Planting Seeds or Buying Plants: The Pros and Cons

Planting Seeds or Buying Plants: The Pros and Cons
By Rob Sproule


It is the modern planter’s dilemma: begin early and grow your favourite flowers and foods from seed, or hold off and let the professionals get them started for you so you can leap right into spring planting. The following list of pros and cons should help you decide which strategy will work best for you.

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”
– William Blake

With spring around the corner, a gardener’s fancy turns to thoughts of tender green plants, fresh with promise. That’s what we want, and there are two roads to get there. Those who plant seeds cite the cost savings, while those who buy starter plants in May brag about how easy it is. Let’s break these two camps down into pros and cons:


Seeds win here. And while the difference between buying tomato starter plants and tomato seeds is wide, remember that you’ll need flats, domes, and other supplies to get your seeds started. Starter plant lovers might point out that if you put a price on your time, the difference evaporates quickly. So if you love growing seeds, it’s an excellent investment; if you see it as a chore but do it to save money, less so.


Seeds win, with a caveat. It’s true that you can find a far broader variety on the seed racks in February than on the shelf in May. And if you go online, the variety expands exponentially.

That being said, the starters a garden centre grows are more likely to be the varieties that perform best in your climate (ie, you’ll get more out of them). I usually recommend that people plant seeds of the same varieties as their local garden centre. Patented varieties, like designer annuals and some hybrid plants, are often not available as seed or, if the are, can only be purchased at an exorbitant price. You can only buy plants like Supertunias and grafted tomatoes as starters.


Starter plants win. To grow seeds, you’ll need more research, a seed germinating station indoors, and the time it takes to grow them. You’ll also need timing: seed some veggies too early and they’ll be floppy and leggy by spring. Seed them too late and your yield suffers. Go to the garden centre in May and you can pick out the best plant, knowing it’s been grown by pros. Buy it when you can plant it right away, recycle the pot and you’re done.

Find out when to plant your garden favourites, with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog


Seeds are a win at first, then it’s a draw. Growing specks of seed into tender green sprouts is an amazing feeling, and you’ll be glowing as you plant them outside. That being said, by the time summer rolls around and the yard is abundant with flowers, you’re going to feel proud no matter how they started. Walking back into the house with strawberry juice on your lips and vine-ripened tomatoes in your hands means that everyone wins.


Starter plants… mostly. Usually, a plant purchased from a garden centre will give better long-term performance. It’s been grown by pros whose livelihoods depend on that. That being said, if you’re an accomplished grow-from-scratcher with your fertilizers sorted and the right growing conditions, you’ll probably buck the trend. And if we’re talking about plants direct-seeded into the garden, like beans, carrots and sweet peas, seeds win hands down.

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