Mail order native plants for the Pacific Northwest



What to do when your plants are delivered:
You should get your plants into the ground as soon as possible after they arrive. Plants are delivered either in bags as bare roots or in containers with soil. For bare-root plants or plants in plastic bags with soil:

If you cannot place them in the ground right away, you should keep them in a cool (not frozen), dark place until you can transfer them outside. Do not open the plastic bag until you are in the process of planting them. This will keep the roots damp and alive.
For plants in containers with soil:
You can leave the plants in the containers for several weeks outside until you have a chance to plant them. However, be sure to keep them watered regularly (especiually mosses) and place the pots in a place that is similar to their final location (ie in the sun or in the shade). If you wish to grow your plant in a container, we recommend you do not use the pot in which the plant was shipped to you - they are not intended for long-term use.

Planting Instructions:
Planting instruction vary, depending upon the type of plant. For Douglas moss:

  • Note that during shipping, the moss may become separated from the soil in its pot. This is not a problem since the moss has very short rhizomes that only grip the top of the loose soil. The soil is merely to help keep it moist during shipping.
  • Carefully remove the moss from the soil in the pot and place it where you wish it to grow.
  • Make sure the underside of the moss has maximum contact with the surface you wish it to grow on.
  • Soak it thoroughly with water.
  • On wood surfaces, making the surface slightly rough (with sand paper, for instance), may help provide holds for the moss.
  • The moss should attach itself to the surface within one season, if left undisturbed. However, in areas where wind or heavy rain may cause the moss to shift before it takes hold, you might need to hold it in place with twine. The twine should be only tight enough to hold the moss in place until it is attached. If it is too tight, it can cut through the moss and separate it into pieces before it can attach. The moss will not attach well to polished or treated wood, or to very smooth rocks.
For all other potted plants and plants in bags with soil:
  • Dig a hole that is twice as deep as the pot, and twice its diameter.
  • Fill the bottom half of the with loose dirt, and gently pat it down firm.
  • Remove the plant from the pot, and place in the center of the hole. The soil at the base of the stem should be level, or slightly higher than the surrounding ground - never lower.
  • It is usual for potted plants to be somewhat rootbound - that is, the roots will have started to circle around the inside of the pot. You should gently pull these roots out so that they extend toward the edges of the hole. Do not tug hard on roots - only pull them as long as there isn't much resistance. If there is more length to the root than there is room in the hole, you should expand the hole to make room for the excess roots so that the plant will be well anchored. However, if this is problematic, the long roots of Western Red Cedar can be clipped shorter with clean garden shears. Doing so may cause the cedar to require an extra season to become established.
  • Fill in around the plant with the remainder of the dirt from the hole and press firmly into place.
  • Water thoroughly such that the water will soak all the way to the bottom of the filled hole.
For bare-root plants:
  • Remove the tape or twist-tie that holds the bag closed around the base of the plant.
  • A moist sponge-like object may be in the bag to keep the roots moist. Simply discard of this in the trash. If there are damp strips of paper instead, you can discard any of it that falls easily away when you pull the plant out of the bad. Any remaining material can be buried along with the roots.
  • For Thimble berry and Bleeding heart, the roots should be laid out straight and horizontal, and placed about 2" to 3" beneath the soil. However, if the stem of the Thimble berry comes off the root at an angle other than 90 degrees, you should plant the root such that the stem sticks straight up from the ground, even if the root isn't entirely horizontal. Until fine roots take hold (by next spring), you should stake the stems up since they will not be able to stay erect by themselves. If leaves are sprouting on the bleeding heart, those sprouts should be above ground when you finish planting it.

First Year Care:
After the first year, most native plants can be largely ignored since they are acclimated to the Pacific Northwest. However, the first season after you plant your plants is the one in which they take root and recover from the shock of transplanting. This is primarily a season of forming fine hair roots that increase the surface area of the root system for taking in water and nutrients, plus firmly anchoring the plant. For plants transplanted from containers, it is a time for the roots to extend from the root ball into the surrounding soil. Until those roots are formed, however, the plants will need more water. A soaker hose is ideal, but a good soaking from a watering can every other day will also do (on hot dry weeks, you may need to water them every day). If you plant in the spring, you only need to water them during the summer months. If you plant them in the fall, the fall rains should be sufficient. However, if there is an unseasonably dry fall, you should keep them watered as you would through the summer. Once they've made it to winter, they will come back in the spring and thrive. We do not recommend fertilizing the plants during the first year as it may stimulate leaf and/or flower growth at the expense of the root system. Besides it is usually unnecessary.

Subsequent Care:
After the first year, watering is usually unnecesary. However, if you see your plants looking wilted, you may want to water them until they look more perky. This could indicate that their root systems are still not at 100% or it could be that they are too protected from rain or the soil doesn't hold moisture long enough. However, even if your plants look fine, you may find that a regular watering schedule can make them more luxuriant than they would otherwise be in the wild.
Note: Mosses will always need to be kept moist. If planted somewhere that is dry and unprotected, they will need to be watered every day. By the end of a hot summer, even mosses in the wild can become brown and look dead, only to turn green almost overnight when the fall rains come again. So, if your moss looks brownish in August, that is not a cause for concern. And if you water it every day it should return to a healthy green in less than a week.

Should I Fertilize?
We do not recommend fertilizing during the first year, or using a starter food when planting. Most native plants grow in even marginal soils. So, unless your soil is exceptionally poor, fertilizer is not needed. But it probably won't do any harm if you dilute it to half its recommended strength. The best way to place nutrients in the soil is to place natural compost (raked up leaves, for instance) around the plant in the fall. Rain and microcrobial activity will release nutrients into the soil at a concentration that is optimal for native flora. However, do not use grass clippings for compost - they tend to form a water-resistant coating over the soil and they don't release many nutrients into the soil in any case.

Erosion Control
If you are worried about erosion, especially when planting on steep hillsides, the best solution we've found is bark mulch (or "bark dust" or "beauty bark"). Cover any bare dirt around your plants to a depth of 1" to 2". Bark mulch will allow water to get into the ground without any worries about water erosion. Be sure to get untreated bark mulch.

Controlling Pests
Though you may find that some insects enjoy chewing holes in the leaves or stems of your plants, this is natural and not a problem for your plants unless there is an unusual infestation. Be wary about using insecticides as they may kill beneficial insects as well as pests. As far as other plants, the use of herbicides can pose a serious risk to native plants. Many native plants send out roots several feet where new stems will then emerge from the ground. These are parts of the same plant, despite looking like a separate plant. If an herbicide is used on it, it will travel through the roots and potentially kill the entire plant. Since the new growth may not ne readily apparent, applying herbicide to another plant could affect your native plant without you even knowing. And herbicides with soil acitivity (such as Triox) that are used anywhere near your plants (or uphill from your plants) could kill them very quickly. If you must control an invasive plant, try using means other than herbicides. If herbicides are the only practical remedy, consider using a "paint on" product rather than a spray, as they are easier to apply selectively. Never use a spray herbicide if it is windy.