Everything You Need to Know About Bringing Live Plants on Planes

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Are you thinking about bringing your favorite plant with you on your flight? Then you’re in the right place because in this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know about taking plants on planes – is it allowed, what are the differences between domestic and international flights, and how to secure your plants for flight. It’s crucial to learn this information if you plan on traveling with a plant, especially if you’re flying internationally. Let’s begin!

Can You Take Plants on a Plane in Checked or Hand Luggage?

According to the TSA (Transport Security Administration), you’re allowed to bring plants on planes. You can pack them safely inside checked luggage or hand luggage as long as they fit the airline size and weight restrictions, and the soil doesn’t contain too much liquid. The soil can be damp, but you can’t transport plants and saplings as hand luggage with the roots soaked in a water container, due to the 3-1-1 rule for liquids.

If you want to bring your plant as hand luggage, it will have to fit the carry-on size requirements, which, most commonly, are 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Plants larger than that will have to be checked in because they won’t fit inside the overhead compartments. Your best bet would be to pack your plant inside a hardside suitcase that has been checked in to avoid any damage. Checked bags are usually up to 32 inches in length, so you should be able to fit pretty large plants in there.

Plants will have to be screened in the x-ray machine to pass through security. If you don’t want your plant to go through the x-ray machine, your best bet is to leave it at home because screening all of your items are mandatory. There are only several items that are allowed for manual inspection, like prescription medicine or baby food.

Additionally, TSA controls only the U.S. airspace. If you’re flying internationally, you should also look at what other airline regulators say, as well as the airlines themselves. However, we looked around and didn’t find a single airline or airline regulator that has banned plants on planes, so you’re most likely good to go. The only institution with strict limitations for plants is customs and immigration, so be sure to read the next two sections about traveling internationally vs. domestic.

Bringing Plants on Domestic Flights

delta airplane in the atlanta airport boarding for a domestic flight

Traveling with plants within the U.S. is usually pretty straightforward. If you’re traveling within the mainland U.S., you’re usually free to bring any plants onboard. But there still are a few restrictions when traveling domestically.

Some plants require additional permits when traveling to specific states, like California, Arizona, and Florida. But as many people suggested, there are rarely any agricultural inspections in airports on domestic flights, so you’re usually good to go even if the Agricultural Department doesn’t allow bringing in specific plants into the state. That said, bringing pants to or from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin islands is much more restricted. Although they’re within the U.S., many plants or pests from there could have a negative environmental impact on the mainland. So if you’re bringing plants from any of these states, treat them as if you’re bringing plants on international flights.

Bringing Plants on International Flights

Traveling with plants on international flights unprepared is usually a bad idea. On international flights, you’re allowed to bring only a few plant species, which aren’t invasive and wouldn’t harm the ecosystem. But even if you’re allowed to bring a specific plant through the customs, you’ll have to follow additional rules:

  • Plants have to be bare-rooted and pest-free, which means they’re stripped from any soil and transported in a towel or a damp newspaper.
  • In the U.S., you’re allowed to bring 12 or fewer articles of allowed plants without a permit.
  • Some plants have additional restrictions: Permits, post-entry quarantines, ESA or CITES documentation, and other treatments.
  • You’ll need a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin.
  • Plants have to be free of insects.
  • Plants that look sick are not be allowed and will be thrown into the trash by agents.

If you want to bring specific plants into the U.S., your best bet would be to contact the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and  APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) services directly. Ask if that specific plant is allowed and what the requirements are for travel. You can call them at (301) 851-2046 or (877) 770-5990 (toll-free), or email them at [email protected].

Traveling with plants within the European Union is much easier. Only invasive and endangered plant species are banned. So if you’re traveling with more common plants within the EU, you shouldn’t worry too much.

Read Next: 80 Packing Tips For International Travel

How to Pack Plants for Airplane Travel

replanting three plants

Whenever you’re bringing plants on a plane, you must pack them as securely as possible. Plants are fragile, and if you don’t do a good job, they’ll die during your flight. You can pack plants in hand luggage and checked suitcases, depending on your situation. The easiest way to transport plants usually is bare-rooted. You might want to keep the soil and secure your plants inside of your hand luggage for shorter domestic flights.

How to Pack Plants Bare-Root for International Flights

If you’re flying internationally, the customs always require the plant to be transported bare-rooted. That’s because they can’t predict what pests and insects lie in the soil. There could potentially be hidden infectious pests inside, which could be catastrophic for the environment.

