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I looked and looked and looked without much success in finding a thread that addresses how to properly ship plants. I've got many plant shipments in the mail over the years, and I'm embarrassed to say that I have never paid much attention to how they were packaged. I remember how some of them were packaged, but not all, and am interested in a variety of packaging techniques you all have either received or tried shipping out yourself.

I also would like your thoughts on carrier options. I've also always ponied up the money to have them overnighted to me and wonder about the effectiveness of other shipping methods. Anyone want/able to run down my shipping options and their thoughts on them? What seasonal precautions do you all take/have you seen when shipping plants?

Genesis of this thread is that I would like to Pay It Forward some plants and am a little nervous about sending them bad gifts.
 

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Speaking of paying it forward, you sent me some cuttings last year and you asked me to do the same, so I am looking forward to following this thread.
Personally I’ve had plants that got lost for over a week come to me, and as long as they were zip locked dry they have all made it safely. I’ve noticed a lot of retailers will bundle the roots/cut tip with wet sphagnum and shredded newspaper tapped loosely over the leaves and this has kept them from rotting or completely drying out.
 

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I worked for a decade shipping and receiving orchids. The primary thing I can not impress enough is to keep plants stable. Moving plants are damaged plants. A package that’s not going to deform, in part due to sufficient packaging internal is optimal. What took a long time for me to master was tightly wrap plants. If you cannot accomplish that by way of a stiff newspaper wrapped shape, use something like polyfill or shredded newspaper between the plant and wrapped newspaper. You might use two sheets.

in the event that you’re shipping something more delicate than a species that can be wrapped up in newspaper, use a container like you would fruit fly cultures. A small amount of moist sphagnum and put the cuttings, etc inside and gauge whether to add something like the polyfill to inhibit rattling around in the container.

In regards to shipping, how far the recipient is from a major shipping node could determine the efficacy of usps vs fedex 1-2day. Right now, if it’s something cold sensitive, I’d spend the extra on FedEx. At least they guarantee their arrival. USPS didn’t give a shit but they’re priced accordingly.
 

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I have been very impressed with The Tarzane Group orchid vendor, and I did something similar to their technique in the latest round of packages I sent out:
  • Heat pack toward one side of the box, not touching any orchids
  • Orchids wrapped in newspaper or mounts secured to the sides of a plastic container, which is then stuffed with polyfill. The container keeps in humidity.
  • Container suspended in the middle of the box, surrounded by more polyfill.

They ship FedEx 2 day, but I’ve had a USPS priority package that sat around for 9 days show up with the plants in great shape, and an Andy’s order that was packed well and overnighted where one plant lost almost all its leaves to cold damage.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Speaking of paying it forward, you sent me some cuttings last year and you asked me to do the same, so I am looking forward to following this thread.
Personally I’ve had plants that got lost for over a week come to me, and as long as they were zip locked dry they have all made it safely. I’ve noticed a lot of retailers will bundle the roots/cut tip with wet sphagnum and shredded newspaper tapped loosely over the leaves and this has kept them from rotting or completely drying out.
Not from me but maybe in the future. Thanks for your input. I mean it seems easy enough, I just have a tendency to overthink things, especially the first few times I do something.

I worked for a decade shipping and receiving orchids. The primary thing I can not impress enough is to keep plants stable. Moving plants are damaged plants. A package that’s not going to deform, in part due to sufficient packaging internal is optimal. What took a long time for me to master was tightly wrap plants. If you cannot accomplish that by way of a stiff newspaper wrapped shape, use something like polyfill or shredded newspaper between the plant and wrapped newspaper. You might use two sheets.

in the event that you’re shipping something more delicate than a species that can be wrapped up in newspaper, use a container like you would fruit fly cultures. A small amount of moist sphagnum and put the cuttings, etc inside and gauge whether to add something like the polyfill to inhibit rattling around in the container.

In regards to shipping, how far the recipient is from a major shipping node could determine the efficacy of usps vs fedex 1-2day. Right now, if it’s something cold sensitive, I’d spend the extra on FedEx. At least they guarantee their arrival. USPS didn’t give a shit but they’re priced accordingly.
As always, thank you very much. I was planing on shipping some cuttings such as marcgravia, solanum, microgramma, pyrrosia. I worry about the marcgravia more than the others, but want to make sure it's done right. In mild weather do you think these plants could handle being shipped usps?

I have been very impressed with The Tarzane Group orchid vendor, and I did something similar to their technique in the latest round of packages I sent out:
  • Heat pack toward one side of the box, not touching any orchids
  • Orchids wrapped in newspaper or mounts secured to the sides of a plastic container, which is then stuffed with polyfill. The container keeps in humidity.
  • Container suspended in the middle of the box, surrounded by more polyfill.

They ship FedEx 2 day, but I’ve had a USPS priority package that sat around for 9 days show up with the plants in great shape, and an Andy’s order that was packed well and overnighted where one plant lost almost all its leaves to cold damage.
Haven't heard of those guys, but I'll check them out sometimes. And this is just the type of information that I hoped would be included in the thread. Would love to see some pictures, but think I have a pretty good idea of what you are doing.



Do you guys always ship in an insulated cooler container? Under what conditions do you do so? When do you decide to use heat packs or cool packs?
 

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I haven’t used insulated containers or received anything in an insulated container yet, just cardboard boxes.

My safe zone is: when temps on both ends stay between 40F and 75F, no heating or cooling necessary.

