A few months ago, I purchased a Wild Stonecrop plant from a mid-atlantic seller. While the transaction went through smoothly and she shipped the plant almost immediately, I realized a week later that the plant still hadn’t arrived. I started digging around and found that I’d given her the wrong shipping address. The plant had arrived, just not to my front door. It was outside my old apartment in Decatur, GA.
By the time I figured all of this out, the Wild Stonecrop had been languishing in a cardboard box for about ten days. The apartment’s new tenants let me into the building to pick up the little plant and I got it potted a couple hours later. It was not a happy camper.
Luckily, the seller had a tracking number for the plant, so we both knew it hadn’t gotten lost in the mail. But, she didn’t send me the tracking number so I was left a bit in the dark. By the time I started wondering about the plant, she likely checked the shipment off her to-do list because the tracking status had said “arrived” for several days.
Shipping Tip: Send the Tracking Number
If you notice you are shipping to an apartment number, it’s especially important to give the buyer a tracking number. Shippers like USPS and FedEX as well as apartment managers have different standards for notifying their tenant if they’ve received a package. Sometimes, a manager or delivery person will leave the package, sometimes a notification slip to pick the package up elsewhere. Sometimes, they will leave nothing at all. This happened to a friend who ordered two plants from a seller: they were shipped the same day, but his sapling “never came.” Several days after the friend contacted the seller, he deduced that the sapling had been sitting in his apartment building’s management office for almost a week.
I’m happy to say that both his wayward tree and my stonecrop are doing great right now. Shipping miscommunications like these test our patience, but they also demonstrate the resilliance of plants. Here’s a picture of the Wild Stonecrop two days after potting (left) and five months later (right). It bounced back nicely after spending several days sitting at the wrong person’s front door.
Last week we ordered and received two Blue Star variegated junipers. They came via USPS and were sitting at the front door when I got home from work. Both junipers were carefully packed in an 11-by-13 inch flat rate Priority Mail cardboard box. (They can be ordered in bulk at the USPS store ) Each juniper was well-watered with the roots wrapped in plastic. We unpacked them, but haven’t planted them yet (a bit lazy, I know.) But, they’re doing great and seem much happier than the junipers we checked out at the big-box garden center down the road.
“Ship Better” Tip: Send information about the plant.
One item was useful was Bannister Creek‘s printout detailing information and growing instructions for the purchased plant(s). A plant description can be just a one-page plant biography that includes information about the plant, growth rate, growing conditions, and how it was taken care of before shipping, (For example: was the plant watered? What kind of soil is it in?) Even if it’s little more than the description you’ve provided online, it can be helpful to forgetful gardeners to recall planting conditions while serving as additional promotion for your nursery. (Bannister Creek went above-and-beyond, even suggesting we wait a bit to plant because of our area’s hot, dry conditions.)
The plant biography also serves as a product of your great customer service. Since you won’t be able to talk to your online customers face-to-face, pack your plants with useful tips and materials for them to refer to later. This will help promote your store’s customer service, establish you as a garden expert, and encourage repeat buyers.
One of the first plants we purchased from DoLeaf was the Weber’s Blue Agave. This gave has a beautiful blue hue and is a very easy grower in zones 9 and up. It’s drought-tolerant (so it’s suitable for xeriscaping) and the agave’s bloom can be attractive to bees and butterflies. The plant grows best in the Southwest, but can also work as a container plant with succulents.
Many of these plant factoids came with the shipped plants we bought a few weeks ago from Ohiotraders Botanicals. In addition to giving great information about the Agave, the plant information explained that our plants were shipped bareroot, and it gave us clear planting instructions. The packing slip also noted that the plant’s fleshy leaves may have been bumped around during shipping before assuring us that plants would be fine once planted.
The seller was absolutely right! We planted our three agaves and they’re all putting out new leaves just a few weeks after planting.
“Ship Better” Tip: Tell your buyer what to expect as they unpack their plant.
Take whatever precaution you can when shipping your plants that it will arrive safe and healthy, but it’s also OK to acknowledge that sometimes shipping mishaps happen. Every plant we’ve ordered online over the years is alive and well, but a couple didn’t look perfect right after we opened the box. Offering a money-back guarantee is one way of making your buyer’s feel comfortable, but another is establishing yourself as a serial shipper. This means being ready to answer questions about a plant’s appearance post-shipment even before those questions are asked.