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Receiving Houseplants By Mail: Avoid These 6 Newbie Mistakes!

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Houseplants are stressed enough when they are shipped, so it is important to know exactly how to handle them once you receive houseplants by mail! There are numerous newbie mistakes that many people make when they receive their plants.

Be sure to read through this post fully as it will give your mail-order houseplants the best shot at living! I’ve seen people make ALL of these mistakes and it is important to get it right from the beginning so you can achieve the best results!

houseplants-mail-order

DOs and DON’Ts WHEN RECEIVING HOUSEPLANTS BY MAIL

There are many DOs and DON’Ts when you first unbox your plants.

DOs

Before we get to the DON’TS, here are some things that you should do when you receive your houseplants in the mail.

Online houseplant ordering has exploded, with many growers not being able to keep up with demand, so it is important to know how to handle your plants!

Some plants are more sensitive than others, but it is best to follow these best practices.

1. UNPACK IMMEDIATELY

Be very careful if you are ordering during cooler months. Be aware where the nursery is and also be aware of your weather during the shipping period. It may not always be a good idea to order during the coldest months in the year.

Good nurseries will suspend shipping of cold sensitive plants during particularly cold months, and sometimes will also include heat packs to be safe.

Be sure to track your package and if you won’t be home for a while, especially if the weather is very cold or even very hot, have someone pick up your box to bring indoors in order to avoid more shock, or even death, to your plants.

You certainly don’t want to your plants to freeze or cook in the box before you come home.

Carefully unpack all your plants as soon as you can. Remove any plastic, tape, shredded paper and any other packing materials that were used to protect the plant during shipping.

2. WATER IF DRY

Next, check the soil of your plant with your finger. Is the surface dry? If so, give it a good watering and discard of the excess water. If the surface feels moist, don’t water.

3. REMOVE DEAD OR BROKEN LEAVES

If anything has broken during shipment, go ahead and remove it (you can even use it to propagate in some cases!). Remove any dry or dead leaves.

4. INCREASE HUMIDITY

This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it can help your new plant transition to your home environment. Especially if you have a plant that needs high humidity to thrive.

how to increase humidity

Sometimes plants come with a clear plastic tent or humidity dome. Cover the plant with the plastic bag, maybe using a couple bamboo sticks inserted into the pot to support the bag. You may want to leave this on for a week or so before you take it off.

Be sure to keep it out of direct sun though during this time.

You can even place your plant in an empty aquarium and place a clear cover over the aquarium to keep the humidity high.

You can also use other methods of increasing humidity for your plants if you don’t want to use the plastic tent method.

Now let’s talk about some VERY important DON’TS.

DON’TS

DON’T #1: REPOTTING TOO EARLY

How to Repot a Plant That Is Root Bound

This is a HUGE mistake that I see many people make. They rush to go repot their plant as soon as they receive it.

When you receive a houseplant in the mail, you should just give your plant a break and not be the “active” plant parent that you want to be. Sometimes it best to just let things be.

Your plant has been shipped in a completely dark box, potentially for days, so tread lightly when you receive it.

Wait at least 2 weeks before repotting your houseplant. It’ll give your plant some time to adjust “out of the box” and regain some strength. Repotting can be stressful on a plant too, so don’t make the situation worse!

And when you DO repot, be sure to follow proper repotting procedures as this is critical to your houseplant’s health!

After 2 weeks, if your plant is pot bound and need to pot up to a larger size, only go up ONE pot size. No larger otherwise your soil may stay too wet and cause you some major problems (especially if you don’t give your plant enough light).

Of course if your plant was shipped bare root, by all means plant it in a pot.

DON’T #2: FERTILIZING TOO EARLY

For the same reason as above, allow your plant to adjust to your home for 2 weeks or so before starting to fertilize. Let your plant adjust.

Fertilizing Houseplants

DON’T #3: PLACING INTO BRIGHT LIGHT TOO EARLY

This one is very important as well and a mistake many people make. Place any plant that you receive right in front of a window without any direct sunshine for about 2 weeks as well.

