Gardening Articles :: Landscaping :: Trees, Shrubs, & Vines :: National Gardening Association

Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Trees, Shrubs, & Vines

Garden Shopping by Mail and Web (page 3 of 3)

by National Gardening Association Editors

What to Do When Plants Arrive

Almost all companies will ship hard goods and seeds immediately upon receiving your order.

Unless you specify otherwise, live plants and bulbs are shipped at the appropriate time for your growing region. Most companies ship plant material throughout the year, but they will postpone shipping during heat waves or cold spells. Expect possible delays during those times.

Live plants require immediate attention, but don't panic if you haven't dug your holes and prepared the beds for the new arrivals. Here are some tips for temporarily (for a few weeks) holding plants until you're ready.

Store summer bulbs such as dahlias and lilies in their box in a dark room and mist the bulbs lightly to keep them moist until planting. Iris rhizomes can tolerate some indirect light. Store fall-planted bulbs such as tulips and daffodils in a cool, dry location.

Most perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees are shipped bare root (dormant without any soil on the roots and no leaves). When they arrive, remove the packaging except for the protective wrapping (sawdust, newspaper, plastic) around the roots. Keep the plants out of direct sun, and moisten the roots frequently. To hold plants more than a week, keep them in a shaded location and cover them with soil or soil mix. Cover the roots with any combination of compost, peat moss, or garden soil, and keep moist. A few hours before planting them in their permanent location, remove the wrapping and soak roots in water to reduce transplant shock. Don't worry if bare-root plants are slow starters compared with other plants. (For example, some trees may take until mid-summer to fully leaf out.)

The latest trend in mail-order gardening is shipping green or live plants in potting soil-filled containers. Roses, other flowers, herbs, and vegetables might be shipped this way. These plants tend to be more expensive than bare-root stock but suffer less from transplant shock. When they arrive, immediately remove them from their packaging, water, and place them in a protected area with indirect light. Plant them at the proper time for your area.

Enjoy the Garden

Most gardeners who have ordered through the mail have had positive experiences with the quality and timeliness of their orders. Catalog shopping allows you to spend more time enjoying the garden instead of hunting for plants and products. On the following pages you'll find some of us enjoying a small sampling of the many garden plants and products that are now available by mail.


Even though catalog shopping is nearly always safe and reliable, things may go wrong. If you have a problem, here are some steps you can take. First, call the company and explain your problem. Most companies will try to solve it on the spot. If the problem is not resolved over the phone, write to the company and send a copy of your letter to the magazine where you saw its advertisement. Another course of action is to contact the Mail-Order Action Line (1111 19th Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20036; 202-955-5030,, or e-mail: The MOAL is funded by the Direct Marketing Association and may intercede on your behalf.

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