Care, Planting & Feeding of Your New Plants

Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Phlox nivalis var. hentzii 'Caswell Pink Eye'

Yes! My plants are is complete!

Thank you for ordering plants from Plant Delights. We hope they arrived in good shape. Please remember your plants are living beings so treat them appropriately. No matter how healthy they are when they arrive, they can be killed within a day with improper care. Inspect your plants closely. For replacement consideration, all problems, including shipping damage, must be reported to us within 7 days of the arrival of your order. Beyond this time frame, we assume no liability for replacement. If a plant dies after 7 days and you feel there was a problem with the plant, replacement or credit will be considered if we experienced a similar problem with the remaining nursery crop. In other words, if the plant was still in our care, would it be alive? If so, no credit will be issued.

I'm neurotic about my plants...should I call or contact you?

Absolutely! Better safe than sorry. If you feel you have received an abnormal plant or if you feel you need to baby it for a couple of weeks for it to perform, please call. We will advise you whether or not there is a valid concern or if you should simply plant your purchase and observe it for a couple of weeks. If you do not call us within 7 days to report a potential problem requiring credit or replacement, we are very limited in how we can respond should the plant not thrive. New flowers and leaves that emerge in the box during shipping will take on a lighter color. Let the next ones emerge before deciding you didn’t receive a healthy plant or the right plant.

Stress Counseling

Plants will always experience travel stress to some degree. Wouldn’t you stress out if you were relocated to your new home in a moving box? Plants may be wilted because of excessive heat or lack of light and moisture during transit. Let the soil with the plant be your guide as you decide whether to water or to simply let the plant transition to its new climate.

Dry: Re-hydrate by soaking the root ball (container) in a bucket of water. This process should not exceed 1 hour.

Wilted: Shipping stress can cause a wilted appearance. Weather permitting, follow the planting instructions below. Wilting is a temporary condition. Once exposed to proper light and air circulation, your plant will recover rapidly. Leaf drop of older foliage is another common sign of shipping stress. This is normal so don’t worry.

Stressed: Take your medication and refer to above instructions.

I ordered a plant and all I got was a pot of dirty rat!

Before you panic, check your paperwork for a note beside the plant description. If the word “dormant” is written, plant it (weather permitting) and exercise patience. Prior to shipping, we check all dormant plant material for viability. Something IS in the “pot of dirt”. Please do not discard the contents of the container! Before the bulbs/tubers are scheduled to be potted, they are sometimes shipped in a plastic bag of peat moss. They can remain in the bag until planting season, but we recommend opening the bag slightly to allow air to reach the bulb. There is no need to add water.

Not all bulbs/tubers are the size of daffodil bulbs. Many plants we sell produce nice plants from what seems like tiny bulbs. All plants sent in their dormant state are guaranteed to sprout if you follow proper planting protocols...i.e. don’t feed it to the dog or leave it on the garage shelf. We will replace your plant if it fails to emerge at the appointed time for each species. See below for dormant plant care instructions.

Important Safety Tip...don’t eat, smoke, or snort your plants!

Just like people who need medicine when they are sick, occasionally insects and diseases decide to attack our container-grown plants. Therefore, we use various pest control measures so the plants can recover and ultimately travel to their new homes. While we always use the least-toxic methods of control, we recommend that you DO NOT EAT, SMOKE, SNORT or in any way ingest your plants…at least in the immediate future. Please indulge us in our acute neuroticism.

Before you come out of the closet...the tool closet:

  1. Keep in mind that our climate at the nursery may be different than your climate at home. Depending on their needs, our plants are grown in cold-frame greenhouses at one of two temperature regimens (55°F and 35°F). During the day, temperatures in the cold frame greenhouses cause the plants to start growing earlier than they would outdoors. Consequently, when you receive a plant that has begun growing, we do not recommend planting it outdoors in a climate where there is still a chance of freezing weather. The exception to the rule would be a plant that naturally grows in the winter. These plants should be able to tolerate several degrees of frost after signs of emergence.

  2. Ideally, you should purchase plants hardy to your zone. Plants that are marginal in your zone; i.e., Zone 7b plants in Zone 7b should be planted early in the season to allow them to fully establish before the onset of cold weather. We have found that plants introduced into the ground by early-to-mid-August should establish adequately.

  3. We are strong proponents of good soil preparation before planting. First, soil test, soil test, soil test. We have found a pH between 6.0 and 6.5 with a CA: MG ratio around 6:1, can grow almost anything including most acid-loving species. We cannot recommend strongly enough that plants be planted in beds of soil that have been amended with compost and organic nutrients. In heavy clay soils, the addition of 1-2” of Permatill will also help to improve drainage when used with compost. Sand should never be added to soil, as it clogs air pore spaces, reducing both air and drainage. Planting in individual holes in unprepared beds is never recommended and is the cause of large numbers of gardening failures. Assuming you disregard the above ideals, any soil removed from the rootball can be stirred back into the planting hole. Adding additional compost to the hole and mixing it thoroughly may also help, depending on your native soil and the size of your hole…at least twice as wide as the rootball. While adding extra compost to planting holes may help with perennials which have less root spread, it has been shown to have no benefit when planting woody plants. Removing the native soil and replacing it with potting soil is also a bad idea since it creates a layering effect, resulting in a poorly draining bathtub-like hole. Also, do not add anything in the bottom of the planting hole to improve drainage, since it actually has the opposite effect.

