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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to Flowers by the Sea (FBTS). If you don't find answers to all of your questions here, please email us or call. We're always glad to hear from you.

Click on a question to see the answer.


Who We Are

Flowers by the Sea is a family farm and online nursery that specializes in Salvias and drought-resistant plants. We grow everything that we sell through our online-only catalog. FBTS has been supplying gardeners with quality plants for 23 years.
We're located in the tiny Northern California community of Elk, which is why hybrids that we develop all include "Elk" in their names. Elk is near the coastal city of Mendocino a few hours north of San Francisco. The Mediterranean climate makes it possible to grow year round and to cultivate a broad range of Salvias and companion plants.

Long-time horticulturists Kermit and Vikki Carter own and operate FBTS.
We admire the fascinating, colorful Salvia genus, which is part of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and contains nearly 900 species worldwide. Lovely and mostly long blooming, Salvias are available in a rainbow of flower colors. They come from a broad range of native environments; while many thrive in dry climates, others prefer moist woodlands. Most are easy to grow and attractive to pollinators, including butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds. To meet the needs of Salvia enthusiasts, we grow hundreds of species including rare and popular varieties as well as our own FBTS Elk hybrids.
Our stock of Salvia companion plants includes ornamental grasses as well as flowering perennials and annuals. The list keeps growing; it includes many plants that are easy to grow, require little watering and support small wildlife, such as butterflies, honeybees, hummingbirds and songbirds.
Number one, we unconditionally guarantee your satisfaction. You don't have to mail photos to us or send back a plant if there is a problem we could have averted. Our quality plants are large, healthy, carefully cultivated and available in a wide variety of flower colors and foliage types. We sell lots of drought- and heat-resistant species for conditions ranging from full sun to shade. Also, you can expect meticulous shipping and friendly, timely customer service, including planting advice.

Contact Information

Please feel free to email or call us. We do our best to answer promptly and in-person. You can also send questions regarding specific plants via the Options box on each plant-description page.
You'll find us on Facebook and Twitter, where we post photos fresh from our gardens, new articles from our Everything Salvias blog and announcements alerting you to special offers, such as our Salvia Daily Deal. We enjoy receiving customer comments as well as photos of your Salvia gardens.

Shopping at FBTS

We only publish our catalog online. This is ecofriendly and allows us to pass on savings to you. For more information about this policy, please read Paperless Catalog Conserves Resources and Lowers Prices.
We answer emails and phone calls from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Our online catalog is open round the clock for shopping. Orders received by Saturday noon are filled the following Monday if the plants ordered are available.
How you find what you want depends on whether you have a specific plant in mind or want to browse the catalog. When you know the name of a plant you want, you can reach its information via the search box in the top right corner of any page on our website. If you want to do a broad search, head for the pull-down menus in the green banner atop each page. These include categories ranging from Agastache to Salvias by Zone. Each category contains a queue of plant descriptions. Each time you select a plant to order, you add it to a purchase list by clicking on the "add to cart" button in the Options box at the bottom of the plant description page. For more info, please read Buying Salvias Online from FBTS: How to Order & What to Expect - Updated.
FBTS offers numerous menus for searching the catalog, most of which can be found in the green menu bar atop all pages. We also provide product filters that help you limit your search based on plant characteristics including cold hardiness, sun exposure, size, soil and water needs. If you have a general idea of what you want, such as yellow Salvias for USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 8, you might begin narrowing your search by using the Salvias by Color pull-down menu. After clicking on the yellow color group, the yellow plant queue opens along with product filtering tools in the left margin. At this point, you would click on zones 5,6, 7 or 8 in the "Coldest Zone" filter to find Salvias that can withstand winter temperatures in Zone 8. For more information about how to use the filters to narrow your search, please read New Product Filtering Tool Helps You with Decision Making.
Yes, FBTS sells gift certificates. We also offer a gift registry that allows you to let friends and family know what plants you would appreciate receiving as gifts. More information is available at Quick Digs: Using the FBTS Wish List Gift Registry.
No. We only sell plants. Seed production is a complicated endeavor requiring governmental certification that each kind of seed will grow true to its parent stock. For more info, please read Ask Mr. Sage: Does Flowers by the Sea Sell Seeds?
No. As mentioned before, we only sell plants.
We don't regularly discount plants. Instead, we strive to keep regular prices affordable for all our plants, including rare species. The one exception to this rule is our Salvia Daily Deal, which usually occurs once a week and offers a limited number of a specific plant at a rock-bottom price of $1.99 each. The sale lasts 24 hours, starting at noon Pacific Time, or until the stock runs out. To receive email announcements about these specials, subscribe to the Salvia Daily Deal newsletter via the subscription link at the bottom right corner of our home page.
Although we don't have a brick-and-mortar garden center, we do occasionally sell directly to neighbors and other visitors for whom we pull orders ahead of arrival. Our inventory control is complex; many of the plants in our greenhouses are already spoken for, especially in spring when we have many advance orders to fulfill and wish lists for which we need to plan quotas. So it isn't possible to browse our stock and select from what you see. Although we do enjoy visitors, spring and summer are incredibly hectic seasons at Flowers by the Sea. For pre-arranged visits, we recommend fall through winter. Yes, many Salvias bloom in winter. Our resident Anna's hummingbirds are most grateful for their abundance.

