Mail ordering a plant from a nursery can actually be very worthwhile. Of course, getting a plant at a local nursery
is preferable, because it will be less expensive and the plant will not experience the stress of being mailed.
However, plants are often not available locally, especially exotic ones. Also, sometimes a plant will be
available locally but is not the cultivar desired and maybe not even be a named variety at all. Experimenting with
a mystery plant, especially with fruit trees, can mean years of wasted effort, so the best bet is to get a known
variety from specialty nusery.
These days, there are many reputable online plant nurseries and they have also become very good at packing the
plants for shipping. Most of them will also make a reasonable effort to refund you or send a replacement plant if
something goes wrong. Regardless, keep in mind that mail ordering a plant is always a bit of a gamble, especially
because no one can control the weather.
Here are some tips that will help one's mail order experience to be a good one.
Below is a listing of online mail order nurseries that I have had good experiences with.
Links to the websites are provided, along with a short description of the nursery.
Yes, this a bit of an obvious suggestion, but it is actually surprising
how much plant prices can vary on the internet. Also, pay attention to the quality
of the website, because it is an indication of how serious a nursery is about
its mail order business. Read the refund policies and shipping policies to make
sure you are ok with them.
Ship by air
It costs more but being shipped by 2 day air makes it a lot less likely the plant
will get cooked or frozen. Imagine the plant in the back of a truck rolling down
the interstate for 4-7 days and its not hard to visualize all of the ways it can
take a beating. On the other hand, the cargo areas of airplanes are temperature
controlled, so the greatest risk to the plant will be in the final part of the
delivery, in a van, on the way to your house, a much shorter time for things to
go wrong. There is not much reason to pay extra for one day air.
Plant the plant immediately upon arrival but take precautions for direct sun
This advice partly runs contrary to what many of the nurseries tell you
in their instructions. Their advice is usually to put the plant in a pot
the size of its rootball and put it in a shady spot to recover.
Instead, I believe it is best to put the plant immediately in its permanent
location whether it be a pot or the ground. The philosopy here being, that
the fewer times you transplant it the better. Also, plants going into the
ground will benefit from the more stable temperatures and moisture levels
that the ground provides.
Putting the plant in direct sun right away is a problem, because the
plant will lack sufficient roots to keep itself hydrated and is also
likely to be prone to sunburn. Plants are often sensitive to the sun because
nurseries often grow the plants in filtered sun, such as under shadecloth or in greenhouses.
If the plants permanent location is a high exposure area, create a shade
structure and keep it in the shade until it is ready for more sun.
New growth is the best indicator that the plant is growing new roots.
Even if the plant is showing new growth do not remove the shade cloth for at least two weeks.
Do not fertilize the plant for a long time
Nothing will kill a plant faster than fertilizing it when it is already stressed.
Wait until the plant is showing strong growth and even then use a very small
amount to see how it will react. Many plants, planted in the ground,
need no fertilizer at all.