How to ship plants

valzone5(5)June 23, 2004

I would like to divide my iris and send some to a friend in the US. How do I do this and is there a law against shipping plants/soil from Canada to the US?



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bonniepunch(USDAz4 AgCanz5a)

The USDA really toughened up their import restrictions in 2001. You might need an import permit and a phytosanitary certificate. The plants could spend quite some time waiting to be inspected if you don't have the proper documents - they may not survive, and they may be seized. There are good reasons for these restrictions, as non native pests can wreak havoc on agricultural crops and other plants when they find their new home more to their liking than their old home. I'm sorry to say, but it's probably not worth it :-(


    Bookmark   June 23, 2004 at 8:01PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I am not a professional but last fall I tried to order seed from a Canadian Native Plant specialist as I couldn't find it in my local area here in NY. The package was seized and returned to Canada. I never did get the seeds. You do have to have special documentation to ensure that your package will get through.

Now I also have a question regarding shipping live plants within the US. I propagate a lot of my own plants from seed that I winter sow. Well this year I ended up with about 10 times more Monarda than I can possibly use. I have given lots away but still have quite a few seedlings that are getting quite large in their little styrofoam cups. I want to ship some to my daughter in Indiana. How do I ship live plants to ensure they will arrive safe and sound?


    Bookmark   June 24, 2004 at 4:33AM
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bonniepunch(USDAz4 AgCanz5a)

Penny - if your package contained native seeds, it was likely seized because a lot of those plants are listed on various noxious weed lists and are therefore prohibited. A number of native plants are also listed on the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) lists, and would have required both import and export permits.

Generally it is fine for seeds to cross the border as long as they're not on any list, and they must be labeled with botanical names, and common names, where known.

To ship plants within the borders of your own country is easy. You should always use a box. An envelope gets too crushed. The plant should have as much soil removed as is possible without doing any damage to the roots (this makes it lighter and less expensive to ship). The roots should be wrapped in damp newspaper or paper towels, and then the roots and wrapping can be placed in a plastic bag that is loosely tied on. Poke a few small holes in the bag. Line the box with crushed newspaper, place the plant in, and place more crushed up newspaper on top. Mail the box immeadiatly using priority or express mail. Regular mail can take up to two weeks - the plant would almost certainly arrive dead if it has to wait that long.

If the plant is really small, or doesn't have much of a root system, or it's too fragile, I've found that shipping plants in their pots is best. Make sure the soil is damp, but not wet. I find it best to give the pot some sort of lid. A fitted plactic one with a hole cut in it for the plant to poke through, or cling/saran wrap one held on with a rubber band (also with a hole poked in the top). This keeps the soil from drying out, and falling out. I like to secure the container to the botton of the box with large quantities of packing tape, and use no padding - it can come loose and bang around, injuring the plants. Just make sure the pots are *securely* attached to the box. If you want or need to use padding to protect the leaves or stems, then make sure it won't shift around. Put lots of this end up markings on the outside of the box - sometimes you can get stickers at the post office.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2004 at 9:29AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Thank you so much for that great shipping info BP. I would have never thought to tape the plant container to the box. That was my biggest to keep it from bouncing arround and all the soil spilling out everywhere. They are still small enough that I think I can fit about 4 of them in their containers inside a large plastic milk jug in a priority box. I can cut them in half to put the plants in and then tape it closed. I can take the lid of which will give them air flow and it is tall enough for head room. I may also have some larger plants I can ship to her using the newspaper and plastic. Thank you so very much!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2004 at 9:01AM
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Ok, so I have several large houseplants that are dear to me but I am moving from Pennsylvania (USA) to Vancouver (Canada). The tallest one is around 3ft in hight (pot included). I have a commercial shipper coming to pick up my things; the truck will be on the road for 14-21 days max... is there ANYWAY to box them to send with the shipper without dying, or perhaps any other way? I would love any input.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 12:41AM
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i have been trying with no luck to figure out how to safely ship *planted* terrariums to customers without thme being tossed up and ruined. i really have no clue how i could do this..... any ideas would be very much appreciated!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 2:05AM
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Just make sure you do not send any plants to California, It is the agriculture of the world just about. Nothing can come into california with out inspection. Many seed catologs can send seeds but not live plants. We had the med fly several years ago and the sharp shin bug attacking grapes and so on. I'm sure we will have the fire ants soon with the bees being up to $150 a box for almond growers this year. Got bee's? BIll C

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 1:40AM
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This may be the second time around for this post. If so, forgive me. I just wanted to say thanks to those who have asked questions and those who have answered concerning shipping live plants. I have a tall perennial that resembles a lily of the valley. If someone can identify it for me that would be great. A friend gave it to me several years ago and she just called it counting vine. I want to share some with friends and my biggest concern is safe shipping. I did not know it was not a good idea to ship live plants to California but I remember several years ago having our vehicle checked underneath for pesky critters after we had been visiting there. I am attaching a picture link - I hope it works and I hope someone can help me identify the true name of the plant. Thanks again for all the expert information. Marie

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 3:03PM
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This is a follow up to my post of May 21st. My lily of the valley type plant has been identified by Heronswood's plant expert. It is Polygonatum multiflorum. The common name is Solomon's Seal. Thank you to Heronswood for the expert information. Marie

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 10:11PM
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I have a Hummingbird Vine that I would like to ship to my son in New Jersey. I live in Michigan. What are the requirements to mail this package to him.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 4:43PM
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What about sending plants from california to other states? Is that bad too?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 11:26PM
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