Orders and Payments

Yes, we accept phone-in orders except for purchases of the weekly Salvia Daily Deal special. Ordering via our online shopping-cart system is efficient for you and for us. However, if you experience difficulties with online ordering, please feel free to call us at (707) 877-1717.
Immediately after completing an order, you receive an invoice that opens in your browser. We also send an order notification to your email address. On the day that your order ships, you receive an email notice with tracking information from UPS. We also send you an email containing our Flowers by the Sea Planting Guide.
We accept all major credit cards, specially arranged purchase orders, payments made through PayPal and, of course, purchases made with our own gift certificates.
Preorders are useful if you want to place an order pre-season for later delivery during the growing season. For more information, please see our Shipping page.
When you register, you create a profile containing information, such as your name and address, USDA cold hardiness zone and email address. All this data is kept secure and confidential; we don't store vulnerable information, such as credit card numbers. Basic registration data is necessary for shipping and communication.
Sometimes problems arise, such as crop failures, and this causes plants to become unavailable. If a plant is unavailable, we amend your order so you aren't charged for plants that aren't available. We never substitute another plant unless your order includes a request (in the "customer notes " box at the bottom of the order page) to do so and which cites an acceptable substitution. We don't do backorders.
This answer is a "yes" and a "no." Yes, you may cancel regular orders, but no you may not cancel special orders. Regular Orders are for plants stocked year round. When cancelling a regular order, the timing of your cancellation is important. We accept orders at all times, but usually only ship on Mondays. Orders placed by noon on Saturday are shipped on Monday. So if you need to cancel an order, please do it before noon on the Saturday before its shipping day. Special Orders involve plants that we don't regularly stock and which FBTS grows for you alone when you place an order for their purchase. We never cancel special orders. Here is more information about our Special Order Program.
There is a "yes" and a "maybe" to this answer too. Yes, you may combine regular orders (ones for plants grown year round). This is an excellent idea for saving money. The more plants in a shipment, the lower the shipping cost is per plant. The maybe involves special orders, which take a minimum of six weeks to propagate. If the timing of your special order and regular order sync, then you may combine them based on the shipping date of the special order.
The best way to do this is to place a second order before the Saturday noon cutoff point and include a "customer notes" message about combining the two orders. However, if the order you add is a Special Order, which takes six weeks to propagate, all of your order will have to wait until the special order is ready for shipping. Or you will have to place two separate orders with two separate shipping fees.
If you have forgotten what you ordered, open the "My Account" link in the Control Panel at the bottom of every page. Then click on "Order History."
Yes, we are glad to help you enrich the lives of your students by helping to make beautiful school gardens possible. FBTS provides a 20 percent discount to educational facilities, but based on certain conditions: We don't accept purchase orders, discount shipping charges or delay shipment. Here are the steps for receiving a reduction in plant charges: 1) Please clearly identify your educational institution by providing its name, address, phone number and any affiliation with a larger system, such as a public school district. 2) Place your order online for the entire price of the plants and shipping (we discount upon receipt). 3) Expect your discount -- and a revised invoice for your records -- after we receive your order.
We have always billed before shipping. When you place an order, whether for this week or for a number of weeks in the future, we set aside plants for you that no one else may purchase. This policy assures you of receiving the plants you want when you need them. You get to select your shipping date within a range of available shipping weeks. We don't accept orders for shipping weeks that aren't on our current calendar of available shipping dates, so we don't charge you until we have plants ready to set aside for you. Advance ordering involves making a purchase for plants that you want in a few weeks time instead of immediately.

