I've been gardening a few years and purchase perennials, annuals, shrubs, trees, everything in pots, balled or containers. Mostly because I'm 67 and not 27. In other words I don't have forever to see results. But it's getting very costly to continue buying from the local nurseries. What can I expect in terms of growth for bareroot plants purchased mail order?
Assuming you buy things from a reputable mail order nursery the plant should grow just as well as an equivalent plant that you would buy from a local nursery (look at a nursery's rating in Garden Watchdog first before ordering to avoid the bad guys). However, I have found mail order gardening is rarely cheaper (and often more expensive) than the local nursery. I do it because I can get plants I can't find locally, but I can't think of a time when I've chosen to order something through the mail when I could have found it locally. The plants also usually tend to be smaller than what you would get locally (mail order nurseries know nobody likes to pay outrageous amounts for shipping, so they'll tend to sell smaller plants because they're cheaper to ship...although with bare root the shipping won't be as bad).
Ecrane, that maybe true where you live in CA (I used to live in Half Moon Bay, where many commercial nurseries are located) but here in the northeast (and probably also in the midwest), I can't find most of what I want. named lilacs? hydrangeas other than Nikko Blue? own-root roses? not to be found. dianthus, lavender, mints - only in short supply and few cultivars. And I do find what I want to be cheaper online in many cases, even with shipping costs.
I've had fairly good luck with some mail order places. Try checking out some of the mail order places in Garden Watchdog. http://davesgarden.com/gwd/
I think their rate of growth is pretty much comparable to the ones I buy locally. The rate of growth depends a lot on the type of plant, whether it's a fast grower or slow grower, and whether it's planted in the proper location for it's needs, as well as the kind of care it gets.
I think mail order is a great way to go for things you can't find locally, I do that too! My point was that if you're buying a plant that you could find locally, there's a decent chance you'll pay more for it if you buy the same thing mail order. Glad to hear that's not always the case, maybe it's because of the type of plants I buy that I've always found it more expensive. We may have better selection of things at local nurseries, but I really don't think our local nursery prices in CA are any better than anywhere else. (If our plants are cheaper, I'd be really surprised--every other single thing I buy costs more here than it did when I lived elsewhere)
I have found it very limiting in my area also when looking for plants at local nurseries. They all seem to sell the same ol' same ol' plants/shrubs! And boy are the prices outrageous! ex. 2-1/2' magnolia(usually only one type at all the nurseries!-star mag.) goes for $75-$100!! And unless the nursery plants the trees(about $50 charge!) there is no guarantee!! It can be very frustrating!! I have found the gardenwatchdog to be an excellent place to find reputable sellers. The plants are smaller but once established they catch up. Plus it's so much fun to look at all the options that are out there and make up "wish lists" from the different companies! Have fun browsing!!
Selection in my area is pretty limited too. We have all the ordinary stuff, but few places have much beyond that.
I use the Watchdog also, and call the company on the phone...(on the regular non-800 line) and ask to speak with someone who can answer my questions. If the person on the line is genuinely wanting to help, they don't try to 'sell' anything, but will talk plants instead, I use this as a benchmark of a good company...customer service before the sale. If they meet this requirement, I order from them, and have rarely been disappointed.
I make sure I understand the size, condition...(bareroot, pre-pruned, dormant...) time of shipment, and method of shipment. I do all of this in person on the phone if ordering live plants...making sure that they have my selections in stock right then. Saves grief later...(seeds don't matter as much...I'll order on line for them)
I've found that I may pay a bit more in the long run, but get what I want. I've just done this with apple trees this week...ordering 2 year old pre-pruned stock of Gale Gala, Cameo and Ginger Golden...these are potted as opposed to bare root and will be shipped UPS. There's no one in my area who handles these varieties...I called and checked all local places and even asked if they could order them for me...none could.
As far as bare root goes, it shouldn't hurt a thing...they'll take off and grow just fine. They'll look dead, but dormant plants do, so don't worry. Order from a well rated Watchdog company and you should be quite pleased.
Some of the vendors are much better than others. I highly recommend Lazy SS Farm. Their shipping is a bit high, but the root systems are fantastic even if the plant looks small. Everything I've gotten from them has taken off like gang-busters.