/ Shopping

When flowers go bad – are you guaranteed a refund?

Dead plant

You’d expect a plant bought from a garden centre to thrive, but what if it doesn’t? Have you tried to take a plant back to a retailer and, if so, were you given a replacement or a refund?

If I didn’t work at Which?, it probably wouldn’t occur to me to take a plant back if it didn’t grow very well. I’d probably blame myself, or put it down to experience. But according to our research into plant returns, it’s definitely worth doing.

We surveyed almost 1,000 Which? members to find out about their experiences, and the good news is that it’s definitely worth taking a plant back if you’re not happy with it.

Only a fifth of those who had experienced problems had tried to return a plant, but those who did were pleased with the outcome. Six in ten received a replacement and about a fifth received a refund. Only one in ten shoppers were refused any kind of compensation.

The growth of plant guarantees

gardeninfographicMany garden centres now offer guarantees on hardy plants, some as long as five years. Under the Sale of Goods Act you can take a plant back without a guarantee, but the advantage of a guarantee is that it gives you more time – if you’ve waited for it to flower or fruit, for example.

In this picture you can see the guarantees offered by major garden retailers, and what you’ll need to show them. ‘Proof of purchase’ is anything that shows where a specific item was bought. A receipt is the best example, but it may include an email confirmation and possibly a credit-card statement (although this will only show the trader’s name, the date of purchase and the amount paid, not the product details).

We’d love to know if you’ve ever taken a plant back, and how you got on. Were you offered a replacement or a refund, and were you happy with the outcome?


I’ve been guilty of not returning houseplants if they go wrong. I usually blame myself for a lack of skill, but maybe I didn’t overwater/underwater the poor thing… Nah, I probably did.

If it happens again, I’ll do my best to take the plant back to where I bought it.


I bought a number of shrubs from Buckingham Garden Centre at the beginning of last spring. A number failed to thrive, or died, even though I had been careful in planting them – good compost, a decent size hole and water. I didn’t complain, but emailed photos of the plants to the garden centre for their comments. They replied straight away and offered to replace or refund them, so we paid them another visit. It seemed that they had imported from Belgium and the hard winter had damaged a lot of plants. We simply selected more plants we wanted and were credited in full. They couldn’t have been more helpful. We’ll use them again!
What does irritate me is the garden centres who supply bedding plants far too early in the season, so any frost kills them, and they have to be replaced with another batch. Many new gardeners don’t realise that late May is probably the earliest you should plant them, and even then you might need to protect them from June frosts. It seems to be taking advantage of lack of knowledge.


Hi Malcolm Thank you for telling us about your experiences. Selling bedding plants early really bugs me too – look out for a post on that very subject soon!


I never buy indoor plants as I have a history of not caring for them. Saying that I have a Christmas plant that was a present and that seems to be ok so far. I tell people not to buy me a plant as I will eventually kill it. I much prefer fresh flowers as I know they will last about a week and look good for that period.


The best indoor plants by far are orchids – last ages, not difficult to look after and not expensive (compared to a short-lived bunch of cut flowers). Cut flowers at Christmas – chrysanthemums. Otherwise grow flowers in your garden – dahlias produce masses of cut flowers until the frosts.


I forgot that I buy white hyacinths every spring and they last about six weeks and need very little care. They have a lovely fragrance and hold beautiful memories for me. I treat myself to a bunch of flowers instead of chocolate or wine. I currently buy two bunches of daffodils for £2 and they really brighten up me and my home. Better value than a starbucks coffee.

I may try out orchids for Easter and see how they fare with me.


Bulbs in pots are good value – they can go in the garden afterwards.
The key with orchids is to follow the instructions on watering (let it drain through) and light – you shouldn’t go far wrong and they will produce more flowers in the future. We buy Moth Orchids (Phaleanopsis) for around £6-7, occasionally £16 with 3 flowering stems; much better value than a bunch of flowers that lasts a week. Good luck!


Thanks for the advice. I will try out orchids but I’ll still buy my fresh flowers as I feel that I deserve a treat as I do not spend any money on myself normally.

Margaret says:
21 May 2013

At the end of June last year I bought 2 Wisterias. One reduced half price and one full priced but cheaper from Newlands garden centre in Sutton Coldfield.
The reduced plant did not thrive and I phoned them in August to tell them I though it was dieing. They said “is it dead? ” I said no but dropping it’s leaves. They said “Bring it back when it’s dead”
I left it over winter and now it appears to be dead. No new growth whereas the other plant is growing well.
I rang them today and told them again and what was said last August and asked if it would be guaranteed. The lady said if it was reduced it might not be and I should ring back in the morning and check with their plant buyer.
Surely it shouldn’t make any difference under the sale of goods act whether it was reduced or not?