Plants By Mail FAQ

Archive-name: gardens/plants-by-mail Posting-Frequency: monthly URL:
The Plants By Mail FAQ
maintained by Joe Robinson since 1995 founded by Peter Leppik
After almost seven years, it is time to pass the Website/USENET FAQ to the next keeper of the flame. Write to Faqsite maintainer, Terry Lea, at from now onward, as she is the keeper of the FAQ.
This document is intended to introduce readers to the world of buying plants by mail order; and also to serve as a central clearinghouse for information about contacting various mail order plant houses. I don't make claims about being more informed on this topic than your average Joe; Peter saw the need and compiled the original file material, and I'm willing to put forth the effort to continue compiling and maintaining this.
Entries to the FAQ websitelist ( ) include a notation of time (season, if not month and year) when last change to a list entry was made. Comments and additions to the FAQ may be made directly directly to Terry at
Note: Sending email to the PBM-FAQ will NOT get you a free catalog. I don't do catalogs. Lately I've been getting a quite a bit of, "Please send me your Park Seed catalog" and the like. This is not what the PBM-FAQ's about. It's about ordering plants by mail, its trials, tribulations and successes.
The version of this FAQ posted to USENET used to include the complete list of catalogs, with addresses and gardener comments. This is no longer done: the catalog comment list outgrew the USENET FAQ. Instead, the catalog lists can be accessed at . If you don't have WWW access, you can send E-mail to, telling Terry which catalogs you want address information for, and perhaps she'll send you those particular entries. At last count, over 800 catalogs are listed on the site.
It seems that one of the most common article titles in rec.gardens is, "How can I reach XYZZY?" or, "The Plugh company sent me a catalog. Are they any good?" I hope to be able to answer some of these questions in a reasonably definitive manner (the first is easy, the second harder), and provide the neophyte with some introduction to buying plants by mail.
My experience in this area has been short, but intense. After finally moving from a small condo into a real house (with a YARD and a GARDEN even!) in 1993, one of my first projects was to begin widespread replanting of the yard (which was mostly boring grass, or very ugly hybrid poplars). To do that, I began ordering large numbers of bulbs and plants from a number of mail-order houses. Some were good, some were bad, and I learned a lot about what to look for and what to avoid.
How To Tell a Good Company from a Bad One (or: Things To Look For Before Taking the Plunge)
If you are like me, you probably have a dozen or two catalogs from various places, some fancy, others plain, and you're wondering who to order from and how to tell the difference between a place that really cares, and a place that is just trying to unload some poor, pathetic bits of green stuff on The Gullible Majority. In this section, I will outline what I think a good mail order company should do, and what you should consider before buying a plant sight-unseen. Keep in mind that this is aimed at the relative neophyte, who needs a little more service than the extremely experienced gardener....there are plenty of companies which provide good plants, but don't offer the level of service than many gardeners need.
What a Good Mail-Order Company Will Do
1. Every perennial in the catalog should have a clearly indicated hardiness range. That is, for every perennial (anything you expect to last more than one year) should have indicated which USDA hardiness zones it will survive in. Simple adjectives like "hardy," or "tender," are NOT sufficient. Perhaps I am biased, being a Minnesota native currently living in Illinois, but I have seen too many catalogs which do not include
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