Security

No, we don't store your credit card or banking information.
Yes. If you look at the top right corner of any page, you'll notice the Trust Guard button. Click on the button to see details about how we must pass an "intense vulnerability scan" quarterly. Any and all the information collected on our website is kept strictly confidential and isn't sold, rented, disclosed or loaned to anyone or any organizations. We store this data only to make visiting our site easier for you. And we never store your credit card or banking information. For more information, please see the FBTS Privacy Policy.

Packing and Shipping

We ship plants throughout the year, weather and plant availability permitting. When an area is experiencing very cold or hot weather, we don't ship there unless you specifically direct us to do so in your order.
For plants that are in stock when you place an order, we send them during the shipping week you selected when making your order. (Please keep in mind that the shipping week for a special order is always six weeks following order placement due to growing time.) If you leave the choice to us of when to ship your regularly stocked plants, we will fill your order during the next scheduled shipping week. Packing and shipping occurs on Mondays and sometimes on Tuesdays. At the latest, we need to receive your order by Saturday noon (PST) before the shipping week. On occasion, we may hold an order for a short period beyond the scheduled delivery date due to extreme weather conditions in your area. In that case, we'll contact you promptly.
Whether you select UPS Ground Delivery (only for the Western U.S. in areas with zip codes beginning with 8 or 9) or UPS 3 Day Select®, your order should arrive within three days of shipping.
A minimum order is $20.00, but many of our plants do not cost that much. So a minimum order usually is two or three plants. The more plants you order, the more the price of shipping per plant decreases. Plant availability is the only factor that limits the maximum number of plants you can order.
We make sure the soil is moist in each pot, then wrap each plant in newsprint and surround these wrapped pots with Styrofoam peanuts in a sturdy shipping box. For complete details, please read Buying Salvias Online from FBTS: Unpacking & Planting.
We provide UPS Ground Delivery in the West (1 to 3 days depending on how far you are from our farm) and UPS 3 Day Select® in the Eastern part of the nation.
Air delivery is based on zip code and normally is used by our customers who live in the eastern part of the nation.
We almost solely ship in the U.S., with the furthest destinations being Alaska and Hawaii. On rare occasion, we ship outside the U.S.
Yes. We have all the necessary permits to ship to all 50 states from California.
No. We can only ship to an actual residence or business.
We don't use a flat-rate system. Shipping costs vary depending on how far you live from our farm. So it costs more to ship from here to the East Coast than to the Southwest. Your shipping price per plant decreases as you increase the number of plants in your order. We don't make money on shipping. However, customizing our shipping rates allows us to keep plant prices from increasing.
We rarely ship outside the U.S., because it involves expensive quarantine procedures. If you live outside our limits and are interested in ordering, please send us an email. Then we can begin discussing procedures and costs.
When we send your order, our shipper -- UPS -- emails you a tracking number and an estimated arrival date.
Seasonal holidays and personal breaks cause some weeks to be unavailable for shipping. Also, if a Federal holiday occurs on a Monday during a scheduled shipping week, we switch shipping to Tuesday. For Special Orders, your shipping date occurs six weeks following propagation so we can ship your order in peak condition for planting.
We cannot take orders for shipping dates beyond those listed on the shopping cart page when you placed your order. We can't hold plants beyond those dates, because orders are placed based on current stock that won't be salable at a much later date. Plant production has its ups and downs. We can't promise you that a plant you want a month or more from now will be available on time. Also, Special Orders have to be shipped when they are ready for planting, which in most cases is six weeks after propagation.

