Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.
By Ayla Moore
Shopping online is nothing new, but ordering the right plants for our area is trickier than ordering, say, shoes.
I ordered plants online for the first time just a few years ago. It didn’t go well. The nursery was somewhere between Connecticut and Maine.
I remember messaging a snarky-sounding salesman about a plant on his company’s website. It was a Kalmia latifolia, or a mountain laurel, and it sounded perfect: Hardiness Zone 4, liked shade, pretty flowers.
When asked if it would do well here, the gentleman on the other end of my computer wrote, “Well, have you ever seen any there?”
Undaunted and uninformed, I ordered two. They arrived in the mail about the size of a toenail and died on the fifth day after planting.
Since then, I have learned that Mr. Snarky was right. Just meeting our hardiness-zone requirements is only a small part of the equation.
After taking the master-gardener class, I have come to learn the maxim “right plant, right place.” (And I must confess, I do wonder sometimes if it is still possible to plant the wrong plant in the right place or vice versa.)
A quick query of my gardener friends yielded a host of replies about shopping for plants online. One friend has ordered flowers online for his girlfriend and says he likes knowing when the delivery happens, but the quality isn’t always the best. Another, who orders regularly, finds the plants from a regional online nursery to be reliable and appropriate for her zone. And still another ordered hundreds of mini succulents for her wedding.
So it can work, with a word or two of caution. Always look locally first. The plant selection at local nurseries is, by far, the best in terms of climate, soil and water issues. Plus, nursery employees are extremely knowledgeable about what works and what doesn’t for your landscape. Secondly, if that pineapple-colored lilac bush that you found online has your heart turning cartwheels, be sure you know what it needs.
Remember: right plant, right place.
Ayla Moore has been a Colorado master gardener since 2015. She lives in La Plata County.