Mail order rose plugs!!

I got the Michigan Bulb Company catalog recently. They are owned by Gardens Alive! which includes several catalogs as well as Weeks now. They have rose plugs!!! Own-root roses of some of the newest cultivars (Ketchup and Mustard, etc.) as well as Knock Out and even Kordes groundcover roses like Red Ribbons and Sweet Vigorosa!!

What an interesting shift in how to sell roses to consumers. It saves them production time and expenses, makes the roses more affordable for the consumer, and allows for own-root. For a customer like me it would work great. I hope it catches on and for their typical customers it works. I wonder with Weeks, Kordes, and Conard Pyle’s association with Greenheart Farm as their own root liner producers, if these plants being sold are from Greenheart.

In Edmunds Catalog they have potted Spring Meadow/Proven Winners liners that they are selling. It may be a new standard trend. I remember years ago J&P used to have square pots with snap on lids around the base of the plant to keep soil from falling out for shipping. These were own root as well and had colorful stickers on the black pot with a picture of the rose and a description. If plugs prove to be a bit too small, maybe some of these quart or gallon sized pots that are designed for easy shipping like J&P had for a bit can help solve that issue.

It’s great to see companies trying creative ways to help people continue to have access to roses in this challenging economy.

I’ve ordered a few plugs over the past few years but mostly with minis. This year I have ordered a few more of the larger flowered varieties. I did get Iceberg plugs about 3 years ago that were being sold as hedge roses. I have had a pretty good experience with them. The actual plant costs were low and, because the plants are smaller than bareroot, the shipping didn’t kill you like it does with most mail order nurseries. I think they also transplanted beter. Once they hit the gorund they took off and by the end of the season they had almost caught up to the larger plants. I am glad to see more nurseries turn to this type of packaging.

I think this would/should take off. Any idea of cost per plug David Z ?. The other thing that comes to mind, I taveled to England about 5 years ago and remember David Austin doing something similar with the potted roses with lids, I again think this a good idea, especially if they werein small pots, similar to what you guys call bands or just a fraction bigger.

How big are the plugs? Are they smaller than a band? I haven’t had any luck with planting bands in the ground. I have to pot them up first until they get some size to them before I can plant them in the ground.

Price depends on where you get them. I did try some of them that Michigan Bulb was offering and as they ALWAYS have coupon codes available (just google them) was able to get them for 50% off so they averaged about $7.50 if I remember correctly. This is a discount nursery so the plants can be quite small, but I figure since I am an above average gardener, I can be successful with these smaller plants - my wife has me on a budget so I do have to shop around for good prices sometimes.

Based upon my previous experiences with plugs, the size is less than a regular band maybe a little more than half to about 3/4 the size. I can’t recall if there was a size difference between the Icebergs and the minis. I have planted some directly into the ground and some into pots. It just depends on the size and condition they arrive in. I will say that one drawback maybe spillage and that has everything to do with the company you order from. I recall one company (can’t remember which) sent plugs of perennial plants and the soil was spilled all over the box as if they were just thrown in. I think they came in 3 packs and one out of the 3 survived. This is not the norm.

I hate to be contrary but I have a bad feeling about these plugs, next they might just offer fresh cuttings wraped in paper.

Just think, we are now living the good old days. Neil

It does sound much like the early complaints in the old ARS annuals of soft, immature, greenhouse grown “baby plants” hawked by door to door salesmen. Wait…except for the salesmen, we’ve been there. Think Heirloom in the 80s to early 90s!

Is there a link on-line to these rose plugs?

Here is the link Roses Sold At Michigan Bulb

Like Andre Carl mentioned, it is typically half price with their coupons one can find.

David, yes, I know the webpage - are you saying all those roses are plugs? I see some of the descriptions say they are plugs, but are they all? Do they explain what a plug is anywhere? I bet a lot of people will be surprised when they receive their iddy biddy little plants.

My understanding is that they are all sold as plugs - even those that don’t specifically say so. But I can be wrong.

This might help explain plugs.

The rose plugs I have received before were much larger than what annual plugs are but the picture in the article shows a plug pretty accurately. I might actually have a used one laying around the garage somewhere. If I locate one I can take a picture and give some measurements too. I did order a few at the beginning of the year and I can post some pictures when they come in sometime in the next few weeks.

Like I said, there are going to be some mighty shocked people when they receive their roses.

Good point Judith!!

In the print catalog they have a picture of a plug which helps. It looks like a deep, relatively large plug- maybe about 2" across and 4" deep from a guess. It looks like the cutting was cut back and is nicely branching and well rooted.

I seem to remember that Michigan Bulb had one of the worst reputations in the entire industry for sending out poor stock, not sending anything or sending out replacements that weren’t wanted.

Several years ago, one of our members ordered 12 plants of Tropicana as he was fascinated with the bright orange coloration.

He dug 12 holes and waited patiently for the roses to arrive; planted them and then they bloomed.

