If you thought gardening was just a phase of quarantine—like tie dye and sourdough starters—think again: The hobby is hotter than ever, with many growers and nurseries reporting demand up 200 percent this year. And it’s no wonder, because digging in the dirt is good for you both physically and mentally. Research has shown that being around plants is associated with improved mental health, better sleep, and boosting feelings of connection during times of social isolation. Plus, it’s just so satisfying to nurture your plants and watch them grow.
Whether you have a huge yard or a tiny balcony, you can grow both flowers and edibles. While the same-old, same-old online retailers may be your first thought for plant shopping, there are tons of other great options for buying seeds, healthy garden plants or seed-starting supplies. Growers and nurseries have developed methods for shipping live plants so that they’re sturdily packaged, arriving just in time for planting in your area. Plus, buying directly from the growers ensures you’re getting the best quality and specific varieties you may not be able to find at local nurseries. (Just make sure to order early, because there’s usually a limited number of plants; after all, growers can’t instantly “make more” if demand is high.)
One last bit of advice: Before you fall in love with a perennial, shrub or tree and buy it, make sure it’s suited to your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here) so you know it will survive winters in your area. Also, read the description, so you give your plant the right lighting conditions: Full sun means six or more hours of direct sunlight per day, while part sun is about half that. Don’t try to cheat! Sun lovers get spindly in shade, while plants that need shade will fry in the hot sun.
Read on to find the best places to buy garden plants this year.