Shipping orchids can be tricky.
This is especially true during the winter months when the transport vehicle runs the risk of becoming stuck in a place without heating. The dark, dry conditions during shipping can also quickly become detrimental to the orchid.
If you sell orchids online or need to travel with your orchid, check out these 8 important facts in preparing these exotic plants for transport.
1. What do I need before shipping my orchids?
Whether you’re moving to a new home and need to transport your orchids or a seasoned professional preparing to fulfill multiple orders by air, you’ll need to follow some general guidelines when shipping your orchids.
Packing materials are vital to properly shipping your orchid. Make sure you have the following:
- Packing materials – these are vital to properly shipping your orchids and keeping them in prime condition during transport. The best packing materials to have are:
- Cardboard boxes
- Insulating materials
- Waxed floss paper – aka “spaghetti paper,” or shredded packing paper
- Styrofoam peanuts
- Polyester batting
- Tissue paper
- Florist wrapping paper
- Clay pot
- Flower stakes
- Foam or Styrofoam blocks
- Plastic sleeves/dry cleaning bags – you might need this for larger orchids. Perforated, of course, to keep your orchid from suffocating and to keep out the elements.
Following the steps below help to ensure your orchids arrive at their destination safely:
Step 1: Place orchid in clay pot
Clay pots are best because they’re heavy and more resistant to toppling over. Don’t repot your orchid – rather, find a clay pot that your orchid’s current pot can fit into.
Step 2: Add flower stakes
Flower stakes are imperative for keeping your orchid’s blooms secure. The larger and heavier the blooms, the more likely they will break during transport during repeated movement.
Step 3: Wrap orchid in paper
Using tissue paper, florists’ wrapping paper, or even cotton batting to protect the plant.
Don’t pack too tightly, as you might crush the leaves or flowers, but secure enough to insulate the plant from injury from movement.
Make sure to tape.
Step 4: Box and insulate orchid
With the orchid now wrapped and taped, you’re ready to place it in a box. This can be a foam fruit box, cooler, or cardboard box.
Choose a box that’s large enough to comfortably fit the entire plant but not too loose, as you don’t want your orchid to jostle around too much inside during transport.
Lay the wrapped orchid in the box horizontally. Next, insert a large foam or styrofoam block to firmly wedge the plant and its pot into place. This helps keep the orchid from sustaining damage from abrupt movement, like stops or acceleration. Tape the box shut.
Your orchid is now securely packed and ready for transport.
Here’s a video that also shows the process step-by-step:
3. Shipping by ground
When placing your orchid in a car or moving truck, make sure not to place it in the trunk or back of the truck. Instead, it should be securely strapped into a seat with a seatbelt.
The cab of the car has cleaner air, as the trunk is filled with ethylene gas – a pollutant caused by fuel combustion that can cause permanent damage to your plant.
Don’t let your car idle with the orchid inside. Doing so will further expose your plant to damaging pollutants.
4. Shipping by air
For domestic flights inside the continental US, orchids are permitted. They don’t have to go through customs and can come onto the plane with you as a carry-on or as checked luggage.
However, keep in mind that you can’t bring an exposed orchid with you on a plane, looking the same as it did on your windowsill.
Since your orchid will have to go in the overhead compartment or as checked luggage, you’ll need to pack it as you would if shipping by ground.
5. Special considerations
The blooms and stems are the most vulnerable and sensitive parts of the orchid that will be damaged first if shipped in less-than-ideal conditions.
While losing a flower or two isn’t usually much of a problem, it can be devastating if you’re transporting your orchid to a competition or showing.
6. Can orchids survive shipping?
Orchids can survive shipping if shipped correctly on short trips.
The general rule is that orchids should spend no more than three days in a box.
They need air and bright light to properly photosynthesize. Depending on the orchid species, some can become permanently damaged after much less time in transport.
7. Can you mail an orchid internationally?
The same restrictions and customs apply for international shipment of orchids as they do for taking orchids on a plane.
Certain countries outright forbid plants originating from outside the country to enter, while others permit them under certain circumstances.
In most cases, you’ll need to obtain special permits – known as CITES permits – in order to ship your orchid internationally. CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.
You’ll also need a phytosanitary certificate, which ensures your plant doesn’t pose a threat to those native to the country to which you’re traveling.
Not every country accepts CITES permits, and not every orchid is CITES approved for export.
8. Can you take an orchid on a plane?
You can take an orchid on a plane but restrictions may apply depending on domestic or international travel.
In the continental United States, traveling with orchids on an airplane is legal and doesn’t require a special permit if you’re growing the orchid as a hobby. However, this changes if you’re growing them for commercial use.
Depending on the size and weight of your orchid, you might be able to bring your orchid (in its shipping box, of course) as a carry-on. If it’s too big or heavy, then it’ll be checked luggage.
If the destination to which you’re traveling has no restrictions on bringing orchids into the country, then you’ll still need to go through customs. Customs will require you to unpack your orchid, so keep this in mind when packing and insulating your plant.
Taking your orchid on an international flight, however, can be tricky, as it requires special permits.
Most countries have strict policies against the plants or seeds being brought into the country, as plants carrying disease or invasive species can potentially devastate native agriculture.
Even within the United States, some states prohibit any plants, seeds, flowers, or produce from entering the state. One example is California. Because so much of the US’s produce comes from the Golden State, it could potentially devastate the country’s agriculture if the wrong plants were brought across the border.
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