Before preparing a plant for shipping, or even listing it, it's essential to make sure the plant is healthy. The price of plants must reflect quality when it reaches the buyer.
Ensuring the delivery of strong and healthy plants will help sellers maintain a good reputation and help to increase sales. It is the seller's responsibility to ensure plants are of sufficient quality to withstand postage and reach the buyer in good condition.
Whether grown indoors, outside or under glass, plants will always be susceptible to pests and disease— the transmission of which is possible through the exchange of soil, plants, seeds and bulbs.
There are other factors which may impact the health of plants, such as nutrient deficiencies, or insufficient water or light. It's useful to be able to rule out pest and diseases as the cause of the problem, before investigating growing conditions further.
What are plant pests?
Plant pests include anything from insects, mites, fungi, viruses and bacteria.
Plant pests feed on plants in different ways. Symptoms produced by pests can be good indicators of what's wrong.
Some pests (pathogens) can cause other diseases in plants, too, so it's good practice to monitor plants for anything unusual regularly.
Does my plant have pests?
There are two main symptoms which indicate a plant is not fit for shipping.
Avoid selling plants which have severely wilted. Plants may naturally wilt slightly during transit due to lack of water and light. To avoid this, ensure plants are kept in the right conditions and have received the correct watering regime before packaging.
When plants have wilted, check the roots first. The best way to do this is to pull the plant out of its pot gently.
Look out for any white insects or maggots. You may need to pull some of the soil away from the roots to get a good look.
To remove insects from the roots, rinse with room temperature water and repot with fresh, sterile soil. Quarantine plants and do not sell until plants regain full health.
When checking for insects, also pay attention to the colour of roots. Healthy roots should be white or light brown. Dark brown or black roots are a sign of root rot.
Remove darkened roots immediately, and repot with fresh, sterile soil and pot.
2. Leaf Discolouration
The condition of leaves can be an excellent indicator for assessing the health of plants. When monitoring your stock, pay attention to the size, colour, shape and texture of leaves.
It's natural for leaves to wilt, brown, and drop from the plant from time to time. But if leaves are falling at an alarming rate, it might be worth investigating the problem further.
First, inspect plants for pests. Insect pests can be tiny and incredibly difficult to spot. It might be worth investing in a cheap hand lens to help detect plant problems. The sooner you catch pests, the quicker and less expensive they are to remove.
The younger leaves and new growth of plants are where pests aggregate, as well as beneath the leaves, so pay close attention to these areas.
Pests often hide between the crevices and cracks of plants, so a small, fine brush may be required to clear them completely.
Spider Mites are another common plant problem. They produce delicate webs that hang from stems and leaves. Leaves turn mottled yellow and brown, eventually drying and dropping from the plant.
Thrips are another tiny pest that can be difficult to detect initially. Thrips may cause patches of discolouration, curled leaves, and flowers and leaves may fail to open at all.
If no insects are found, discolouration may suggest the plant is deficient in nutrients, light or water.
How can I ensure the quality of plants before sending them to buyers?
Check leaves for inconsistencies in leaf colour and size.
Monitor leaves stems and flowers once or twice a week for pests and disease.
Thoroughly inspect the roots when plants are repotted.
Feed plants during periods of active growth.
Ensure plants are in the right conditions for optimum growth.
By using the above criteria, diagnosing a plant problem should be made easier by using the process of elimination. As well as checking your plants regularly for pests and disease, plants should be looked at thoroughly, one last time, before posting to the buyer.