Buy plants online – The 11 Best Nurseries for Unique Plants

January 28, 2024

As professional gardeners, it’s our job to know where to find the best plants. Online Nursery plants are increasingly the best places to get the best and most unique things growing in our gardens.

I thought I would take you inside my design notebook. I want to give you a glimpse of where we will be looking for new plants for the gardens at Coastal Maine Botanic Garden. Over the winter, we’re working on a full slate of garden redesigns and planting enhancements, as most gardeners do in the off-season. Throughout the summer, I walked the gardens with our garden staff and made notes on strong combinations and weak planting pockets. We are taking this list of improvements back into the office now that the ground is frozen, and we are cross-referencing it with the growing lists of cool plants coming onto the market.

If you are doing the same, these are some of the top nurseries that we (the pros) are using to refine our wishlists of plants and nail down our improvements and plant orders for next spring.

the 11 best nurseries for finding unique plants online

The best online plant nurseries for finding and buying unique plants by mail order:

There are certainly more nurseries that could be on this list. Admittedly, this list is also heavy on East Coast operations (because that’s where we’re located). Even with mail order, it is better to buy as close to home as you can.

What is the best online plant nursery?

There are many – This is our list of the best places to buy outdoor plants and perennials online, with note about what makes each of them special:

Rarefind Nursery

This mail-order nursery from New Jersey has one of the best selections of unusual woody plants for the mid-Atlantic and New England. I will make a lengthy list of flowering trees and shrubs from Rarefind.

Broken Arrow Nursery

Broken Arrow is a Connecticut institution founded by Richard Jaynes that was made famous with all of his mountain laurel introductions. Like Rarefind, Broken Arrow specializes in extremely unusual shrubs and small trees (as well as mountain laurels).

Landcraft Environments

Landcraft is the go-to nursery for unusual tropical plants in the mid-Atlantic and New England. They are located on Long Island and have become synonymous with over-the-top, wow annuals – they really are the best online plant nursery for annuals. We bought a truckload of online plants from Landcraft for the gardens this past summer. When the plants arrived in late May, our staff oohed and aahed over them.

Issima Works

Isssima was previously Opus – a craft “nano-nursery” in Little Compton, Rhode Island, that specializes in perennials you cannot find anywhere else. Their focus is on the under-cultivated and garden-worthy, and they specialize in unusual hardy plants.

Van Berkum Perennials

If you are looking for top-notch wholesale perennials for New England, Van Berkum in New Hampshire is the place. Everybody you meet who works at Van Berkum is nice, knowledgeable, and polite. Plus, their plants are beautiful, and they will not ship them until they are perfect. VanBerkum has also become a leader in Native Plants sold by eco-region, making it one of the best mail-order nurseries for native plants.

Plant Delights Nursery

There are just some things that you cannot get anywhere other than at Plant Delights. If you are looking for something different, this is the best online plant nursery for you. Owner, Tony Avent is always on the search for new and unusual perennials. The catalog that Tony writes each year can be pretty funny, if not irreverent.

Camellia Forest Nursery

Camellia Forest came to fame with their hardy camellias. Today, they not only offer camellias, but also offer unusual woody and perennial plants.

Far Reaches Farm

This nursery from Washington State sells a lot of plants that we would love to try but just cannot buy here on the East Coast. If you are on the West Coast – this is a great local place to buy online plants – one of the best. We have ordered quite a few plants for the gardens at CMBG that have done quite well in our Maine environment.

Annie’s Annuals and Perennials

If I am having a hard time finding a certain plant, I will ultimately see if this California nursery has it in stock. Most of the time, they will have it. Their plant offerings are quite impressive.

Pine Knot Farms

Pine Knot is the best online nursery to go to for hellebores. Owners, Dick and Judith Tyler are two of the nicest people you could ever meet.

Fedco Seeds

For vegetable plants and fruit trees, this Maine-based company is the best online nursery to look to for the New England vegetable garden. Along with Fedco Seeds, we also check for availability from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Online Plant Shopping FAQ:

How can to buy plants online?

Online plant shopping is not quite as easy as it should be, but it is getting better and better all the time. It can be difficult to shop for a specific plant as many online plant nurseries still do not make their inventory available to internet crawls. You often have to go to the nursery website and search for items that do not show up in a web search.
Nurseries that regularly ship plants through the mail have improved packing techniques, generally guarantee a high-quality product, and do a good job of delivering plants safely. There are, however, restrictive shipping windows that prevent heat or cold damage to plants. Ordering is otherwise just like buying anything else online.

A plant shop illustration (where to buy plants online)

Bonus – A couple of our favorite places to Buy Garden Pots:

And if you are looking for new containers (so you can grow more stuff!) – these are the two companies that we love.

Lunaform Pots

If you ever want a one-of-a-kind planting pot that will last forever, this Maine-based company hand-makes each pot using a custom process that protects them from cracking in frost.

Campania International

A Lunaform pot is a work of art, but if we need a lot of pots for massing, Campania International has some outstanding pots to use in the garden. They are not frost-proof, so they will need to be protected each winter.

Who do you think is the best online plant nursery? Do you have a favorite? Are there other nurseries on your list that you think we should check out as well? What are some of your favorite places to buy plants and containers online?

image: Sanguisorba ‘Midnight child’ – Available from Opus Plants

– Rodney

You might also like these plant and online buying posts:

Smart Plant shopping tips to get the best late-season bargains at the Plant Nursery (this post is great for learning how to find a bargain!)

How to buy garden center plants like a pro (including at online plant nurseries)

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  1. commonweeder says:

    This is a great list. Thank you so much for the links. Dreaming time is almost here.

  2. Amy Murphy says:

    This is a terrific list of nurseries! I have used many of them, but it is always fun and helpful to learn of others.

  3. Holly Whiteside says:

    Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is exactly what i needed. I am working in a community garden and I am trying to establish a “medicinal herb bank”,,, beds where medicinal herbs are kept and propagated so that the community may pick or one day, even get plants to put into their own gardens. There are many plants I need to source that are more difficult to find. I will have fun exploring the nurseries on your list!

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