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Re: How Should Plants be Packaged and Shipped

I've been sending and receiving small boxes of fish for more than 17 years
and for the last two years have started mailing a lot of plants.  In many
cases it's not how the fish/plants were sent but rather the lack of
communication between the sender and the sendee.  Effective communication
with the delivery service is also important.  If they are going to send you
a package make sure they tell you when they are shipping.  If you are
sending them a check through the mail also include a label with your address
on it.  You'd be surprised at how many people mess up something as simple as
an address.  Bad handwriting is also a cause for delays in shipping.  Have
them post your phone #'s on the outside of the box.  Have a "day" phone and
an "evening" phone.  Put a "Live fish/live plants avoid temperature
extremes" on the top of the box.  You might even put these all over the
sides too.  If you are sending the box by priority mail make sure you have
the Priority stickers on all sides.  If you are going express mail you can
always send them the label when you send the check with your part already
filled out.  If you want the postman to leave the box on your doorstep make
sure you check off that box.  Get to know your postman/UPS/Fed X person.
When I was going to get an important package I would call the post office a
day ahead of time and ask if it had arrived.  Don't forget the tracing # if
sent via 1-2 day service.  I'll often call the expected morning of delivery
to see if it's already made the PO.  Call before it opens and often they'll
let you come pick up the box.  That avoids the 1/2 day drive around the
neighborhood in the back of a hot truck.  My regular postal guy knows that
I'd rather have the delivery left, even though it's hot or cold than have to
wait an extra day to retrieve the package.  Put a Post-It note in the
mailbox and on the door if you want him to leave the package or especially
if you're home waiting inside.  If I delivered mail in Lost Wages I wouldn't
want to get out of the truck either.

Packing the shipment - First don't be so foolish as to expect a good
shipment out of Arizona in June through September, it's just too hot.
That's especially true for fish.  Plan ahead next time or find another
source during the real hot weather.  Ditto for Minnesota in January.  Once
the weather is real warm/cold make sure a good box is used.  The 1-1.5 inch
thick styros work well for this.  A std fish box 3/4 " is getting a bit thin
in weather extremes.  If someone sent me dead plants/dead SAE's in a
cardboard Express Mail box I would call the credit card company immediately
and stop all payments.  These people are too stupid to figure it out and
you'll never get a proper shipment.  Plant businesses - Get the message, use
the proper box for weather extremes, charge extra if need be.  In the long
run you'll save time and bad PR.  If you have to do business with someone
like that send them the proper box.  Plant packing - I think that a lot of
plants turn to mush because too much water is being left on the plant or in
the bag.  I have been to enough club auctions to see that people that pack
their plants in bags of water have decaying leaves on healthy plants even
before the auction ends.  I've seen the same thing if they pop them into a
bag, dripping wet and flattened.  Plants grown submersed, crypts, small
swords, many stem plants and even Sag and Val can succumb to this type of
abuse.  I haven't seen too many plants of this sort unrolled from drenched
newspaper that look very good either.  Although I not currently shipping any
plants that I would consider extremely delicate like Rotala macrandra, P.
perfoliatus or P. palustris I think I would try shipping them the way I do
most plants before subjecting them to newspaper.  After allowing much of the
water to drain off of the plant (~ 5 minutes) place it in the plastic bag.
Grab the bag so that you catch air inside of it and tie it off with a
rubberband.  Don't use too large of a bag for the size plant so it won't dry
out.  For swords, crypts, Sag and Val you can ship in a flatten bag but just
let the plant dry a bit before packing.  If the leaves are soaking wet and
you put them in a flatten bag you might end up sending a bag of mush.  It
takes a little more space in the packing box, time and effort to do it this
was but I never have to make a second shipment because my plants have turned
to mush.  Hope this helps.  Perhaps some of you that have more Rotala
macrandra (or some other delicate plants) that you know what to do with
could run a couple of experiments.  Wrap some of it in newspaper in a small
plastic bag, some very wet and in a flatten bag and some damp in a bag with
an air bubble.  Drag it around in a styro box for a few days subjecting it
to a bit of heat (not locked in the trunk for 8 hours though) and see which
packaging method looks the best.  I have heard several people are reluctant
to ship these sorts of plants because of these meltdowns so it would be a
very worthwhile cause.  These are exactly the type of plants that are rarely
found at the LFS so you could really be helping the hobby.

Gary Lange
gwlange AT mindspring Dot com
Rainbowfish Study Group of North America
I have lots of Sag. subulata,  giant sag, Lagarosiphon major, Phyllanthus
fluitans & others for sale/trade.  email me off list.