Guarantee of Satisfaction

We mean that our plants are guaranteed to arrive in excellent condition. We also mean that they should perform well in your garden if you meet their cultivation needs -- appropriate moisture, sunlight and soil fertility -- and no act of nature, such as a severe winter, intervenes. Please contact us immediately via email or telephone if your plants don't arrive in excellent condition or if some other problem unrelated to your care or climate arises. You can choose to have either a refund or credit on a future order.
Please call or email us to describe the problem. Nothing else is required; we'll make things right.
You may select either a refund or a credit on a future order.
No. This isn't necessary, because we trust you to be truthful.

About Our Plants

FBTS is a family farm as well as a nursery. We grow all of the plants we sell.
We grow hundreds of Salvia species and companion plants. Many are drought tolerant; some are useful in damp conditions. Please see answers to related questions in the "Who We Are" section of this FAQ list.
No. We only sell rooted plants.
We only ship in perennial pots -- 3 1/2 inches square and 4 inches deep -- that are filled with soilless potting medium. This allows you to ensure the health of your plants, because they arrive ready for the pre-planting, hardening-off process.
Our plants are well-developed and several inches tall at shipping time. They have sturdy root systems and leafy foliage. Sometimes it's necessary to trim their foliage a bit for packing purposes, but they fill out quickly after plantings.
No. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are ones in which genetic material (DNA) is recombined by transferring genes from one organism to another. Plant hybridization is a different process. We do grow hybrid plants.
Depending on the plants you order and the season in which they arrive, some may be blooming when you receive them whereas others may not bloom during their first year. Also, bloom times vary by species. Each plant description in our catalog contains a "Cultural Icons" tab that provides bloom season along with cultivation details.
Sometimes plants are out of stock due to (1) high demand, (2) season or (3) our limited availability policy (please see the next question in this list). When this happens, an "Out of Stock" button appears in the Details box on the plant description page. The Options box at the bottom of the page then invites you to click on an "email me when back in stock" button. You'll be notified as soon as the plant is available. For more information, please read Salvia Small Talk: What to Do When Plants Are Out of Stock.
USDA Cold Hardiness Zones -- also known as "climate zones" -- identify areas based on their average lowest winter temperatures. To find your zone, check here for the color-coded USDA Zone Map and temperature list. If a plant is classified, for example, as being right for Zone 7, it can survive winter temperatures of 0 to 10 degrees F.
Blue tag plants are ones that are sensitive to overwatering. To identify them, we add blue markers to their pots that say "Warning: This plant is very sensitive to overwatering. Do not water if the soil is moist." Many blue tag plants are extremely drought tolerant, require little watering once established and are ideal for dry gardens.
The answer depends on where you live. In some areas with mild winters, it is possible to plant Salvias in December. However, the main planting seasons are spring and fall. Summer planting is also fine, but you need to give extra attention to watering if temperatures soar.
You need to consider the plant's cultural needs. These factors include: amount of sunlight or shade; level of supplemental watering; type of soil; and wind protection if necessary. Where it is situated also depends on the role you want it to play, such as an accent, a background plant or a team player in a mixed border. After reading the opening page of a plant description in our catalog, be sure to open the Cultural Icons tab for more information.
Early spring is the best time for pruning shrubby Salvias to thin branches, aerate foliage, remove dead wood and shape plants. Watch our video How to Prune Salvia elegans 'Tangerine' for step-by-step details. Spring is also the time to tidy any debris from herbaceous perennial Salvias that died to ground during winter.
Salvias are remarkably resilient when it comes to pests and plant diseases. However, garden snails, spider mites and white flies are among the pests that sometimes bedevil sages. Fungal problems, including Botrytis blight, can be difficult if plants are overcrowded. Here are posts from our Everything Salvias blog about dealing with some of these problems:

