How to Buy Vegetable Seedlings


A healthy, abundantly producing vegetable garden begins with healthy seedlings. Purchased seedlings are the simplest way to start the garden, compared to starting the seeds yourself. You can buy seedlings at garden centers, nurseries and neighborhood plant sales. Buying vegetable transplants from a reputable plant supplier is vital, and inspect each seedling to determine whether it is right for your garden conditions and at its peak of health.

Step 1

Inspect your garden before buying the seedlings. Make note of how much room you have available for planting and how much sun the bed receives. Look for dwarf or small vegetable varieties if you have minimal garden space or prefer a container garden. Also, most summer vegetables require at least eight hours of sun a day, so in shaded gardens plan on purchasing lettuce, spinach and other cool-season vegetables that tolerate some shade.

Step 2

Check the leaves on each seedling before buying it. Choose seedlings that have healthy, green leaves with little signs of damage. It is acceptable for the lowest leaves to be dead or dying, as these are seed leaves that wilt soon after the seedling begins to establish itself.

Step 3

Inspect the undersides of the leaves and check along the stems for signs of insects. Aphids and mites are the most common pests. Groups of dark-colored, green or white specks often indicate an infestation. Do not purchase these seedlings.

Step 4

Turn the pot upside down and inspect the roots through the drainage holes. Some roots should be visible, but the bottom of the soil should not be a tangled mass of roots. Remove the plant from the pot, if allowed, and verify that there is a healthy root system that hasn't become overgrown.

Step 5

Read the plant label for exact cultural concerns, and verify that you can supply the proper care in your garden. Plant labels include information on water and sun requirements as well as fertilization needs. Buy vegetables that require similar care if they are to share a garden bed.

Step 6

Read the spacing information on the plant label and determine the number of seedlings required for your garden. Avoid buying more seedlings than what will currently fit in your garden, as the vegetables should be planted in the bed within three to five days of purchase.

Tips and Warnings

  • Mail-order and online seed suppliers often sell seedlings, but buy these at your own risk. The plants often arrive stressed from the shipping process. When possible, buy seedlings from places where you can inspect each plant before purchase.


  • Penn State Extension: Growing Better Vegetable Plants
  • University of Illinois Extension: Vegetable Gardening Basics
Keywords: buying vegetable seedlings, vegetable transplants, starting a garden

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.