Shopping for Plants Online May Actually Help Garden Centers—Here's Why

Brian Barth

When shopping for plants these days, we are spoiled for choice. We can search online and have just about anything shipped to our door. But not long ago, the best option was spending a pleasant Saturday afternoon browsing a nearby garden center for a wide range of familiar plants, as well as more unusual ones. Over the last decade, these small businesses have had a tough time weathering the Great Recession, competition from big box stores, and most of all, the increasing prevalence of online plant vendors. All of these factors together would seem enough to spell the end of the mom-and-pop garden center—yet we’re pleasantly surprised that almost the opposite appears to be happening.

Nick Mattiuzzo at Suburban Lawn & Garden

Not that online plant sales aren’t booming. Lawn and garden sales on Amazon.com were upwards of $2 billion in 2017, a 25% increase from the previous year. Monrovia, long one of the nation’s largest wholesale suppliers of nursery plants, reported doubling their online retail sales during the same period. These giants are joined by a host of smaller businesses seeking a slice of the online nursery pie.

I would suggest [e-commerce] is introducing a whole new customer to the joy of plants.

Online shoppers are drawn to brick-and-mortar stores less for the utility of making a purchase and more for the unique shopping experience they offer.