How To Ship (and Deliver) Plants

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The plant and flower industry has grown steadily in size for the last decade. It is now worth more than $15 billion—and that growth isn’t slowing down. Businesses need to ensure that they can meet the high demand for houseplants by providing shipping and delivery options when needed.

You can protect your plants during shipping and delivery, but there are great risks involved. That’s why the best way to ensure your plants arrive safely and on time is by delivering them yourself.

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4 Tips for Safely Delivering or Shipping Plants

It’s important to package plants properly to ensure they can survive transport and delivery without being damaged. Plants need the right level of food, clear instructions, and careful handling of the package to keep them alive during transport.

Ship bare root or with minimal soil

Shipping a plant bare root or in minimal soil keeps shipping affordable and lowers the risk of damage. The soil adds extra weight, which will increase the cost of shipping. It may also contain hard clumps of dirt or rocks that can damage the plant if it gets jostled during transport. However, while plants can be shipped without soil, they still need nutrients.

To ship a plant without soil, you first remove the plant from the soil and gently knock off any excess dirt from the roots. Leave any dirt that doesn’t naturally fall off to provide the plant with familiar nutrients. Then, wrap the plant’s roots in several layers of damp paper towels before placing the bundle inside a plastic bag to ensure it has water during shipping. If you must ship a potted plant in soil, be sure to wrap the pot in bubble wrap and put a piece of cardboard over the top of the pot, around the base of the plant, to keep the dirt from spilling during transport.

Use as small a box as possible

It’s important to use a shipping box that’s just barely larger than the plant you want to mail. Otherwise, the plant may get shaken inside the box and can be damaged.

Include a cushion for the plant

You can use packing peanuts, crumpled-up pieces of paper, or any other packing materials you have handy to provide a cushion for the plant. Place your plant inside the box, then add your packing materials around the plant. Your box doesn’t need to be completely filled as long as the plant is supported. Arrange your packing materials such as bubble wrap around the plant to support it inside the box. This will help prevent potential damage by stopping the plant from moving inside the box and bumping into the sides.

Add a “handle with care” label

Label the package with a “handle with care” tag, so delivery personnel know to handle the package gently. It’s also a good idea to add a label that indicates which side of the package is the bottom. This label will help the shipping or delivery company keep the plant upright, which is important for plants like orchids or fig trees which are easily damaged.

4 Risks of Shipping Plants Through the Mail

Photo by Min An from Pexels

Shipping a plant through the mail comes with risks that could impact your budget or hurt the plant.

Plants are easily damaged

Plants are difficult to keep alive, even in a controlled home setting. There are even more opportunities for the plant to become damaged once packaged and put into the mail.

For example, if the package gets lost in the mail or if shipping is delayed, the plant may not have enough water, sun, or nutrients and will not survive. Or the package could shift during transit, moving the plant around and breaking branches or knocking flower petals off. You can and should place cushions to support the plant inside the package, but once the package is passed off to shippers, the safety of the plant is out of your hands.

High costs

There are plenty of shipping methods for plant delivery, including utilizing USPS, FedEx, or UPS, but none of them are cheap. In addition to paying for the general shipping costs of the plant, you’ll also need to pay additional fees for things like insurance in case anything happens during shipping. It’s also a good idea to choose priority mail, despite the higher cost, to cut down on shipping time and mitigate some of the other shipping risks.

Potential restrictions

There are countless restrictions and guidelines for transporting plants and you’ll need to do your research to ensure you aren’t violating any of them before you ship any plants (we recommend consulting the National Plant Board). For example, California has strict policies regarding citrus trees brought from out of state that require a quarantine period. Plenty of other states have restrictions as well, for example:


Many types of plants need to be kept in an environment that is ideal for their survival. If the climate conditions aren’t just right, even for a few hours, the plant may not survive. Unfortunately, without a temperature-controlled delivery truck, there is no way to guarantee that a plant will be able to survive in the mail until it arrives at its new home.

A Better Solution for Plant Nurseries: Self Delivery

Self delivery eliminates the risks of third-party deliveries by keeping the well-being of your plants in your own hands. Self delivery relies on an internal team for transport and delivery instead of using a delivery service.

In-house delivery (also called self delivery) is often less expensive than outsourcing to a third party, which makes it a cost-effective option for businesses that ship a lot of plants. However, even businesses that don’t need to ship high volumes or have infrequent deliveries can benefit from in-house delivery. Your in-house delivery team will be able to provide better care for the plant during transport. By providing your delivery team with robust training and plant knowledge, you’ll equip them with all of the skills they need to keep a plant thriving while it is being transported—something that you can’t count on if you rely on the postal service or a shipping company.

Optimize Plant Delivery With OptimoRoute

Self delivery will require you to stay on top of your orders to plan delivery routes, but that doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. While it is possible to manage your plant orders and deliveries manually, you can also automate the process with a route optimization system like OptimoRoute, which can track everything for you and automatically plan your deliveries.

OptimoRoute plans deliveries up to five weeks in advance and automatically looks for the shortest route from point A to point B, ensuring all routes are as efficient as possible. It can account for factors like a customer’s desired delivery time and how long it will take to travel between drop-off locations. It also provides delivery tracking for customers to ensure plants arrive on time and Order and Task prioritization when routing assuring you that plants don’t spend too much time on a delivery truck.

You can learn more about how OptimoRoute can help automate your plant deliveries by booking a personalized demo today.

FAQs About How To Ship and Deliver Plants

Can you ship a live plant?

Yes. You can ship a live plant through the mail.

How long can plants survive in the mail?

If they are properly packaged, most plants can survive in the mail for about a week—but every plant has different survival needs, including preferred levels of light and water. To ensure plants survive in the mail, you’ll need to research what they need to survive and plan to ship them on a timeframe that allows the receiver to meet those needs. For example, if you ship a plant that needs lots of water and direct sunlight, then you’ll want to ensure that it ships in a couple of business days.

How can I ship plants in the mail?

To ship a plant in the mail, remove any excess dirt from the roots of the plant, wrap the roots in a damp paper towel before placing it in a box, and provide cushioning to support the plant in transit.

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