Buying plants online... and receiving them in good condition.
Are you thinking of ordering plants online? Receiving plants in the mail can be very exciting if you have finally found a plant from your wishlist, but it can also be scary if it's the first time, especially when the famous plants come from far away. bcfallleaves and Stephanie Long have been asked to share their experience with buying plants online and give advice to those who want to try the adventure.
About the experts
Bcfallleaves lives in North Vancouver. On her Instagram account, she writes that she " had this rule that [she could not have more than 50 houseplants. Didn't work... " She has just donated 30 of her plants and her collection still counts 95 plants. Among these, some come from Quebec, Nova Scotia and the United States. She has also ordered seeds from abroad.
Stephanie lives in Montreal and developed her passion for plants a few years ago. Today, she has over 120 plants! Check out her Instagram @mybotanicaltreasures account to see some of her treasures. Some have been shipped from Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Thailand and Sweden.
Shopping for plants online - the basics
When you buy plants online, how do you choose your shop?
Bcfallleaves: When I buy plants online, I'm looking for someone who has invested time building their business. A website or a well-developed Instagram page makes me believe that the person is serious about their business. That would be too much work for a con artist. I also look at evaluations when they are available. I make sure that they extend over a certain period of time so that they are not false evaluations. I want to avoid fast companies because I've been burned before by an unscrupulous individual.
Stephanie: The first thing I consider is the price of shipping, as it's usually very expensive. Some vendors in BC have great plants, but the shipping costs are over $50, which I'm not willing to pay. Otherwise, I check with my friends and we'll place a group order. I also consider the variety of plants on offer. Since my collection is quite large (120+ plants), I am now looking for rarer varieties.
Do you ask questions to the seller before ordering?
Stephanie: I only asked questions of the seller in Sweden. I saw that he had received Anthuriums clarinerviums and I didn't hesitate, I ordered without thinking. I hadn't considered the permits or how the plant would be shipped, so I wrote to him in a panic to find out more about how it would work. He responded very quickly.
For the order from Thailand, it was my friend who was responsible for placing the order, so she was the one who talked to the seller. She asked the greenhouse to explain her order form, if it was possible to benefit from wholesale prices, if some plants were out of stock and if we could see pictures of the plants they were going to send us.
Have you ever had a bad experience sending plants by mail? If so, can you tell us more about it?
Bcfallleaves The only bad experience I had was with the seeds I ordered from abroad. One of the packets just didn't germinate. The other one sprouted, but in something that was clearly not a houseplant.
Stephanie I have only had one negative experience with sending plants through the mail. Without going into details, I suggest always asking the seller to send a photo of the plant they will be sending you (especially if it is expensive) to avoid disappointment or misunderstanding. Otherwise, all my experiences have been positive.
How do you acclimatize your plants once you receive them?
Bcfallleaves To acclimatize my plants, I put them in a basin and place them in a moderately sunny spot. Generally, I spray the plant daily for the first few weeks after arrival. The most important thing I have to share is to keep a close eye on a new plant. The plant's journey has made it more vulnerable than a plant found in a store. Keeping an eye on any new plant will help identify problems early on.
Stephanie The seller from Sweden has a detailed description of things to do to take care of his plants on his website. He gives instructions on how to acclimatize the plants when they arrive. Since I have received plants from him, I have always applied his methods.
First, I repot the plant in a mixture of potting soil (earth, perlite, sometimes orchid substrate and sphagnum moss) or compensated clay beads. Then I take a transparent plastic bag, wet the inside and place it on top of the plant in its pot. I make sure the bag stays wet for two weeks. This is how I acclimatize most of my plants, especially those that come from far away.
Ordering plants from abroad
How do you find sellers abroad?
Stephanie It's a lot thanks to word-of-mouth, internet research and the " Plantes d'intérieur Montreal houseplants " group on Facebook.
How did this happen when you ordered your plants?
Stephanie The process to get a permit can be confusing if this is the first time you are doing it. The Canadian government website is confusing. The permit costs $35 and you have to specify which country you are ordering from. It takes about 5 to 10 days to receive the permit after you send the application. During the summer, when I did it, it was pretty fast.
I am very lucky! None of my orders were destroyed at customs, but the seller from Sweden stopped shipping plants to Canada because some of his plants were refused by border officials. It is the seller's responsibility to obtain the phytosanitary certificate, but we should always confirm with them that they are planning to obtain one. Some sellers from Indonesia sometimes suddenly contact me on Facebook to offer to buy plants, but they always tell me that permits and certificates are not necessary. This is a sign that you should be wary.
How long does it take to receive your plants when they come from abroad?
Stephanie It took less than 3 weeks for my plants to arrive from Thailand. The delivery time was similar for Sweden.
What are your tips and tricks when ordering from abroad?
Stephanie If you don't know, don't be embarrassed to ask people in plant groups on Facebook. I've noticed that plant lovers are very nice and always willing to share information about plants. Also, ask a lot of questions to the greenhouses that produce the plants you order. Don't be afraid to be tiresome. Some of my friends have lost whole orders of plants because they were badly packed.
Bcfallleaves For my part, I would not hesitate to order plants from abroad again. However, I would make sure to order from well-established and recognised companies that provide phytosanitary certificates. I always order from Canada whenever possible, because it's much simpler and it's easier to judge the credibility of a Canadian shop.
Do you have any warnings for those who are thinking of ordering from abroad?
Stephanie There are predators in the world of plant sales that lure you with beautiful pictures of rare plants at very low prices. Be very careful with these people. If a seller claims that phytosanitary certificates and permits are not required, check the info on your end.
Bringing plants from the United States with you
Have you ever brought plants back with you from the United States? If so, how did it happen?
Stephanie The only place in the United States from which I brought plants was Hawaii. I've done some research on the possibility of bringing plants back from there before. We are allowed to bring back up to 50 plants from the United States to Canada, but they all have to be on the list of approved plants. Make sure you check the Canadian government website for the names of the plants you can bring back. You don't need a permit to bring back plants from the United States.
I brought back 4 rootless cuttings from Hawaii (3 plumeria and one ti plant). There, they sell cuttings EVERYWHERE! Even at ABC Market (a big chain of convenience stores) and at Target! Phytosanitary certificates are printed directly on the packages so it was very easy for me, despite the fact that Hawaii is one of the most regulated places for the import-export of plants.
If you want to bring back plants from the United States, I suggest you drive there. It will be much less stressful for the plants than if they were packed in your suitcase. If you wrap them well, remove all the soil, wrap the roots in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag to keep the moisture in, your plants should stay beautiful. Never wrap the leaves in plastic or your plant could be very damaged or even dead when you arrive.
Bcfallleaves So far, I have not crossed the border with the United States with a plant. If I understand correctly, you can do it, it's legal for personal use, as long as you declare your plants to the customs officers. However, everyone should do their own research before trying to bring plants back from the United States.
For more information on importing plants, visit the Canadian government website here: https://www.inspection.gc.ca/vegetaux/importations/fra/1299168480001/1299168593866.
Canada's plant import laws are among the strictest in the world.
Another good article on the process of importing plants into Canada is available on the Burns Water Gardens website. http://www.burnswatergardens.ca/buying-plants-on-the-internet/
Cover photo by bcfallleaves