My recommendations when buying seeds online based on my personal experiences.
I've never had a truly bad experience buying plants or seeds online. I have a few suppliers I've come back to a number of times, the main determinant of where I go is mainly selection. Here are some of my notes on online companies I've used.
Although Renee's Garden seems to be having some issues at the moment, they've been one of my favorites for seeds. There has been a massive demand for seeds this year due to covid, and I think that is the only issue. Before the last month or so I was able to order what I needed from Renee's Garden and received everything in under a week.
Renee's Garden seeds are certified USDA Organic and non-GMO.
I like Renee's garden because they have a good selection and provide a lot of information on their site and on their seed packets. All of their seed packets are printed with good instructions about the specific seed in the packet. Some even have an extra flap because they couldn't fit everything they wanted to tell you on one page.
Their pricing is good, I consider them the baseline for what I expect to pay for seed prices online. I first ordered from them because they have Alpine Strawberries (Mignonette and Pineapple). I've ordered countless herbs and vegetable seeds from them and have had nearly perfect success with their seeds.
They also offer some bulbs and roots, but these are not always available. I'm expecting to receive some horseradish soon, but other than that I haven't been able to acquire any of these due to being "sold out for the season." I hope to get some saffron crocus bulbs from them some day. I've paid $7-14 for shipping on each of my orders. Not terrible.
Eden Brother's feels a little more corporate than most of the other companies I have ordered from. They are a little more expensive, but their deliveries are prompt and even now they do not seem to have supply problems.
I use Eden Brother's for items I can't find elsewhere. I've been able to get a number of California native seeds from them, such as Californias Bluebell and the Aroyo Lupine, which is a nice thing considering this company is in North Carolina. I also got peanut seeds from them which are suprisingly difficult to find elsewhere.
They offer heirloom and organic seeds.
My only complaint about Eden Brothers is the cost. Seeds in general are not expensive, so paying an extra dollar per packet doesn't sting a whole lot. But on top of that, they also charge $15 for shipping. This means placing small orders is not practical.
I ordered from Seedman when I was looking for hard to find herbs to grow. They have a very large selection and specialize in hard to find seeds.
Their website is quite humble and their seed packaging is equally so. Don't let that stop you from ordering from them. I've spent hours browsing their site and I've had good success with the seeds I ordered.
Trade Winds Fruit
Trade Winds Fruit specializes in fruit seeds, but they have a large selection of vegetable and herb seeds as well. I've ordered from them more than once.
I don't have the space or patience to grow a lot of fruit from seed, but one that I have ordered is Giant Cape Gooseberry. I've had a high germination rate with these seeds. Their tropical seed selection is endlessly fascinating and browsing that can steal hours from your day.
However, I have ordered many herb and vegetable seeds from them. Their delivery time is prompt, and free!
Tomatofest definitely looks like a mom and pop operation. They definitely have a specialty and I'm not going to tell you what it is. Ok, it's tomatoes.
They have the largest selection of tomatoes I have seen online. If you are looking for interesting heirloom tomatoes, this is definitely where you want to order from.
They also offer a small selection of herbs (basil, dill, cilantro, parsley) and some flowers. There was a small minimum purchase of $15 when I ordered last, I don't see any info on their website about that, but it might be something I you only see when you check out. Since they mainly only sell tomato seeds, that minimum can actually be an issue. I bought some cilantro seeds to put me over the minimum even though I already had plenty on hand at the time. But you can always use more!
The Plant Good Seed Co.
The Plant Good Seed Co. is in Ojai, CA. I ordered from them mainly to get some California native seeds, a selection of California poppies, mugwort and Arroyo Lupine.
The seeds arrived within a week. They charged a small shipping fee ($3.29), and the seed packets are very high quality.
Beyond a handful of California native plants, the company has most of the everyday herbs and vegetables you might be interested in. They also have a selection of grains and cover crops. They might not be the first place that pops in my head next time I'm ordering vegetable seeds, but I would definitely order from them again.
One Green World
One Green World sells live plants. I've ordered passion fruit vines and strawberries from them. I planted the passion fruit before winter and I'm hopeful they will take off when spring hits. They are definitely showing signs that this could be the case.
The strawberries they sent me have been great. These were "bare root" plants meaning no soil was included. They came in clusters of 5 plants each that I soaked in water than planted in the ground. Each had a little stem on it, but it was small and hard to distinguish between the root and the stem. When I planted them I thought my success rate would be around 50%. There was even one scraggly little 6th freebie that tagged along n one of the bunches. Well, long story short, only a few weeks later and all 11 of these plants are thriving already.
I will definitely be ordering more plants from OGW in the future, the only thing holding me back is my current focus on seed starting.
Native Foods Nursery
Native Foods Nursery tries to combine the not-very-compatible worlds of native plants and permaculture. If only.
I ordered from them when I was first dipping my toe in to the subject of native plants. I got a pair of huckberries, a salal berries and golden currents. The only problem is, only the golden current can really be considered a native where I live. But that is to be expected, this is a Washington company and I should have done my research better before ordering.
The plants arrived in good condition. One huckberry has died, I'm guessing I'm to blame. But the other five plants are getting by. Actually, the golden currents are thriving, I'm looking forward to seeing how they do throughout the year. I'm not sure whether the salal berries will make it in the end.
Their website has lots of fascinating items in it, I will certainly peruse it again and I wouldn't hesitate to order from them, this time doing more research before ordering.
Obviously "etsy" isn't a seed seller, but there are many people selling seeds on etsy. I'm 1 for 3 on buying from etsy. The reason I ordered from etsy sellers is because they have seeds I couldn't find in stock elsewhere.
The first time I struck out, I ordered from a company in Sri Lanka. I didn't know they were in Sri Lanka until I placed my order. I ordered Butterfly Pea seeds because I was having a hard time finding anyone else supplying them.
My order was supposedly shipped but never arrived because of a sudden shut down of the Sri Lankan government due to Covid. This was very late in the pandemic so I was not expecting this issue at all. When I looked at that seller the reviews had changed from all positive to very negative, and the main reason was seeds not germinating.
My second purchase was Guar beans. I made this purchase around the same time. I'm guessing the shortage was related to Covid. After some searching I found a company on etsy that had them. What I received was labelled "guar beans" but they did not look anything like Guar beans and the plant that developed was identified by a plant app as "garden bean."
Eventually I was able to order both seeds from trade winds fruit and actually received the seeds that I ordered. Although I had ordered both regular Butterfly Peas and Double Blue and they unexpectedly cancelled the Double Blue on me (and refunded it of course).
My third purchase was loofa seeds. As far as I can tell, I received what I ordered and on time. I won't really know for sure until the plants start fruiting though. I am at least confident I received a curcurbit.
My conclusions when working with etsy is "buyer beware". People who sell on etsy are usually running very small operations and the quality of seeds you can expect will be mixed at best. I don't often buy anything from etsy, but every time I have, I have been happy with the purchase aside from when buying seeds. I'm guessing I could have and should have done a lot more research before completing these orders.