  4. We never recommend adding salt-based or liquid fertilizers to plants being put in the ground. Plants in the ground never need fertilizer. It is the microbes that you need to worry about...not the plants. If your soil is managed well and the microbes are happy, the plants will have the nutrients they need available when they need them. Organic amendments can be added as needed, but are only truly effective when applied to an entire bed.

Gardeners, start your shovels! Planting Instructions:

  1. When you are ready to plant your new plants, the first step is to remove them from the pots. Virtually all containerized plants are grown in a soil-free media composed of ground bark and an array of other non-soil products. Such soil-free mixes are designed to be sharply draining to prevent over watering and minimize root diseases in a production setting. When containerized plants are actively growing, some require watering as much as twice each day. If your planting is delayed, please be careful to keep your plants adequately watered. The amount of water needed depends on the light conditions, growth rate of the plant, season of the year, and local weather conditions (temperature, light, and humidity).

  2. There is a great misunderstanding about roots and what is acceptable from a container grown plant. You’ve all heard about not purchasing root-bound plants, but this is one of those oft-perpetuated garden myths. As a general rule, more roots mean a better plant. In a nursery, a well-grown container plant can develop a root-bound stature within 8 weeks of potting. The idea of a nursery repotting plants every 8 weeks doesn’t pass the laugh test. If you purchase a woody plant, it will have woody roots, which often remain alive for the life of the plant. These woody roots need to be spread out and often selectively pruned at planting time to prevent problems later in a plants life. Root-bound woody plants are best handled by hosing down the roots until they can be untangled. The same is not true for perennials which do not have woody roots. These roots come and go, with many being regenerated annually. As long as you can loosen the roots from the potting soil so the roots are in contact with the planting soil, perennials will be fine. The only problems with root-bound perennials occur when the roots are left in a tight ball and the plants cannot be kept hydrated until the roots spread out and become established.

  3. When you plant your plants, it is important that you breakup the rootball. This allows the roots to come in contact with your native soil which will hold much more water than the soil-free potting mix. If you plant without loosening the root ball, it will be more difficult to provide adequate watering until the roots grow out of the potting mix and into the surrounding soil. If the roots aren’t loosened, the majority can die within a couple of days if the roots only remain in contact with the potting soil, even though your native soil appears to be wet. Even if you remove the potting soil, you will still need to keep the new plants watered, but you will find they will establish much more quickly. Where possible, roots should be spread horizontally in the planting hole. With most soils, the amount of air available increases nearer the soil surface. Most roots require oxygen to grow and they prefer to be spread horizontally. This is particularly important on orchids such as calanthes and cypripediums. The entire root mass of your new plant should be completely covered, but with the orchids mentioned, the best covering material is a good compost. A good rule of thumb is to plant your plant the same depth in the ground as it was in the pot you received.

  4. Water your newly planted plants as soon as possible after planting. There is no rule of thumb for how often to water a new plant, but if most of the roots are in contact with the native soil and that seems wet, your plant should be fine until the soil dries. Sometimes a newly planted plant will wilt despite the soil and roots being wet. This is termed transplant shock and is a temporary condition. The plant is adapting to different growing conditions and possibly fewer roots. In order for the plant to adapt, it reduces foliage (and flowers) to match the remaining root system. Flowers are sacrificed first, then lower leaves and the process continues until moisture equilibrium has been reached. This can be overcome by lowering the plants evapotranspiration by keeping the foliage moist until new roots have emerged. An occasional misting of the foliage, especially on hot windy days is perfect. This may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Be sure not to keep the soil saturated, as this will inhibit new root formation. Watering during the first 2-3 weeks is most critical for actively growing plants, after which time new roots should begin growing into the surrounding soil. Plants that are planted dormant or going dormant will not be losing water from evapotranspiration and will usually be fine if they are watered-in initially, but keep a watch on your soils in times of extreme drought.

  5. If you are waiting to plant or simply wish to use your plant in a decorative container, increase to the next container size. For example, if you receive a 24oz container plant (4 inch pot), increase to no more than a 6” diameter pot, 8” pot for a 2 qt. container, 10” pot for a 3 qt. container. Be sure to use a well-draining potting media. If not, you run the risk of rotting the roots in an ocean of wet soil.

Early to Bed and Late to Rise

We all get excited when it comes to ordering plants! Many times we fail to read the entire text describing a plant's growth habit and nature. You will find a reference to summer dormancy and emergence information located in our printed and our online catalog. Depending on your region, some late emerging plants can pop up in mid-to-late May or as late as mid-to-late June. Soil temperature, day length, and preprogrammed genetic dormancy are the deciding factors for emergence. Summer dormancy is a plant's way of surviving a stressful, less than ideal growing condition in its native habitat. Summer dormancy can be triggered by day length, excessive temperatures, and drought. The onset of summer dormancy can vary slightly based on your zone (temperature and day length cues) and the amount of rainfall or irrigation. Below is a list of summer dormant and late emerging plants. This list is by no means complete and is very subjective.

Summer Dormant Plant List:

  • Hepatica
  • Ipheion
  • Isopyrum
  • Lycoris
  • Moraea
  • Narcissus
  • Nerine
  • Oxalis (some)
  • Paris
  • Rhodophiala
  • Sanguinaria
  • Trillium

  • Late to Emerge Plant List:

    Recycling, the other Green

    We ask that you help us reduce our impact on the environment by recycling the packing materials. Cardboard boxes are easily recycled, and the shredded paper makes great compost or can be used as mulch. We’re also glad to take the pots back if you are nearby, but if not, local nurseries should be able to use them.

    We wish you the best of luck with your new plants and thanks for your patronage!