Mail Order Tips & Tricks

With the arrival of Covid-19, many people have turned to online or catalog shopping. Gardeners have been using catalogs and online shopping for a long time as they search for new varieties or a particular plant in a particular size. Catalogs and online are a great option since you have the benefit of being able to shop from the safety, comfort, and convenience of your own home and Covid has simply reinforced that. However, there are some things to be aware of when shopping for plants this way.

Although catalog or online shopping makes an incredible variety of plants, seeds, bare root nursery stock, etc. available at your fingertips, there are some drawbacks and when placing your order there are some questions you should ask.

The first thing to do is to be certain that what you are ordering will thrive in your hardiness zone. It’s great to try some new things too, but be aware of their recommended growing areas. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a plant that will only survive in the tropics if you live in Colorado.

Try to find out what size the plants will be when they arrive. Often what you see is not what you get! Will you be happy and can you care for small plants until it is time to transplant them outdoors here if that is what the seller is offering? Are you willing to take a substitution if they are out of stock on your first choice? If not, when will your first choice be available? Can it be safely shipped at that time without risk of drying out, freezing, or overheating? Find out when you will be billed for the plants- some companies bill as soon as your order is placed. Others wait until the plants are actually shipped.

There are many good, reliable mail order plant, seed, and nursery stock companies doing business both out of catalogs and online, but be aware of those that consumers have had difficulties in dealing with. Ask friends, neighbors, other gardeners or your local garden center if they are aware of a particular company’s reputation. Google them with the word “X Company Reviews” to find what others experiences were in ordering from them. And last of all, be aware, as with everything else, once the increased shipping costs are added on, those inexpensive plants might not turn out to be that inexpensive after all.

Shopping in person at your local garden center is always the best way to ensure good choices for your yard. Although you will not find the varieties that you would in the mail order catalogs or online, you will be assured that the choices that are offered are specifically selected for this area and our particular hardiness zones and that the plants will be the correct size when it’s time to set them out in the yard. This is especially helpful to new or novice gardeners as the staff will be able to answer questions and help you make good selections. You will also have an ongoing source of information and support should you have any questions or growing concerns about that particular plant.

I enjoy a good catalog as much as the next person because they are a great way to dream away the winter days and you get first peek at all of the new varieties that may be available. However, after answering phone calls and emails for many years from disgruntled customers who mixed us up with a mail order company with a similar name and did not receive their plants, there are a few things to be aware of to ensure that your experience is a positive one.