Should I Start Seeds, or Buy Plants?

Have you ever been conflicted on whether you should buy plants or start seeds?

Up until a few weeks ago, I’ve been there.

I’ve been growing plants my entire life, and for the first time in my life, I am ordering seeds online. Even though it’s only March, it’s essential to plan for the growing season. You can never plan too much! 

If you are a member of my email list, you already know that my goal for this growing season is to start 50% of my plants from seed. And making that decision wasn’t easy. Starting seeds or buying plants… Ahh!! It’s so confusing sometimes!

Thankfully for you, I’ve compiled a pros and cons list, so you don’t need to stress this season!

Tomato seedlings with dramatic lighting

The Pros, the Cons, and the Personal Experiences

Starting seeds and buying plants have their pros and their cons. In all honestly, not one is better than the other. It’s critical to understand what you want to do this growing season, so it will be easy to weigh your pros and cons and what’s important to you.

Pros of Starting Seeds

1. Starting Seeds is Cheaper in the Long Run

In the long run, starting seeds is a lot cheaper than buying a plant. Instead of getting one plant for $2 each, you can get a packet containing 50 seeds for the same price. That’s 50 potential plants for the price of one! 

Seeds also last longer because of the ability to be stored. By saving seeds, you can grow the same thing for a long time. It’s great for growing a staple plant for multiple seasons and avoiding a plant shortage

2. More Access to Unlimited Varieties

One of the more prominent pros of starting seeds is the unlimited varieties available nowadays. With the rise of online shopping, especially with covid, it’s become easier to get rarer types of plants that you can’t get at a nursery. It can be frustrating to find only a few varieties of plants at the local nursery. Or if you don’t live near one at all!

I mean, tell me the last time you saw watermelon cucumbers or loofahs at your local nursery?

3. The Amazing Sense of Accomplishment

What of the great things about gardening is the sense of accomplishment after succeeding. That sense of accomplishment is motivation to keep on trying, and it’s a feeling like no other. And it’s amplified when starting from seed because of the extra effort needed.

I still remember when I was 10 years old in a tiny apartment growing soup beans with nothing but cotton balls and water bottles. I only got one bean out of it, and I didn’t even get to eat it. But the pride of being successful in growing that one bean was more than the disappointment of not being able to enjoy it.

I wasn’t allowed to grow beans after that. By then, there were at least 10 of those cotton ball contraptions in that tiny apartment!

4. Become More Well-Rounded as A Gardener

Starting seeds takes more effort to have a great harvest. But in the light of that, you learn more, and you gain more gardening experience. When buying plants, you usually learn less about gardening than from starting seeds. There’s also a lot more trial-and-error, so you got more opportunities to make mistakes to learn and grow from and become a more well-rounded gardener.

Basil seedlings in a pot

Cons of Growing Seeds

1. The Learning Curve

Starting seeds takes a lot more effort, nurturing, and maintenance than buying plants. And while starting seeds isn’t very complicated, it can seem daunting or challenging for beginner gardeners. It’s not as simple as buying a plant, transplanting it, and calling it a day.

There’s also the challenge of having of not growing in a controlled environment. Not everyone has a South or West-facing window to germinate seeds. And the increased need for trial and error can be exhausting. Sometimes you just want to grow your own food!

2. Upfront, It’s More Expensive

When starting seeds you have to consider the cost of your time and your money. Although the cost of the seeds itself is relatively cheap, you also need to consider other materials that you’ll have to buy, such as a spray bottle to water fragile seedlings, mini-greenhouses, and seed starting mix. And for people like me who don’t have enough sunlight in their home, grow lights can also come into play. And they can get pretty pricy sometimes.

3. It Can Take Too Much Time

In gardening, timing is crucial. Here in New York, you can get snow up until April! Sometimes the growing season isn’t long enough for some plants to fully mature. Therefore, the plants become leggy and aren’t plentiful.

From My Personal Experience…

I didn’t feel restricted by seed varieties available to me. In the seed catalog I used, there were at least 20 varieties for each type of plant! (This is not an affiliate link, I just really like the brand)

Of course, I needed to research the seeds for my area that were hardy. Usually, in a store, there would be specific varieties available that are best for your region.

