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Tips for buying plants online

Buying plants online? Good mail order and online garden suppliers should be able to provide the following information:

1. Ordering and shipping dates and deadlines. Since plants are live material, they are usually shipped in the spring or the fall when planting conditions are ideal.

2. An order form that's easy to navigate. Be especially careful to fill the correct quantities and sizes when you buy plants online.

3. Common and botanical names, so you can compare price and shipping size with other suppliers when you buy plants online. Some less than ideal companies promote ordinary everyday plants available everywhere with colorful names they've made up. Ever heard of a Blue Twinkle?

4. Hardiness zone and growing information, so you can tell if a plant can handle your climate. Growing requirements — whether the plant is happier in sun or shade or needs special soil conditions — and how big it will get.

5. Contact information, including a phone
number and address and a returns policy. If you have questions about buying plants online, the seller should be happy to answer them. If call them and they say they can only take orders, hang up.

6. Upfront shipping quotes and shipping dates
appropriate to your climate. If your plants don't come within the time you specify, let the supplier know so that they can send out the plants before it's too late.

If your plants come without soil or a pot, don't panic. Shipping plants without soil — it's called shipping "bare root" — keeps costs down.

plants online -bareroot daylily As long as the roots were packed in damp newspaper, peat or wood shavings, and you unpack the plants as soon as you get them, this treatment shouldn't hurt them. Generally there is only a small amount of peat or potting mix around the roots, which are wrapped in plastic or foil to keep them from drying out.

Even if they look dead, stay calm. Most plants are shipped dormant - a state of limbo when growth shuts down for winter -but their roots are alive and ready to grow.

To reassure yourself, look for generous and healthy roots. A good root system has a lot of growing energy stored up and most plants recover from shipping quite quickly and begin to grow as soon as they get the chance.

Your package should come with detailed planting instructions. With bare root plants, it doesn't hurt to soak the roots in a bucket of water for an hour or so and then get them planted as soon as possible. A new plant may take some time to leaf out and settle into its new home, so be patient. Don't write it off after a few days — give it a couple of weeks.

If you feel your mail order plant is too small or delicate for the garden or it's still too cold for planting out, transplant it into a pot with potting soil. Water and fertilize, and grow it on in a sheltered spot outdoors for a few weeks. The plants generally double in size in no time at all.

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