I purchase plants online often because many of the plants I’m interested in aren’t available at my local and nearby nurseries.
This has resulted in many, many, many online plant shopping experiences that have given me lots of positive and negative views of online shopping.
Today’s post will focus on 3 of my biggest pet peeves regarding online plant shopping and delivery, in hopes that some shop owners might find this feedback useful to provide a better shopping experience for customers.
Next week’s post will be focused on a few of my absolute favorite online plant shops that consistently provide healthy plants which are a joy to receive.
But for this week, we will focus briefly on those experiences I’m not too fond of.
#1 Stop using misleading advertizing photos
Many plant sellers will advertize a plant using a very full and/or trailing pot. Then I order thinking I will receive a plant that is similar in size and fullness to the advertizing photo and what I receive is not even close to a full pot.
It is super disappointing and the plant is often worth less than what I paid.
This is my #1 pet peeve when shopping online for houseplants.
The product photo is a major part of how someone determines who to buy from and what it is they are buying. To use a product photo that so poorly represents what is actually being shipped is misleading.
Sellers will add a line to their listing’s description saying that the plant may not be exactly like the photo because they are living things and are all a little different. While it is true that every plant is unique to some degree, the size and maturity of the plant are able to be represented in a listing photo.
Choosing to misrepresent the stock that is actually being sold leads to disappointment and deters me from wanting to shop there again.
It is the seller’s choice to use a photo of a plant that is fuller and larger than the actual plants that will be sent. It would be more honest and helpful if they chose a photo that represented the majority of the stock they have for sale.
#2 Stop using so much tape that it makes it incredibly difficult to unpack plants safely
Plant sellers have a hard job and I want to acknowledge that first. They have to package a plant so that the plant doesn’t get damaged in transit, is able to survive being tossed around, and doesn’t spill dirt everywhere in the box.
This is a tall order and is super easy to get wrong despite the best of intentions. However, there are some sellers that will coat the plant’s packaging in so much tape that it becomes incredibly stressful and difficult to free the plant from its packaging without damaging it.
I’m positive that the seller isn’t doing it on purpose, but it doesn’t change the fact that it makes for a pretty unhappy introduction to your new plant.
There is one company in particular that had a wide range of small plants (plugs) available for great prices. I ordered a few and when they arrived, it was so stressful to free the tiny plants from their packaging that I couldn’t bring myself to order again, despite the sellers being kind and responsive and the plants being healthy and as advertized.
My recommendation for all sellers is that they package a few plants as if they were mailing them out and then unpack the plant as if they just received it to see what it is like for the buyer.
The same method could be done to test a packaging practice against rough handling, where the seller literally tosses around the box and lets the plant sit in the box for a few days before opening it to see how the plant has faired using a particular packing method.
#3 Stop putting plants in a box that isn’t large enough for them
I am guessing that the point of squeezing a plant into a box that really isn’t large enough is to save on shipping and I get that.
But, my problem with this is that the buyer is paying for shipping anyway and unless the buyer is given the option between paying a little more for a box that fits versus paying for a box that squeezes the plant and crumples its top leaves, it’s the buyer who is ultimately being affected by the poor choice of the seller.
I recently had a rather large plant come in the mail and the top leaves and stems were all pushed up against the top of the box, so they are all permanently damaged.
The lower 60% of the plant is in perfect shape, but the rest is damaged. So, my only option now is to either leave the upper section with the damaged foliage or trim back the entire plant.
What a crappy choice when I spent a lot for this plant and the leaves were damaged in the packing process before it was even sent through the shipping and handling process used by the shipping company (which can also be rough on plants).
I would have much rather paid a little more for shipping, if needed, and had the plant arrive packed in a box with enough space for it to not be damaged before even leaving the nursery.
Disclaimer Regarding Buying Plants Online
There is an inherent risk to buying plants online. They can be mishandled during shipping so they arrive beat up, they can be lost during shipping and take far longer than expected to arrive, and even if everything goes right and the plant is handled perfectly during the expected time frame, they can still get stressed from being inside a box that’s being moved around and has no access to light for days.
As such, it is reasonable for buyers to expect some imperfection, stress, and damage from shipping. But the issues above are beyond the acceptable amount of damage and stress on a plant because they are avoidable before the plant is in the shipping company’s hands.
I wish sellers would think about these factors when making choices.
Essentially, it would be nice if sellers viewed the purchase through the lens of the buyer and used that perspective to advertize a plant, choose a plant, and package a plant for shipping.