I had to pay attention to the timing to get seeds to mature correctly. If it’s too early, the frost would kill the seedlings, and it would take too long to start a new batch. If it’s too late, the plants don’t produce as much and become leggy.
I also had to buy more supplies such as pots and seed starting mix. At the moment, I am saving up for a grow light so I can germinate seeds indoors. This season, I’ll skip the transplanting process and sow the seeds in large pots.

The Pros of Buying Plants

1. Better chances of success

Plants are grown in a controlled environment by gardening experts who have decades of experience under their belt. There is virtually no risk of pesticides, insufficient sunlight, and nutrients for the plants to grow. Essentially they do all the hard work for you.

Transplants that are usually in your area are regionalized. For example, a more hardy tomato is more likely to be sold in Maine than in Florida, where there is a longer growing season. The plants grown are tailored to be the most successful for everyone.

2. It Takes Less Time 

Buying plants can be a great way to get a few weeks ahead of the game and avoid constricted growing seasons.
For fruits or herbs, it costs a lot less to buy a plant than sow seeds. If you buy perennials, it can be an investment in money and time to buy instead of waiting years for a first harvest.

3. They’re Easily replaceable

You’ve been nurturing these seeds for weeks, they’ve shown promise, and you’re preparing to transplant them in the next day. Until oh no! They all died. And now you have to start all over again.

Instead of starting over from seed, you can pick up a plant and nurture it instead. And since bought plants are easily replaceable and buy again, it doesn’t feel like that much of a loss if a plant dies because you can always get another one.

strawberry plant with bowl of strawberries to the side

Cons of Buying Plants 

1. There’s A Limited Amount of Varieties to Grow.

There Are a lot of for some people there are only two or so varieties of each plant available to grow from. So if you want to try out the latest viral plant, you’ll have to search far and wide for that specific variety.

Most varieties sold in stores are hybrid for the best-growing success, but that also means that you can’t save the seeds for later. This can start to be costly if you’re doing this for multiple growing seasons.

2. It’s Expensive in The Long Run

Although it is a lot more expensive to start seeds at first, buying plants can become costly very quickly. For example, if you want to buy 5 tomato plants that are $2 each, that already racks up $10. And if you’re growing annuals, it can be expensive to get new plants year after year.

From My Personal Experience…

It is a lot simpler to grow from bought plants than from seeds. I didn’t have to watch over seedlings and tend to them often. All I needed to do is transplant and let the plant grow.

However, I was not satisfied with the number of varieties available and not being able to buy every plant I want.

Strawberry plants in a pot

So, Should You Start Seeds or Buy Plants?

The answer is both

Growing with only seeds, or bought plants might be great for some. But the benefit from growing from both is negating one’s cons with the other’s pros. For example, you can save the seeds of staple plants that you want to grow year after year, and buy plants that are difficult to grow from seed.

Some plants that you should grow from bought plants are herbs like mint, fruits (especially fruits that grow from branches of any kind), houseplants, and succulents. If you like growing flowers like marigolds but you don’t have a long growing season or seed starting supplies, plants are perfect! Most flowers go for 3 dollars for 6 plants,

It’s all about experimentation and your personal preferences. Try out everything that there is to offer about gardening. Experiment with growing the same variety from both plants or seeds to see which works best! You can also learn from my gardening experiments on my Instagram.

This season I’m going to try to start rare varieties and I’ll grow my herbs and fruits from plants to make things more simple. 

So What Now, Sarika?

Yep, that’s my name! Nice to meet you. I’m here to make gardening simple for urban gardeners. If you want to read about me, you can do so after reading this article.

Now you can make your gardening plan and have a clear view of what you want to grow for the season. It’s even more important to take action as early as possible. Because of the high demand for online orders, seed orders can take up to a month to ship. So make a list of the plants that you want to grow, and decide which ones would be more buying from plant or starting from seed. 

If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it with friends and family so that they can enjoy it too! Also, sign up for my email newsletter to get articles, receive updates, and get a monthly “Plant of the Month” newsletter straight to your inbox! It helps me continue writing for this blog, and I appreciate it a lot. 

Psst! This month’s “Plant of the Month” is one of the varieties that I ordered online and will review this year. 

If you want to follow me along my gardening journey, receive tips, and learn from my mistakes, follow my Instagram

That’s all for now. Happy gardening! Till we meet again.

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My name is Sarika, and I am the founder of “The Blossoming Gardener”! Let me tell you a little bit about myself…Read more

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