mail-order gardening

My new hibiscus!

My new hibiscus!

Whenever I talk to people about my garden, the one thing they always seem surprised about (besides the fact the entire thing is in containers) is that I get a lot of plants via mail order.

I’ll admit, when I started gardening, the idea of ordering a plant and having it sent in the mail seemed absolutely ludicrous. I had this idea of a little plant in a tiny plastic pot floating around in a big box, being smashed and crushed and dry dirt flying everywhere.

But after a hunt for lemon verbena at every nursery and garden center for about 30 miles turned up fruitless, and I learned lemon verbena was very hard (if not impossible) to propagate by seed, I decided to take a risk and order an actual plant through the mail.

I ordered via Hirt’s. The reviews were mixed, but the positive ones were pretty great, and it seemed like the negative reviews were coming from people who didn’t want to deal with the process of “after care” for a mail order plant.

The shipping costs weren’t as high as I expected- just a few dollars for priority mail.

A few days later, my plant arrived. I opened the medium-sized box and found a healthy little plant nested carefully in paper and cardboard, secured by tape. The plant was fine (since it’s such a fragrant plant, the box smelled heavenly when I opened it!), the soil was moist and all intact, and after a day or two of letting it acclimate back to the bright light, I repotted it and it grew to about five feet.

Since then I have ordered a variety of plants online, from a variety of different vendors. Everything from indestructible herbs to delicate bonsai. My latest order was two hibiscus plants from Emerald Goddess Gardens. The shipping was a bit higher than I’m used to, but the total cost for two rare hibiscus + shipping came to MUCH less what I would have paid at my local nursery or garden center. And the plants were surprisingly large- I was expecting the usual 5-12″ plant in a tiny pot but these guys were easily over two feet each and one of them even BLOOMED in the shipping box, so when we opened it up, we found a bright orange bloom popping out. It continued to bloom a few days later, after it acclimated to its larger pot and different soil (see above).

To be honest, whenever I am looking for a specific plant now, I’m more likely to look online and order if I find it. I’m all for supporting the local economy, and when it comes to plants and gardening supplies I definitely SUPPORT, but the local garden centers and nurseries either sell native zone-10 landscape cover (ie plants that require no water and spread to cover the ground) or they sell unique plants with ridiculous pricetags, aimed at the 60+ retired and wealthy set that populates part of the area. The very first hibiscus I bought was on sale for 50% off- I thought it was a steal for $18, but in reality it’s an unremarkable pink hibiscus that should have cost $5-10 at the most- CERTAINLY not $36 they charge on season.

And I get all my gardening supplies locally. The same nursery that charges $36 for a tiny hibiscus is also the place where you can get hand throw terra cotta pots from local artists for about $2-12 each. And I’m talking about the *big* ones. The ones that age beautifully and that keep the soil at a perfect level of moistness. And a great fertilizer mix that is made locally. And any pretty coleus and plants that catch my eye as I stroll through the aisles.

But if you are looking for something unique, try mail-order gardening. Just be prepared to pay a little bit for shipping, and attending to the plant right after it arrives. Usually the plants require a day or two in the original pot (usually a 4″ plastic job) outside, and then repotting, fertilizing, and a thorough watering a few days later. It is a bit of work, but totally worth it if you can get a “dream” plant for a great price online, usually from growers who dedicate their gardens and/or nurseries to growing a specific variety of plants.

Have you ever mail-ordered a plant?

Comments 2

  1. Chris wrote:

    I totally agree. We mail order plants also and love being able to find unique varieties I would never find locally. Most recently we received a variegated black gum ‘sheri’s cloud’.

    Posted 15 Feb 2013 at 12:46 pm
  2. Donna wrote:

    Yes I have. Some of them don’t live. But most have made it. My mother used to order odd colored iris.

    Posted 26 Feb 2013 at 8:53 pm

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