scale. On page 8 there is even more detailed information on the sizes and scale of the plants they sell.

The descriptions for individual plant species then show [with colour coding] which format(s) are supplied and the relevant prices. At the top of page 47, on which lobelias are presented, there is a notice saying “3 cm diameter jumbo plugs” which relates back to the information given on page 6.

I am not saying that deciphering all the information is easy but it is all there. I have not checked the website to see if it replicates the printed catalogue.

If you believe the plants you received were not ‘as described’ or ‘not of satisfactory quality’ you have the right to reject them under the Consumer Rights Act within 30 days of receipt, but I would suggest that you contact the company first and see whether you can take advantage of their money back or replacement guarantee [at the bottom of page 2] as a potentially quicker and less disputatious way of obtaining a remedy.

See the following Which? guidance on exercising your consumer rights –
And if you purchased the plants on-line –

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.

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.

Susan Bulmer says:
14 March 2022

I bought loads of plants from jParkers .15 verbena plants are dead out of 18.I have been in contact ,but they have gone silent after receiving my photos.I am really now not confident very much is going to grow in the spring now .would never use them again ,really regret spending so much with them .