By Trisha Gedon

STILLWATER, Okla. – While Jack may have gotten lucky with the magic beanstalk beans he received when he traded his cow, gardeners may not be so lucky when purchasing seeds for their gardens. Casey Hentges, host of Oklahoma State University Agriculture’s television program “Oklahoma Gardening,” has a word of caution for gardeners purchasing seeds this growing season.

“It’s the time of year when I love browsing through the different seed catalogs and seeing what new plants are available,” Hentges said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of gimmicks and photoshopped pictures out there that can grab a gardener’s attention, but often they’re just selling magic beans.”

A few years ago, gardeners may have seen rose seeds that claimed to produce a rainbow of vibrant colors on each flower. While roses have been hybridized and do come in some amazing colors, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Consumers may find images of multi-colored roses, but the truth is that petals have been dyed. Dyed roses can be purchased as cut flowers, but gardeners shouldn’t expect to grow them in their gardens.

Hentges suggests if there’s a plant that grabs a gardener’s attention, search the internet to see if other plant nurseries are offering the variety. If it’s legitimate, it’ll be readily available at multiple vendors.

“If the only vendor is a craft trading site or an independent sales website, it’s likely not a legitimate plant,” she said. “Also, read the reviews on these questionable sources. If there are comments suggesting the plant colors weren’t what the buyer was anticipating, the buyer likely bought seeds based on a picture of photoshopped plants. Check the websites of well-established vendors before spending your money on magic beans.”

What can be tricky for gardeners is the fact that plant breeding has advanced, and the gardening industry does have some unusual – yet legitimate – selections available, including cheddar cauliflower, black beauty tomato or glass gem corn. While they may not look like the traditional white cauliflower, red tomato or yellow corn, a quick internet check will show multiple reputable sources offering these seeds.

Gardening is a big business and continues to grow annually. Hentges said in 2021, more than 18 million households in the country started gardening, and each household spent an average of just over $500 on garden-related items. That’s a lot of money being pumped into the gardening industry.

“Gardeners should have fun and plant things they will enjoy looking at, but I also want them to be informed consumers,” she said. “Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t waste your money on magic beans.”

For more information about purchasing seeds, check out this segment of “Oklahoma Gardening.” OSU Extension also offers additional gardening information.

OSU Extension uses research-based information to help all Oklahomans solve local issues and concerns, promote leadership and manage resources wisely throughout the state’s 77 counties. Most information is available at little to no cost.