Mike Dubinovsky, co-owner of Top Tropicals nursery near Punta Gorda, Florida ships his plants all over the country and elsewhere. Quite a few of his customers kill these nice plants by doing stupid things. (Personal note: Once when I worked in a Maryland nursery, a customer brought back a dead tree and demanded a refund. When I asked to see the tree, I saw the trunk was charred. She had burned it. I told her the use of napalm voided the guarantee. I guess I should have spelled that out more forcefully when she bought it.)
Anyway, Mike says one of the most common ways his customers kill his plants is by transplanting them into pots that are too big. They receive a plant with a 6-inch root ball in the mail and immediately plant it into a 14-inch pot. Before they can sneeze, it croaks. Why? Number one, it doesn’t need all of that extra room right away. Like a jet-lagged traveler, it needs to recover a while from its journey. Second, after you water it, the new plant lacks the root system necessary to cope with a huge, new pot filled with wet soil. The soil stays wet too long, the roots rot, and the plant goes to that big compost heap in the sky. Mike says wait until the new plant is actively growing — as signaled by by lush new shoots and leaves — before giving the roots the extra space.
SO DON’T WATERBOARD NEW PLANTS! It may not be torture, but as President Bush might say, it will avoid your guarantee.