Where to Buy Plants Online
Hopefully this post will give you some informed information about buying plants online or through a mail order nursery.
Sorry, I had to include this photo of one of Ohio’s youngest nurseryman. This is our youngest grandson Gavin, and this little irishmen is 2-1/2 years old and he is a corker! This photo was snapped by my photographer daughter-in-law Lorelei McGroarty.
This topic of buying plants online is a “hot potato” and I’m asking for your input. I don’t want this to turn into a vendor bashing event and I really don’t want vendor’s mentioned here because that just opens this up to spam issues. What I really want to know are;
Have you purchased plants online?
Were you happy with the plants that you received?
We’re you happy with the customer service you received from the vendor? (please don’t mention the vendor, your post won’t be approved)
Where do you like to buy plants? Big box store, local garden center etc.?
People often ask where they can buy plants online and I am usually really reluctant to mention any vendors because I’ve heard way too many horror stories and I don’t buy from retail vendors who sell online or via mail order.
I’ve been in this business most of my life and at one time I worked for a local nursery that sold plants bare root. We dug all of the plants in the fall, hauled them into the barns completely bare root, then when the digging was done we started sorting and grading the plants and tying them in bundles of 10 or 25 plants per bundle. Once all of that was done we started shipping them out to wholesale customers. Some of the customers were re-wholesalers, some were garden centers, some were retail mail order plant sellers.
Digging plants bare root and selling them completely bare root, no soil or mulch covering the roots, is a common practice in the nursery industry and it is acceptable. Providing the plants are handled properly, cared for properly and always, always, always kept in a high humidity environment.
And there lies the problem. Bare root plants should be kept in an environment where the humidity is at a constant 90% or higher. That’s really difficult to do. Especially in a nursery barn or in the back of truck during transit. Now keep in mind most bare root plants are shipped during the winter, mostly the end of the winter months, but none the less it’s cold outside when bare root plants are shipped. That means that during transit, in the truck, the trucks have to be, or at least should be heated to keep the bare root plants from freezing.
If the truck is not heated the plants can freeze doing serious damage to their exposed roots. If the truck is heated, chances are the heat is going to lower the humidity in the back of the truck because the truck driver is unlikely to find a garden hose and wet down the roots along the way because . . . he is a truck driver, not a gardener and not a nurseryman. He or she has no clue how to care for plants. It’s not what they do.
Then of course once the plants arrive to their destination back into a barn they go, stored until they are sold again. Hopefully the person in charge of the plants in that barn knows how to properly care for them while they are in his/her custody.
Now, when buying plants online, you have no idea where those plants came from, who grew them, and whether or not they spent 6 days on the road as the country music song suggests.
You just don’t know.
So when you are looking for a place to buy plants online, I suggest that you first spend time reading the companies web site. Look for a guarantee. Read that guarantee carefully. As I mentioned I don’t buy plants online from nurseries that sell to retail buyers. I know the drill too well. But I was once looking at such a site and I couldn’t believe what I was reading as I was reading their guarantee. As I recall is said something along the lines of “it’s not unsual to lose 30% of the plants that you buy”.
It really said that! I am not making this up! Whaaaaaaaaaaat?
When I buy plants I expect 100% of them to live. Do they? Not always, but if they don’t it’s probably because I did something wrong and killed them. Usually not paying as much attention to them as I should.
In other words I buy from growers who I expect to send me very healthy, well care for plants. I buy from wholesale suppliers and they know they can’t pull the wool over the eyes of other people in the industry. I wish I could say the same for some of the online nurseries that sell to retail plant buyers because there are good growers out there who sell to the public. There are also some that give them a really bad way to go.
I do my absolute best not to buy plants that have been in bare root storage because I know it often sets them back. I like to get nursery stock that is fresh right out of the ground or pulled from it’s pot the day it went into the packing box.
So that’s what I have to say about looking for a place to buy plants online. Pay more attention to their guarantee and their overall reputation than you do the pretty pictures.
Tell me about your experiences. Are they good or bad? Don’t bash vendor’s. That’s not the meaning of this post.