Ok, so you see the drop-dead gorgeous photos from sellers showing the "Poor Man's Orchid" - the Iris, and you are smitten! Such colors and elegance ...you have to have them! This little guide is to help keep you from getting burned.
The watchword for Iris rhizomes purchased from individuals is Beware!!!! Two years ago we purchased approximately $1500.00 worth of Iris rhizomes from various and sundry Ebay sellers, with an eye to starting our own commercial Iris garden. We relied on the honesty of these sellers and on their exquisite photos. It is now two years hence and we are realizing that we were "ripped off" by the majority of sellers. At least half of the varieties we bought on trust are not in the slightest the varieties that were advertised. For example our "Mother Earth", supposed to be a heavenly lavender and peach, is a plain yellow. not worth the premium price we paid. Many of the rhizomes we purchased that were supposed to be fancy hybrids have turned out to be plain generic Iris.
It is difficult to tell the reputation of the sellers just by their feedback. The problem lies with the fact that you get the plants after they have bloomed. They may or may not bloom the next year while they are getting established. By the time they do bloom, it is fully 2 years after purchase and you have no recourse to the shifty seller who cheated you.
Beware of the seller who ships you tiny little rhizomes - they may not make it through the winter, and will at least take several years to reach bloom size. If you purposely bought new, small Iris starts, protect them over winter.
Beware of sellers who ship you huge rhizomes with all the starts cut out - in other words, a spent rhizome. The large rhizomes have lived their lives and given their all for the starts on the sides. They are at the end of their growing cycle and will die. If you receive huge rhizomes with all the starts cut off, contact the seller and notify them that you want a younger healthy rhizome - not their spent junk.
Beware of the fast and furious bidding where prices jump astronomically. The seller may have someone bidding against you to up the bid. They rely on your craving for that beauty in the photo to keep you bidding beyond reason. Remember - all the varieties sold on Ebay are available somewhere from reputable hybridizers. Do a Google Search to compare prices. We were lucky in one instance that Ebay security caught a dishonest seller bidding on their own auction, and shut them down.
Beware of the seller that contacts you saying that they have been watching your bidding and they can sell you the item you want without an auction and at a cheaper price. They often act like they are your friend, but they are out only for their own good and what they are doing is against Ebay policy (and your own best interest.)
Use caution unpacking your rhizomes. Examine each one carefully for rot, bugs, fungus, etc. Once these pests are in your garden, they may be difficult to get rid of.
What we have found in our struggles to establish our Iris Garden, is that had we bought directly from the noted hybridizers, we would have spent about half of what we spent, and gotten healthy plants that are true to type and color, and been well on our way to our own Iris business.
There are reputable Iris growers that sell on Ebay, but it is important to do a thorough check on them and proceed cautiously. Fancy stores and a lot of glitz do not mean that the person is reputable. Some of the smaller sellers that we bought from were more honest and their rhizomes are flowering true to type.