How to Buy Annuals

In this article we are going to answer the question How to Buy Annuals. Annuals are sold both as seeds that you sow and grow yourself, and as already-sprouted seedlings that you transplant into your garden.

Buying Seeds vs. Seedlings

Seeds vs. Seedlings


Whether you should buy annuals as seeds or as seedlings depends on your preferences about:

  • Cost: Seeds are significantly less expensive than seedlings—when you buy seedlings, you’re paying not just for the plants but also for the labor that went into growing them.
  • Variety: Seeds usually come in a larger variety of species and colors than seedlings do.
  • Time and effort: Growing annuals from seeds requires more work than it takes simply to transplant store-bought seedlings into your garden.

How to Buy Annual Seedlings

How to Buy Annuals

Seedlings are sold at nurseries and home and garden centers, typically in trays of four, six, or eight small, individual containers that each contain one seedling. When looking for seedlings to buy, consider:

  • Size: Most nurseries sell seedlings that have been grown to different sizes. These seedlings are categorized by pot size. For instance, a seedling in a 6″ pot will be bigger than a seedling in a 2″ pot. Larger seedlings will make your garden look full from the get-go, whereas smaller seedlings will need time to grow and fill your garden. Larger seedlings are considerably more expensive than smaller seedlings, though.
  • Size relative to container: Avoid any plant that seems too big for its container or that has roots growing out of the bottom of the container. It’s best to buy seedlings that look stocky and compact in their containers.
  • Color: Look for plants with bright green leaves.
  • Number of flowers: Though plants that have the most flowers may look the best in the nursery, in general, smaller plants with fewer flowers will grow better after being transplanted into your garden and will produce more flowers over the course of the season.

In addition to inspecting the plants themselves before buying, pay attention to how the plants are displayed. In particular, make sure that the nursery is giving the plants the proper amount of sunlight. If the nursery where you’re buying your plants has shade-loving plants on display in direct sunlight for hours at a time, that’s a sign that the nursery may not treat its plants well.

It’s also a good idea to ask a nursery staff member whether the seedlings have been hardened off when you buy them. If they have, you can transplant them right into your garden. If they haven’t, you’ll have to harden them off first before you can transplant them

How to Buy Annual Seeds

Annual seeds are sold in seed packets and can be found at nurseries and home and garden centers, as well as through online and print seed catalogs. Seed packets generally provide the following information, either on the front or back:

  • The species and variety name of the plant
  • A description of the plant and its flowers
  • A photograph or illustration of the plant when flowering
  • The plant’s spread (width) and height at maturity
  • The plant’s sunlight or shade preferences
  • Planting instructions (for both indoor and outdoor planting)
  • The net weight of the seeds within the packet
  • The price
  • A packing date (seeds grow best when packed in the current calendar year)

Beyond the information they display on the outside, most seed packets also contain additional information on the inside about how to plant and grow the seeds.