Even if your plant is a sun-lover, you need to harden off your plant a bit. Allow it to adjust in “bright indirect” light for a couple weeks before you start to give it direct sun.

Remember, it has been in a dark box for a while, so you want to gradually increase your light, so no direct sun for 2 weeks. A window that has no direct sun but appears bright is perfect.

If you don’t do this, you may risk burning your houseplant. Of course if you plan on having your plant in an area with NO direct sun, you don’t have to worry. I’m talking about getting any sun-loving plants hardened off.

I liken this to people getting sunburned. If you are pasty white and have been indoors all winter, but suddenly go on a beach vacation and sit in the sun all day, you will quickly burn. Unless you develop a base tan, you will quickly roast!

So give your plant its “base tan” before you place it in a sunny window! Introduce higher light gradually if your plant needs direct sun.

DON’T #4: WATERING IF SOIL IS ALREADY MOIST

If you feel the surface of the soil and it is moist, do NOT water it again. Some people want to be too active as a plant parent and think that the more they do, the better.

how to water potted plants

Resist the temptation! Sometimes less is more. With very few exceptions, you want to wait until at least the surface of your soil is dry before you water again.

DON’T #5: PLACING INTO AN AREA WITH DRAFTS

You should always try and implement this next tip, but especially with a brand new plant that you received in the mail..

Avoid placing your plant near areas that experience cold or hot drafts such as heating or cooling vents in your home, or even drafty windows and doors.

Many houseplants, such as Calathea and many others, detest the cold and will quickly protest. Air conditioning vents can be very bad if your plant is too close.

Also, having your plants right by a heating vent may very quickly burn leaves. Avoid these locations.

DON’T #6: PLACING YOUR PLANT IMMEDIATELY WITH THE REST OF YOUR COLLECTION

When you bring any new plant into your home, it is safer to quarantine it from other plants for a couple weeks so you can monitor for pests. That last thing you want to do is to bring home pests and then have them spread to the rest of your plant collection.

While in quarantine, keep your eye out for common pests such as spider mites, scale, thrips, fungus gnats, mealy bugs, etc. and treat accordingly if you do find them.

THINGS TO EXPECT

There are two things that you should be aware of and even expect after receiving houseplants by mail.

DON’T FREAK OUT OVER A YELLOW LEAF

peace lily leaves turning yellow

No, you are not killing your plant if you see a yellow leaf or two in the beginning (as long as you’re following all my tips above that is…)

It is not uncommon for many houseplants to shed a leaf or two until they get adjusted to your new environment. Your plant is not dying. Just be sure to follow all my best practices above for the highest chance of success!

EXPECT SLOWER GROWTH IN THE BEGINNING

Some plants are more robust and less finicky than others, but don’t expect your plant to immediately take off growing and overtake your room as soon as you receive it. Some plants may start growing right away, but many won’t.

Patience! I hope these tips for receiving houseplants by mail help you acclimate your plants.

If you follow all these tips, your plant will adjust quicker and will start to become the thriving houseplant that you’ve always wanted.

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

Anne

Wednesday 11th of January 2023

I was sent a Sillficu-Elas Ficus Burgundy 6 inch house plant as a Christmas gift. It was delivered in a sturdy box, but when opening the box and removing the endless packing material, I noticed the plant was damaged. Drooping leaves and bent squishy stems. The company sent a replacement which was delivered yesterday. This time delivered in a non sturdy box, again the endless packing material, and the leaves drooping, bent squishy stems, and the plant leaning. I believe both plants are pretty much gone. Is there anything I can possibly do to try and save these plants. I am not sure how to send a photo. Thank you so much.

Raffaele

Thursday 12th of January 2023

I would just give it time and see if the plants recover. Follow what I mentioned in this blog post and see what happens over the next few weeks. I would probably avoid that seller in the future.

