Key Points:

  • Every state of the US has different restrictions regarding shipping plants, so you need to check with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) database before you start shipping away
  • You need a phytosanitary certificate if you're shipping plants internationally
  • You can ship plants with major couriers such as FedEx, USPS, UPS, and other courier companies

Plant parents sending gifts and botanically inspired eCommerce businesses each need to make sure they’re able to safely and securely ship their plants to friends, relatives and customers.  

The horticulture and agriculture industries are prominent industries globally, with seeds, plants, and cut flowers shipped across the globe. In the US alone the market revenue is $15 billion.

When you are in the business of selling plants, assuring the safe arrival of your product is essential to the success of your business. You don’t want the plants to perish or get damage and you certainly don’t want to lose customers and revenue because of it.

Preparing plants and packing them properly should be done with diligence and care. And everything regarding that depends on the type of plants you are planning to ship.

In this article we’ll cover how to ship plants, and the steps you need to ensure they arrive safely at their destination.

Table of Contents

What You Need to Ship Plants

If you are planning to launch an eCommerce store selling plants, then the most important part of your business is how to ship plants safely to their destination.

What is required for shipping will depend on the type of plants and the destination.

1. Understanding the Shipping Restrictions for Plants

The first course of action you need to take when shipping plants is understanding the shipping restrictions as they vary by plant type and by state. First, in case it’s not obvious, make sure you know what type of plant you are shipping.

Every state of the US has different restrictions regarding shipping plants and flowers. Before shipping plants to different states, you will need to check with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) database to see if the plant is endangered or prohibited in a certain state.

For example, you can’t send citrus plants to California from any state and you can’t send Mauna Loa plants or fresh flowers of Jade Vine to the US mainland or Alaska from Hawaii. So you need to conduct the proper research before figuring out how to ship plants to another state.

There are also strict rules in place about pests and diseases to prevent local ecosystems from being harmed. Certain plants may be subject to quarantine, so you will need to check with the specific locality regarding the regulations.

2. Restrictions for Shipping Plants Internationally

If you want to ship plants internationally from the United States, you need to follow restrictions and prohibitions about certain plants and seeds as per the destination. You will need to have all of the appropriate customer's forms and declarations.  

The agricultural imports and exports have separate laws and regulations which are followed strictly. Every country has similar organizations and departments that are concerned with such matters. Before shipping plants internationally make sure you have complete information in this regard.

If you are shipping plants internationally, you will need a phytosanitary certificate. It is an official certificate that is required for shipping plants and other regulated items. This certificate is issued by the department of horticulture or agriculture or food and water resource of the exporting country.

You do not need a permit to ship less than 12 plants but if you are in this business and have to ship regularly then permits are to be acquired. For example, if you want to send any kind of plant to the UK, you will need an import permit.

3. Shipping and Handling Labels

You will need a standard shipping label that contains the basic information about the shipment, the courier code, and the sender's address.

In addition, it’s important to use handling labels to communicate the contents to the staff handling the package. If you don’t label your perishable items properly, then there’s a chance that the package could be improperly handled and damaged.

Handling labels like “Live Plants, please Rush” or “Do Not Crush” or “Perishable” will let the handlers know that they have to be careful while storing the box and this is an expedited delivery and has to be delivered as soon as possible. So, don’t forget to label it properly and prominently.

4. Corrugated Boxes

Corrugated plant shipping boxes are mostly used for packing plants. Most of the plants can be sent without the pot. It not only cuts the shipping cost but is easier to pack. You can pack them and ship them in smaller boxes very easily.

If you are sending many small plants to the same address then you can use partitioned corrugated boxes. These partitions can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, depending on the type of plants you are packing.

You can get plant shipping boxes made for your plants that are shipped regularly. If you are a small business and getting the boxes made is an expensive affair for you then you can assemble your plant shipping boxes yourself by using the regular boxes and partitions.

Related post: Essential Shipping Supplies You Need for International Shipment


How to Prepare Plants for Shipping

Most of the plants are best shipped bare roots. So just pull them out of the pot or earth and shake off the big chunks of earth. But don’t wipe off all of the dirt as it is better for the roots to have a bit of moisture and microbes.

Wrap the roots with a couple of moist paper towels or spray the roots with water and then wrap in a plastic wrap. For a longer journey, add a few drops of polymer moisture crystals to the water before spraying.

You can also wrap the top of the plant stems to avoid breakage. For shipping succulents and cacti make sure that they are not water recently before pulling them out. Semi-dry soil is better for shipping them.