Temps down to 32F should be ok with a heat pack, and I’ll ship with a heat pack even into the 20s if I’m pretty sure it will get there fast and the buyer is ok with risk. If I’m buying and my lows are in the 20s I might request to hold at the post office.

I’ve had a bunch of things ship this winter with my lows in the 20s and only two plants from that Andy’s order had cold damage.
 

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I’ve never shipped plants in an insulated cooler container a la frog shipping.
Look up destination weather a day before and a couple after to determine if you need a heat pack. (A simple handwarmer). Delay shipping something if there’s some hard freeze happening.
 

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I haven’t used insulated containers or received anything in an insulated container yet, just cardboard boxes.

My safe zone is: when temps on both ends stay between 40F and 75F, no heating or cooling necessary.

Temps down to 32F should be ok with a heat pack, and I’ll ship with a heat pack even into the 20s if I’m pretty sure it will get there fast and the buyer is ok with risk. If I’m buying and my lows are in the 20s I might request to hold at the post office.

I’ve had a bunch of things ship this winter with my lows in the 20s and only two plants from that Andy’s order had cold damage.
How did you ship within that temperature range? USPS priority? UPS? FedEx? How many days safe in that range?
 

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I’ve never shipped plants in an insulated cooler container a la frog shipping.
Look up destination weather a day before and a couple after to determine if you need a heat pack. (A simple handwarmer). Delay shipping something if there’s some hard freeze happening.
I've received them in insulated containers and just standard boxes, just don't recall the timing of the shipments (time of year). And that was without piggybacking a frog order. Are there conditions you would use a insulated box? Would you use it in conjunction with a hot/cold pack?
 

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I’ve sent and received mostly with USPS priority. It really slowed down over the holidays but I sent a few packages yesterday, we’ll see how that goes. I’ve had plants do OK with local temps below freezing anywhere from 2 days to 9 days, way after the heat pack should have been used up. I received one dead plant in December after it was delayed over a weekend, but I think that was because it was a Begonia and was bone dry when I got it. They hadn’t wrapped it in anything to keep moisture in.

Priority is certainly a risk. They don’t guarantee arrival date, and I don’t think you can make a claim on the insurance for dead plants due to delays. But it’s a risk that seems to end well 95% of the time. The other 5% I’m willing (as a seller) to ship again.
 

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I’ve sent and received mostly with USPS priority. It really slowed down over the holidays but I sent a few packages yesterday, we’ll see how that goes. I’ve had plants do OK with local temps below freezing anywhere from 2 days to 9 days, way after the heat pack should have been used up. I received one dead plant in December after it was delayed over a weekend, but I think that was because it was a Begonia and was bone dry when I got it. They hadn’t wrapped it in anything to keep moisture in.

Priority is certainly a risk. They don’t guarantee arrival date, and I don’t think you can make a claim on the insurance for dead plants due to delays. But it’s a risk that seems to end well 95% of the time. The other 5% I’m willing (as a seller) to ship again.
Much appreciated. 9 days seems like an eternity for a plant to be in transit for some plants! Especially the moisture loving/requiring ones. I'd worry they would wither away after that long with limited ventilation and the included moisture to ship safely.
 

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I've received them in insulated containers and just standard boxes, just don't recall the timing of the shipments (time of year). And that was without piggybacking a frog order. Are there conditions you would use a insulated box? Would you use it in conjunction with a hot/cold pack?
You could, an insulated box would slow temperature changes on what’s in the box. If you can, do it you know?

If destination looks to have near freezing, I’d include a heat pack. Consider proximity when using a heat pack though. A box that barely fits the heat pack and plants will likely have issues based on heat proximity right? Distance the plants through the volume of the box if possible.

Cold and wet is pretty detrimental. More so than mechanical damage. Make sure plants are secure. Make sure plants aren’t sopping wet.
 

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Much appreciated. 9 days seems like an eternity for a plant to be in transit for some plants! Especially the moisture loving/requiring ones. I'd worry they would wither away after that long with limited ventilation and the included moisture to ship safely.
The plants that survived 9 days were a Biophytum, a Selaginella cutting, and a Begonia bipinnatifida rooted cutting, from a vendor on here. Each was in its own ziploc bag with moist sphagnum. The Selaginella cutting won’t root for me and is dying but it was very green with no rot or mold when it arrived so I think that’s unrelated, and the other two are doing fine.
 

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I sure wouldn't ship anything perishable except by overnight currently. I've had a couple packages hung up because of wild misrouting by FedEx lately (currently I'm waiting on a box of feeder insects that is certainly going to be very dead) and USPS is simply slow on all deliveries.

Word on the street is that overnight is still running OK.
 

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I used to ship aquatic plants to hobbyists pretty much year round. Not sure how aquatic plants compare with viv plants in terms of durability though. If it was extremely hot or cold, the boxes would be insulated. I shipped 2-3 day priority USPS. One thing I found was stability. Early shipments contained some water and usually plants arrived broken and sometimes shredded. I then made sure as much air and water was removed before sealing the ziplock bag. Often a wet paper towel was in with the plants. These arrived in better shape.
I used to bring plants to my fish clubs monthly auctions. Initially plants were in sealed fish bags with some water and lots of air. Auction members were allowed to browse auction items ahead of time and I noticed that, unlike the bags that have fish, bags with plants would be turned upside down and sometimes shaken (what?). Some of the more delicate one looked terrible come auction time. Later I removed the excess air and water and the plants did better after Excessive handling.
 
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