When your plant or flower bulb order arrives

When your order arrives,examine the contents immediately. You may find plants of varying shapes and sizes and states of growth, but all can be classified by their means of shipment—bareroot, in pots, or as dormant bulbs. Bareroot plants are grown in fields, dug in fall, and held in cold storage, their roots kept moist by shredded paper or sphagnum moss and clear plastic wrapping. They may appear lifeless, but they will reawaken and grow vigorously soon after planting. Pot-grown plants are shipped in plastic pots filled with potting mix. They may arrive dormant—with few or no leaves in evidence—or in active growth. Bulbs (a category in which we also include corms, tubers, and certain rhizomes) endure lengthy periods of dry storage, then spring to life after planting. If you must delay planting, please see our advice below; your plants and bulbs are living things and need a little attention, even if you can't plant immediately.

Please notify our Customer Service Department at 1-800-411-6159 immediately if you find a problem upon receipt of your shipment.


Dormant plants. We recommend that you plant the following dormant plants right away, following our planting instructions.

  • Bareroot perennials
  • Bareroot shrubs
  • Pot-grown perennials with no top growth
  • Pot-grown shrubs with bare stems
  • Bulbs that are cold hardy in your area

These dormant plants are not harmed by spring frosts; the sooner you plant them, the sooner they will settle in and thrive. Among dormant plants, only tender bulbs (such as Dahlias) should be stored indoors until the soil has warmed and the danger of frost has passed.

Pot-grown perennials and shrubs with leafy growth. Pot-grown perennials and shrubs with leafy growth are fresh from the greenhouse; they need some time to adjust to life outdoors before being planted. Once acclimated, they can be planted even if there is still a chance of frost. Most perennials and shrubs with leafy growth will endure light frost (30-32° F) with little or no damage.

Do not allow your plants to dry out. We strongly recommend that you check pot-grown plants for moisture every day they are out of the ground. If the potting mix is dry to the touch, add water until the excess drains freely from the holes in the bottom of the pot.

Annuals. (Spring-shipped only) Annuals should not be planted before the danger of frost has passed (consult your local Cooperative Extension Service for the last frost date in your area). If your annuals arrive before the last frost date in your area, put them in a sunny window until the weather warms. Before planting them in the garden, be sure to give them a little time to acclimate to outdoor conditions.

If You Must Delay Planting

If you can't follow the timetable for planting provided above, you can generally wait until it's convenient for you to plant—provided you store and care for your new arrivals properly.

Bareroot plants can remain in their original packaging for 5-7 days. Keep them in a cool (but not freezing) place out of direct sun. Stand them upright so that new shoots grow straight up rather than at odd angles. Check the plants for moisture every day. If the packing material around the roots appears to be dry add water and pour off excess water. Do not remove the packing material until the moment you are ready to plant.

If you must wait more than a week to plant a bareroot plant, we recommend that you give it a temporary home, a practice called "heeling in." Dig a shallow trench in a lightly shaded area, remove and discard the packing material, lay the roots in the trench, and cover them with soil. Then water thoroughly. In the spring, you can also put bareroot plants in a container—a pot, a flat, even a cardboard box will do, so long as water can drain out the bottom—and cover the roots with potting mix. With proper care, heeled-in plants can remain in their temporary quarters indefinitely, but the longer you wait, the more traumatic their relocation will be.

Pot-grown plants may remain in their original pots outdoors for some time, provided you keep up with their need for water. As plants grow, however, the need for watering becomes more and more frequent; a few hours' inattention on a dry, windy day can desiccate a plant beyond the point of no return. If you must delay planting, we recommend you shift plants into larger pots.

Bulbs can be kept for several weeks in their original packing if stored at the temperature required to maintain dormancy. When your order arrives, be sure to open the paper or plastic bags in which bulbs typically are shipped to allow air to circulate around the bulbs.