Similarly, for cut flowers make sure to cut at a clean angle when cutting to size. Then put them in a jar of clean water for 3-4 hours so that they can drink up enough water to last them a while. Now tie them into a bunch and wrap the end with wet paper towels or put a bit of water in a plastic bag and put the stems inside and seal it. This way they can travel long distances without withering out.

Checklist of Essential Material for Safely Shipping Plants

You will need to purchase the following packing material in order to ship plants.

  • Corrugated boxes for each plant or sturdy plant shipping boxes made of plastic for each plant according to size
  • Lightweight plastic pots
  • Sterilized potting soil
  • Packing paper or wrapping paper or newspaper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Flea collars
  • Plastic bags
  • Ties or rubber bands
  • Paper towels

9 Steps to Follow to Pack Plants for Shipping

When you are ready to pack your plants, here are the steps that you need to follow:

  1. If you are planning to use a pot with sterile soil for your plant, then put it in a plastic bag and tie it at the base to keep the soil from spilling
  2. If you are sending bare root then prepare it well
  3. Tape the box at the bottom to make it sturdy
  4. Place the plant inside the box upright
  5. Fill in the extra space with packing peanuts or paper but don’t overstuff it. Leave room for the plant to breath
  6. Make a few holes on each side for air to pass through so that the plant does not die
  7. Close and tape the lid of the box
  8. Label it “Live Plants” or “ Fragile”
  9. You should add heat packs to protect your temperature-sensitive plants

Which are the Best Courier Services for Shipping Plants?

The cost and shipping time depending on which service you use, the weight of your package, and its destination. But you should know that services on the clock are expensive. You have to pay more for overnight or 1-day services than regular shipping services. However, with perishable items like plants or flowers you want the delivery to be as soon as possible.

Also, make sure you don’t mail on off days as your package will have to wait in transit and this can ruin your plants.

You will need proper permits to ship to different countries so get all the paperwork before dropping off the package for shipping.

The Terminal Inspection Act requires that plants be properly labeled on the package. This doesn’t require a special label or stickers. You can simply write it on the box or package.

If you consider all the things discussed above, you will be good to go.

Shipping Plants with USPS

If you choose to ship your plants with the USPS, there are a few steps that you need to keep in mind before you choose the service. Different states have restrictions on which plants can be shipped, so you will need to check before you attempt to shift.  

Shipping Plants with FedEx

FedEx offers great services for shipping plants and doesn’t have any special packaging or labeling requirements. As with the USPS, you will need to follow the state-by-state restrictions.

Due to the perishable nature of plants, FedEx recommends their Overnight services.

  • First Overnight: Arrives by 8 am. For 1lb or less, rates start around $64
  • FedEx Priority Overnight: Arrives by 10:30 am. For 1lb or less, rates start around $30
  • FedEx Standard Overnight: Arrives by 3 pm. For 1lb or less, rates start around $28
  • FedEx Ground: Arrives by end of the day. For 1lb or less, rates start around $9

Shipping Plants with UPS

UPS offers a few solid services for shipping plants and doesn’t require any special packaging or labeling requirements. As with the other couriers, you will need to follow state-by-state restrictions. Because of the perishable nature of plants, UPS recommends their Next Day Air service.

  • Next Day Air: Arrives by 10:30 A.M. For 1lb or less, rates start around $28
  • UPS Ground: Arrives by end of the next day. For 1lb or less, rates start around $14

Safely Pack and Ship Plants for Your eCommerce Business

Shipping a perishable item needs a lot of planning. First, you should understand the regulations and laws regarding exporting and importing plants between countries of origin and destination and make sure you have a phytosanitary certificate for international shipments.  After that, understand how you can properly pack your plants or flowers catering to their special needs like temperature or soil or moisture, etc.

Now you need to label the package and select the service you want. The deciding factors for that are cost and time. Once everything is catered to, drop the package or get it picked up.

Easyship offers affordable shipping solutions for all perishable items. You can easily compare different shipping services and check rates with our shipping rates calculator to get an estimate.

We will show you the fastest, cheapest, and best value options. We also advise developing a shipping policy for your eCommerce store. This not only helps answer customer questions but it can also be used as a marketing tool. We make it easy to generate one with our shipping policy generator tool.

Sign up to Easyship free to turbocharge your shipping!

Shipping Plants FAQ

Can plants survive shipping?

Yes, plants can survive shipping as long as it's packaged safely. You'll want to make sure you use packing material like corrugated boxes for each plant, bubble wrap, etc.

What is the cheapest way to ship plants?

Use a reliable shipping platform like Easyship to help streamline your shipping process so your plants can ship safely and affordably. You'll save up to 91% discounted shipping rates with over 250+ couriers.

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