Here’s how you do that:

  1. We advise you to cut off excess parts as you would before the winter for larger flowers and bushes. How much you can cut depends on the plant type, so do your research. You will save some space in your suitcase, and there will be fewer plant parts to damage.
  2. Take your plant out of its pot, and try to get rid of the soil manually. Get rid of as much of the soil as possible but be careful not to damage the plant.
  3. Use a bowl full of water to wash off all the excess soil from the roots. Wash off till there’s no soil residue left because it isn’t allowed through international customs.
  4. Use a towel to remove any excess moisture from the roots. You don’t want the roots to become entirely wet because the plant might go bad after a few hours. The roots should only be slightly damp before packing.
  5. Take a zip-lock or a regular plastic bag, and wrap it around the roots, so they don’t dry out during your trip.
  6. Wrap the whole plant in a newspaper to keep it moisturized and to protect it during your flight.
  7. If packed inside a suitcase, place your plant near softer items and, if possible, in a plastic or cardboard container to avoid it from getting squished.

This setup should be good enough for 24-48 hour flights, depending on the type of plant you’re bringing.

How to Pack Plants for Domestic Flights

For domestic flights, there’s no need to transport your plant bare-rooted. But if you want to, you can do that anyway to save some weight and space. Here’s how you transport plants with soil in your hand luggage:

  1. Make sure that your plant, together with the pot, fits the airline size requirements for hand luggage. Most commonly, it’s 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
  2. Before going through security, try to keep the soil as dry as possible, as liquids are restricted in hand luggage. If the flight is short, it’s best to water your plant the last night.
  3. Cover the soil in the pot with a few newspapers to avoid having the solid spill out and creating a mess. For additional protection, you can wrap the pot in a small plastic bag.
  4. To protect the visible part of the plant, wrap it fully in a newspaper. Do it carefully, though, to avoid damaging the leaves and the stem.
  5. Place your plant in a plastic bag, and you’re good to go. If it’s small enough, you may be allowed to pass it as a personal item and place it under your front seat.
  6. If you want to pack your plant inside a suitcase, make sure to surround it with soft clothes. Also, remember that when you place your suitcase horizontally in the overhead compartment, some soil might spill out from the pot.

Read Next: Can You Bring Dried Mushrooms on Planes?

Other Things That You Should Know About Bringing Plants on Planes

Are Plant Cuttings Allowed on Planes?

The TSA doesn’t specify plant cuttings specifically, which means that identical rules to plants apply – they’re allowed in hand and checked luggage. Cuttings should remain somewhat damp so that they won’t dry out. Covering them ends in a dampened rag or paper towel can aid in this. We recommend placing them in a zip-lock bag, or you can tie off a garbage bag to keep them safe in flight.

Are Cut Flowers Allowed on Planes?

Fresh flowers are allowed both in carry-on and checked bags. Unfortunately, you can’t bring them onto the plane with water, so it’s wise to wait until you have passed security to secure them. You can lay them on moistened paper towels and wrap them with plastic wrap or bring an empty container that you can place them in once security agents have cleared you.

Are Dried Plants Allowed on Planes?

You can bring dried plants in hand and checked luggage. Ensure that they’re packed in a clear, zip-lock bag and declare them to the TSA agent. Be aware that security agents can toss out anything they deem suspicious or unsafe.

Are Plant Seeds Allowed on Planes?

Plant seeds are allowed in planes in hand and checked luggage. They are delicate and easy to lose, so carrying them in a zip-locked bag and securing them in a pocket of your purse inside of your wallet will ensure you don’t lose them.

Are Sharp Succulents Allowed on Planes?

TSA doesn’t specifically mention whether sharp plants like succulents and plants with thorns are allowed onto airplanes. However, someone asked on Twitter if cacti are allowed onto planes, and AskTSA responded that sharp plants are allowed in hand and checked luggage.

Final Thoughts

Airlines and the airline regulators (TSA) treat plants like any other items, and they’re allowed on planes.

The only problems start when you have to go through the customs on international flights. Most plants are banned from bringing in, you’ll need additional permits, and they’ll have to be transported bare-rooted.

Although it’s possible to bring plants on international flights, we’d recommend sticking only to domestic flights. Bringing a few flowers for planting in your garden from your mom across the states is totally fine, but if you’re planning on bringing exotic plants back from tropical climates to plant in your greenhouse, you might get a headache from all the paperwork and restrictions.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

We get questions about bringing stuff on planes all the time. So we’ve written a lot of other guides, where we answer the most commonly asked questions.

You can check them out over here:

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