How to Ship Plants

A cactus removed from its pot.

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Project Overview
  • Total Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $20+

Whether you’re a plant parent sending green gifts to friends, the owner of a plant-selling business, or sharing rare plants with other hobbyists, it’s crucial to ensure your item gets to its destination safe and sound. Careful packaging and preparation is key.

Anyone with a slightly green thumb should be able to easily prepare a plant for shipping, but determining its legality requires some research. Each U.S. state has different restrictions pertaining to shipping plants, so make sure you know what type of plant you’re shipping and check with the United States Department of Agriculture to see if the plant is prohibited in the state you’re sending it to. Then, follow guidelines outlined by the United States Postal Service (USPS) for shipping plants.

There are also restrictions and regulations you must follow to ship plants internationally, partly due to the risk of environmentally damaging invasive species. For example, France requires a plant health certificate for all incoming plants and multiple other countries require official phytosanitary certificates to ensure the plant is safe. Check with the destination country’s department of agriculture or mailing system before sending the plant. Otherwise, officials may stop its movement to prevent it from entering the country.

Before You Begin

Semi-dry soil is best for shipping plants, so you can prepare your plant for shipping by giving it fresh water (if needed) a few hours or days before the trip. 

For succulents that tend to hold water, don’t water them the day of shipment. 

For fresh-cut flowers, place them in a jar of water for three to four hours before shipment so that they can drink up before they go on their long (and often dry) journey. 

This will prevent your plants from withering during the trip.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Permanent marker
  • Garden gloves

Materials

  • Plant
  • Paper towel
  • Plastic wrap or bag
  • Newspaper or packing paper
  • Rubber band
  • Corrugated cardboard box
  • Packing tape

Instructions

  1. Remove the Plant From the Soil

    Most plants are best shipped as bare roots instead of in their pots. With garden gloves on, gently remove your plant’s roots from its pot and shake off any excess soil. Rinsing the roots completely is not necessary, as some of the leftover soil will help keep the plant happy and healthy during shipment and eventual repotting.

  2. Wrap Roots With a Moist Paper Towel

    Lightly wet a paper towel with clean, room temperature water and wrap it around the plant’s roots. If you are shipping your plant a long distance, you can do this with multiple paper towels in layers. The paper will slowly release moisture, providing the plant with water throughout the trip.

  3. Wrap With Plastic Wrap

    To seal everything in place, wrap the roots and paper towels with a layer of plastic wrap. Alternatively, you could place the plant in a plastic bag. This will hold the moisture in and provide insulation for the fragile roots. 

  4. Secure the Plant

    Secure the top of the plant by applying rubber bands or wrapping the entire bundle with newspaper. Both tactics will stabilize errant growth and prevent plant breakage.

  5. Place Plant Inside Box

    Pack your plant in a sturdy corrugated cardboard box that’s strong enough to withstand any damage from rough handling. It’s imperative to find a box that’s nice and strong so that your plant arrives at its destination in one piece.

  6. Fill Extra Space

    It can be difficult to find a box that perfectly fits your item. After you’ve placed your plant inside your strong corrugated box, fill any extra space inside the box with packing paper or newspaper for some extra cushioning. This way, your plant won’t have room to move around during handling. You could also use scrap paper, packing peanuts, or bubble wrap.

  7. Tape the Box Closed

    Close the lid of the box and tape all edges tightly with strong packing tape. If you’re worried about package handling, add lots of tape to reinforce the edges of the box. 

    Tip

    If it’s warm where you live or if you’re shipping the plant somewhere hot, punch a few holes in the box for ventilation. Use your fingers to carefully make a few holes in each side of the box. Do not do this in cold weather, or the cold could damage your plant.

  8. Label the Box

    With a permanent marker, label the box “Live Plants,” “Fragile,” or “Perishable,” so that package handlers can clearly read it. While this isn’t a guarantee that the people handling your package will treat it with care, it may convince some of them to be gentle.

    Write the return address and shipping address on the outside of the box, and remove or black out all old shipping labels if you’re reusing a box.

  9. Ship Your Plant

    Now that your plant is prepared and packaged nicely, it’s time to ship it off to its destination. You can always drop your plant off at the post office to send it through the USPS, provided it meets their requirements for shipping. Opt for priority mail. The plant is in a very vulnerable state during shipping, so you should minimize the shipping time as much as possible.

    Another choice is to go through FedEx, UPS, or a private shipping company. All will have quick shipping options, though some will cost more than others. The key is to find a service that will ship your plant quickly within your budget.