Holly

Friday 7th of October 2022

Ok, lotscof great information. So, I should remove the plastic wrapped around the plant itself which sits in a plastic grow pot all of which are shipped in various types of decorative pots. But Quarantine Blossoming Orchids inside a plastic bag? The in full bloom Mums arrived in baskets containing grow post containing a plant surrounded by plastic. The Lucky Bamboo, too, double shoots set in a glass container with added rocks & special pebbles...also quarantined inside a plastic bag ? Then find a way to disperse the plants from the 3rd floor with a sliding glass dooor near a floor register, all on brand new plant standsunder a 15' Skylight. All these new plants into plastic bags to be moved after being quiet for days, into different rooms avoiding windows, AC registers, door drafts, heat registers, air cleaners , front and back doors. I'd need to find a mansion to avoid killing my new plants. I only have North And South facing windows in 3 story + basement, in an attached condo townhouse. It's only 900 sf of mostly stairs and landings I'll need to sell this place and find one with E//W facing windows for the evenyual bright light some need. I simply don't have enough space to accomodate new plants properly. The orchards woud be quaranteen in garbage bags the only bags of decent size. $400 of plants soon to be dead from drafts, light, AC and heat registers, a deck door door for fresh air again, all windows closed and plant free. I've always had a green thumb but obviously I can't have plants in this Boston townhouse. My newly arrived, terra cotta pots, going straight back back to Amazon tomorrow, . The On Line Nursery won't allo Returns unless a plant arrived damaged or sick. My reason for return wd be not owning a large enough home that's heated in Winter and Cooled in Summer. It gets drafty in Boston Winters. Directionally incorrect faceing windows... none or all of these issues aren't acceptable reasons for a Large Order Return. I stupidly recycled all of the Shipping boxes or I could have donated $400 of new plants to 6 charities, one plant prr month as we speed towards our awful Boston Winters. They'll die the moment the Van pulls away. Im upset at my stupidity. Wasting social security money on a disabled, homebound, senior, my last pet of 6 passing 2 weeks ago. They all lived very long lives, 15-21 years. I'd hoped the arrival of new varieties of flowering plants would cheer me up, not stress me out.

Raffaele

Sunday 9th of October 2022

Yes, I would definitely remove the plastic wrapped around the plant once you receive it in the mail! I wouldn't bother with putting orchids in a plastic bag. They will be fine without. This step is not absolutely necessary, but it can help plants that have thinner leaves adjust.

Elizabeth Hicks

Friday 15th of July 2022

The need to isolate new mail order houseplants became one of my rules on receiving them because they came with fungus gnats free of charge… I won’t be making that mistake again.

Jennifer Perrine

Monday 18th of July 2022

@Elizabeth Hicks, I do the same thing with nursery plants. Not worth taking a chance with all of my healthy plants.

Elizabeth Hicks

Thursday 14th of July 2022

One more thing to do when receiving houseplants by mail would be to isolate them for a bit from your other plants to be sure that they are insect free. I suffered a very bad fungus gnat infestation because I just assumed that my newbies were bug-free.

Raffaele

Thursday 14th of July 2022

Great point Elizabeth!

Nadine

Sunday 17th of April 2022

I’m in California and I purchased mail order spider plant from an Etsy vendor in Florida. This is not the first time I’ve order a spider plant or any plant from Florida either. The plant arrived after a 7 day travel with moist soil all over it in a plastic bag from bottom of planter to top of plabt but nothing to keep the soil in the pot. Upon unpacking the plant I realized that it had dead foliage, holes all over the plant and black spots everywhere. It looked bad with the soil all over it and looked even worse after I hosed of all the wet soil. The seller was super surmised of its arrival status as he claims it’s nothing like it looked when he sent it. It was in a box traveling for 7 days and not packaged well to keep the wet soil from moving around and getting all over the foliage and in a plastic wrap from head to toe that I’m thinking caused a problem due to the heat that week. If the soil was contained properly then the plastic wrap wouldn’t have been a problem but the two combined was the problem. What do you think? Anyone have any opinions on how and why this spider plant arrived so unhealthy and pretty much dead?

Raffaele

Sunday 17th of April 2022

That's unfortunate and very frustrating. Shipping plants can sometimes pose many challenges! It sounds like it definitely could have contributed to the problem.