Many nurseries now send perennial plants through the mail in what is called a bare rootstock. The cost of the shipping is much less since the weight of the soil is not included. Receiving a plant in the bare rootstock stage can be alarming as it looks like a bunch of dead roots. However, the plant almost always is in a dormant stage and should be ready to burst into growth if properly packaged. Proper action on your part will ensure that the plant makes a successful transplant to its new home.
Remove the plant from its packaging immediately after it is received to make sure it has not dried out. Carefully cut away any newspaper or brown paper, being sure not to damage any of the exposed roots.
Place the roots in a bucket of water and keep them soaking for two to three hours or overnight if planting is the next day. Keep the roots well-wrapped in moist paper or soil and in a cool area if the planting is three days or more away.
Dig a hole for the roots at least as deep as the roots are long and then a couple of inches more. Work the soil until it is loose and free of chunks or rocks. Add compost, moist peat moss or perlite, depending on the composition and acidity of the soil. Soil test kits are available at most garden centers. Lime can be added for acidic soil and magnesium sulfate for alkaline soil.
Set the plant in the hole with the roots radially spread out. Back-fill with soil and press gently to ensure good soil-to-root contact. The soil line of the plant should be just at the surface of the soil.
Water the plant every few days until new growth appears. Watering and fertilizing schedules will be specific to each plant.