Mail-Order Seeds: Variety, Viability, Value

You can get variety, viability, and value when you buy seeds from online catalogs, but it's important to keep these pointers in mind.

By Jennifer Noonan | Published Mar 8, 2013 2:36 PM

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Seed Packets


It couldn’t be easier to go out and buy seeds from the local nursery or the nearest home improvement store. A large selection is available at either venue. But there’s a much, much larger selection ready to order from seed catalogs and online seed vendors.

Why Order Seeds Online?

Why wait for the order to process and ship? Why pay shipping costs when you can get seeds so easily when out running errands? Every gardener and garden is different, but compared to buying at a local nursery or home center, there are some distinct advantages to ordering seeds over the internet:

Buying Seeds Online



A retailer only has room to stock the most popular seed types. If you’re interested in rare or heirloom varieties—or special disease-resistant strains—you will only find them online or in seed catalogs.


Seeds sold in stores may not have been stored properly. As a result, germination rates of store-bought seeds can be inconsistent.


If you have a large garden, ordering seeds from a catalog or online is often cheaper thanks to bulk discounts.l

Online Seed Catalog Example


Tips for Ordering Seeds Online

Ordering seeds opens up so many new possibilities, plus it’s a lot of fun to browse and consider varieties you’ve never even heard of before. If you plan to order seeds, here are a a few things to keep in mind:

  • Order enough seeds. Over-order even. Not every seed will germinate, and there are always some plant losses due to weather, critters, and miscellaneous other threats.
  • Order early in the season. If possible, order seeds for your entire year’s gardening all at once, at the very start of growing season or better yet, before it begins. That way, if there are seed shortages, you won’t be left without a crop that you were planning. With the steady rise in food prices, many more people are attempting to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
  • Think regionally. Choose to order from seed companies that are in your geographic or climatic region, since they will have the best information as to what varieties will succeed in your area’s conditions.