Bulbs can be purchased in a number places: nurseries, garden centers, home improvement stores, grocery stores, or through mail order catalogs. No one place is necessarily better than another, as long as you know that there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
Garden Centers and Nurseries
How bulbs are sold: often loose in bins, and may be available for purchase individually, or in specific quantities for a set price.
- Knowledgeable gardeners are available to answer your questions.
- You can carefully inspect each bulb before purchasing.
- Bulbs can be purchased in the exact quantities you need.
- Bulbs sold loose are usually less expensive than pre-packaged bulbs.
- The bulbs sold are proven winners and hardy to your growing zone.
- Bulbs can become damaged due to being handled by multiple shoppers.
- Different colored bulbs may get mixed together accidentally in the same bin, making it difficult to know for certain if you're getting the color (or even the variety) you want.
- Bulbs do not always come with growing instructions.
Grocery Stores and Big Box Home Improvement Stores
How bulbs are sold: usually in prepackaged cartons or net bags; occasionally loose in bins.
- Bulbs sold here are typically less expensive.
- Prepackaged bulbs are spared handling by multiple shoppers.
- Growing and planting instructions are usually included.
- The convenience of one-stop shopping if you have other items on your list.
- Staff is unlikely to be qualified to answer your questions or offer you advice.
- Prepackaged bulbs may not contain the number of bulbs you need.
- You can't always be sure the bulbs sold are hardy to your zone.
- There are usually less varieties to choose from.
- Inspecting the bulbs for quality isn't always possible.
- Less expensive bulbs sometimes means lower quality.
Mail Order/Specialty Catalogs
How bulbs are sold: presented through images and descriptions in catalogs or online. They may be offered individually or in pre-set quantities. Many also offer bulbs in mixtures, which usually contain several different varieties mixed together (these are packed together and not individually labeled), or in collections, which contain packs of different bulbs of a similar type (usually separated and labeled according to color or type.
- The convenience of shopping from home. Most companies offering catalogs also have websites.
- The ability to shop for and purchase bulbs early to get the best selection.
- A better selection of bulbs, including rare or unusual varieties.
- The ability to try varieties that may not be available for purchase locally.
- Illustrations and descriptions that allow you to window shop before you buy.
- Bulbs must be purchased sight unseen.
- Illustrations and descriptions may "oversell" the final product.
- If problems arise customer service response time may be slower.
- Suppliers choice means colors and varieties sold as mixtures may be unpredictable.
- Bulbs may be higher in price due to the cost of shipping.
- Unexpected delays in shipping are out of your control.