Many answers are available in our Everything Salvias blog posts. Also, never hesitate to call or send us an email. We're glad to answer questions. Finally, you'll find a wealth of information on our Salvia Links page, which offers advice about accessing our website and provides a long list of website links, including garden forums and governmental sites.
Sometimes plants are out of stock due to (1) high demand, (2) being part of our Special Orders Program or (3) or our Spring Limited Program (please see the next question in this list) that limits availability of certain plants to the beginning of the growing season. When regularly stocked plants are unavailable, an "Out of Stock" button appears in the Details box on the plant description page. The Options box at the bottom of the page then invites you to click on an "email me when back in stock" button. You'll be notified as soon as the regularly stocked plant is available. This feature is also available for Spring Limited plants during their propagation season.
Plants in our Spring Limited Availability Program are annuals, tender perennials and certain seed-grown perennials that can only be propagated for spring planting. They are available from mid-April through mid-June. The descriptions of these plants contain a "Spring Limited" label
NO! One of our specialties is wildlife gardening. We sell plants that feed pollinators including hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. Pesticides, especially systemic kinds that affect all parts of a plant, pose too much potential risk for harming pollinators. Instead, we rely on biological controls in our gardens and greenhouses, such as beneficial predatory insects that eat pests.

Blog and Newsletters

Everything Salvias is our blog, which offers posts on a wide variety of topics related to sages and companion plants. It's free and accessible by visiting the Flowers by the Sea website. Following us on Facebook and Twitter is another easy way to link to new articles.
FBTS offers four free email newsletters providing brief updates on specials (the weekly Salvia Daily Deal), plants that are ready for limited release (the Salvia Alert), the New Products Update (publication varies) and the FBTS News (a monthly roundup of a broad range of news and products).
The unsubscribe link is at the bottom of each email you receive. Click on it to unsubscribe. A page opens telling you that the unsubscribe was successful and giving you the option to identify why you unsubscribed.

FBTS Website Tips

Menus, have we got menus! To begin with, scan the green menu bar across the top of each page. It contains numerous drop-down menus, including Butterfly Plants, Hummingbird Plants, Salvias by Zone and Salvias A to Z. Scroll down the home page and you'll find tabs for New Arrivals, What's Great this Week.
Our product filtering tool allows you to narrow your plant search based on cold hardiness zones, sun exposure, plant size, soil type and water needs. For in-depth information about how to use our filters, please read New Product Filtering Tool Helps You with Decision Making.
There are many ways to search our website to find the best Salvias and companion plants for your garden. Here are some suggestions: First, you may want to identify your USDA Cold Hardiness Zone, which is also known as your "climate zone." Then you can visit our Salvias by Zone menu in the green menu bar (at the top of every page) and use the filtering tool to single out plants for your zone. Second, you can explore some of the other menus based on your gardening needs, such as seeking particular colors (Salvias by Color) or finding native plants and species from other countries (Salvias by Origin). Third, as you read each plant description, also read its Cultural Icons page and consider whether the plant's needs can be met in your yard and local climate. If you live in a cold winter area, remember that many Salvias can be grown as annuals. Finally, our Everything Salvias blog includes articles suggesting plantings for specific needs, such as dry shade, and different regions of the nation.

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Take a Quick Look at a group of Salvias
Take a Quick Look at a group of Salvias
Have questions?
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Reviews


This is a healthy beautiful plant. I have already seen this one in bloom and that is why I ordered it. It is incredibly cute in bloom. I can't wait.
Mrs. Carol Moreno
Mar 30, 2017