None were orange and none were Tropicana.

He wrote to the company asking for an adjustment and they promised to resend the order.

He dug 12 more holes and waited.

He planted 12 new bushes and then they bloomed.

None of them were orange, none of them were Tropicana.

He wrote to the company again asking for either the correct rose or his money back.

They informed him that they would not refund his money but would send replacements.

He dug 12 holes and waited.

The plants came and bloomed…none were orange…none were Tropicana.

At this point he gave up. He had dug 36 holes, had 36 roses to care for but the elusive orange rose was still on his want list.

I guess you get what you pay for.

Buyer Beware.

You are quite right Judith. Having ordered from them when I first started, there is no doubt that Michigan Bulb is definitely a “discount” nursery so you do get what you pay for - small plants. I never had a mix up from them that I can recall though - I did with a few other discount nurseries and with the body bagged roses from Wal-mart. Just because Michigan Bulb Co. is offering roses this way would not prevent me from trying them. I know other affiliated and unaffiliated companies have turned to the option of growing roses and shrubs. As I understand it, the wholesale tree nurseries have been using bands or similar packaging for years with great success.

I wasn’t able to find any of the used plug containers last night, but 2X4" sounds about right. The tops, if I recall correctly, were trimmed short when I received them. I also remember thinking how well they were rooted too - better than what we often find in our band purchases. And, because of this and the circular design with a taper, the removal is a lot easier too. I have often found it difficult to remove the plant without too much disturbance of the roots when they are grown in square bands. This usually depends on how root bound the plant is - more root bound = better removal.

The plugs, no matter where we buy them, are going to be smaller than what many places offer. But I can say that the Icebergs I received were not much smaller (if at all) than what I have received as bands from other, very reliable sources - Vintage, Rogue Valley, Burlington, etc… And I can imagine the complaints they get about their “under-sized” merchandise. For those of us who have more experience raising roses, it probably should not result in a too much disappointment if we receive these smaller plants (as long as they are properly labeled). For those who are not quite knowledgeable, they will inevitably be disappointed at the size. You just cannot fit a 15 gallon rose into these plugs which is probably close to what many uninformed consumers want for their insta-gardens. Unless there was some way of printing a disclaimer in bright, flashing neon lights that these are smaller plants than what you saw in your master gardener neighbor’s yard they will not be happy - even then I doubt some would be happy.

I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert on the subject, and there is no way for me to give you a difinitive answer as to which method I think is best if you were to ask me. But I can see pros and cons to plugs, bands, gallon pots and bare roots. Cost to ship can be outrageous, the time it takes to root (or be successfully grafted) can be long, getting the plant to a size appropriate to plant directly into the ground can be expensive and time consuming, transplanting issues, and the list can go on. As David said in the original post, “It is great to see companies trying creative ways to help people continue to have access to roses in this challenging economy.” So if this is one method that might help the nurseries stay alive, I’ll test it out some more with the larger varieties.

I hope this post does not make it appear I am on my soapbox. I am enjoying reading the responses on this issue. Thanks


Places like Michigan Bulb Company from my understanding, at least in the past, would acquire the #2 grade roses from some field producers very affordably. Just like with box stores and the companies that supply their bagged roses, some growers are less concerned about cultivar identity. The misidentified plants likely just get passed through the supply chain.

I suspect with these plugs being of recent, patented genetics and Gardens Alive owning both Weeks and Mich. Bulb, that there is a very strong likelihood of getting the stated cultivar being sold. Hopefully there is a good system in place to keep the plugs healthy and shipped safely and quickly to the consumer.

I hope that this or some slight modification of larger plants in quarts or something if needed will work. We need to find a way to keep production profitable for growers and availability for consumers if we are going to continue to have a dynamic rose market (new cultivars coming out, access to current cultivars, etc.).

These rose plugs could very well open a can of worms. A few weeks back I bought 10 two foot tall very nice roses for 60 cents each and was given another for free. A call back indicated they are all growing okay. The point is, a lot of rose plugs would fit in a container and with soiless media might not be so hard to import now days or some loop hole may apply. Neil

I have no gripe about plugs. I just think nurseries need to be clear about what people will receive when they fork over their $$$s. Just sayin’.

It describes them as plugs, but it isnt very direct in notifying the customer about the new product type. Despite that, I think theyre wayyyyy over-priced, especially for a company that made a horrible reputation by ignoring how many “parking tickets” it could pile up before being rejected by society. In fact, this is one of the sales concepts that make people distasteful of large businesses. The principle is that marginal profit is made despite being loose with product quality, seeing a error as a “possible parking ticket risk” rather than an unacceptable practice towards paying customers.

Hello to all that have posted on this thread. I need to change my browers to post photo’s. Can someone put some photo’s of what you call plugs, bands, 1gal pot,. The reason being I will find a way to change browers and post photo’s our equalivant from Oz.