The distribution of fitness effects (DFE) of new mutations plays a central role in molecular evolution. It is therefore crucial to be able to estimate it accurately from genomic data and to understand the factors that shape it. After a rapid overview of available methods to characterize the fitness effects of mutations, we review what is known on the factors affecting them in plants. Available data indicate that life history traits (e.g. mating system and longevity) have a major effect on the DFE. By contrast, the impact of demography within species appears to be more limited. These results remain to be confirmed, and methods to estimate the joint evolution of demography, life history traits, and the DFE need to be developed.