April 28: plants by mail

I’ve wanted a passionflower the past two years, but I always manage to miss the very brief window our garden center has them, if they get any in at all. I also wanted a couple more perennial milkweeds, specifically in orange, which is also always a crapshoot.

With the pandemic raging, and our local nursery not knowing what they’ll get or when, and because we’re sheltering in place, I decided to try ordering plants by mail. I wasn’t sure where to begin because I’ve never ordered plants by mail, and I really didn’t know what I should look for in a seller (or how to find a reputable one). Some Google searches turned up a few options, and I was able to find both passionflower and milkweed at Burpee online. I ordered in early April, and they said the plants would be ready to send April 27.

I had no idea in what condition they would arrive. This was all new to me! They arrived in a cardboard box. They were potted in soil and had a sophisticated cardboard contraption to hold the pots in place. The box was stamped with arrows indicating THIS SIDE UP, but of course the soil was spilled all over the place in the box.

Plants by mail
A peek inside the box — how do I get the plants out?

It was damp inside the box, and the plants looked like they’d been through the ringer, but they were intact and green. They were very small given how much they cost. I’d have been able to get plants 3 times that size at the nursery for half the price, but as I mentioned, that would have been dependent on the nursery actually having them. And also, pandemic.

Liberating the plants without injuring them
The pots underneath the pot holder

I had to destroy the box to get them out (I couldn’t figure out how to get the cup-holder like contraption out without tearing off the sides of the box), but the plants were alive, with leaves attached to stems and stems attached to roots.

Plants by mail freed from the box!
Passionflower (1) and Milkweed (2) plant tags

I put them straight into the ground and watered them in. I have my fingers crossed the rabbits don’t eat these. If they do, I’ll put up fencing.

One transplanted milkweed (foreground) and two milkweed by mail (middle and flagged)
Passionflower by mail