One of the very best things about traveling is being able to admire nature around the world. Some of us end up wanting to bring exotic plants home, as well as bouquets to our loved ones. But – can you bring plants on a plane? Are there any guidelines against this?
There’s no right answer here, as it all depends on where you’re traveling and who you’re traveling with. It’s always a good idea to check plant transit rules with your chosen airline before you travel.
There may also be restrictions on certain types of plants you can take on a plane, especially if they’re poisonous.
As you can imagine, with the abundance of plant varieties worldwide, the answer to this common riddle is not as straightforward as you might think!
So, let’s try and break this down bit by bit. Can you bring a plant on a plane, or will you have to leave it with someone who can care for it?
Can you bring plants on a plane internationally?
Whether or not you can bring a plant with you on an international flight depends entirely on the country you are traveling to. For example, the Australian government does not allow the importation of most plants into the country.
In this scenario, if you want to bring in a plant, you will need to declare the specimen and get an import permit from the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment, before bringing the plant on the flight.
If you attempt to bring a plant in without the correct permit, it will be seen as smuggling, which is a criminal offense! Not only will any and all plants be seized, but you could also face hefty fines and even prosecution.
In the US, you can bring up to 12 plants or flowers without a permit (as long as they are correctly stored and do not present a risk to the ecosystem). Others may need ESAs or CITES documents or may even be required to quarantine once they arrive on American soil.
Should you be interested in bringing rarer species, or any kind of specific plant into the US, it is best to contact the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and even the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) before you travel.
They will be able to tell you if the plant is permitted to be brought into the US and what you will need to do to ensure its legal travel.
However, not all countries are as severe about the importation of plants. Therefore, the best thing to do is to check the rules and regulations for where you’re heading to.
You must check with your airline to ensure that you follow their specific guidelines regarding the packaging and placement of the plants (should you be allowed to bring them) during the flight!
It is important to note that should your plant contain any pests (or even look unwell), it will likely be seized and thrown away. This prevents potential hazards the plants could bring to a foreign country. So, if the plant doesn’t look like it’ll last much longer, it’s best to leave it at home!
Can I bring a plant on a plane within the European Union?
Yes! If you want to fly with plants within the European Union, the rules tend to be pretty easy to follow – great news if you’re heading to the continent with greenery in the near future.
For example, you are allowed to travel with 2kg of bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers as long as they are not potatoes. Potatoes, in particular, will not be permitted on any flight, or indeed any kind of international transport.
This is because different countries are faced with different types of diseases and pests that commonly affect potatoes. Therefore, should you bring one or more with you to another country, you risk a severe infestation of the plants in the country in question.
Bringing one or more potatoes abroad is strictly forbidden and can be met with severe consequences. That being said, most other corms, seeds, and tubers tend to be perfectly acceptable as long as you abide by their transportation rules.
For example, should you need to carry more than 2kg, you must hold a valid phytosanitary certificate.
However, you’re not permitted to bring any of the above from countries outside of the EU.
For example, it is strictly forbidden to travel with citrus and vine plants. So, sadly, you cannot bring a lovely lemon tree back from Italy or even a tiny orange plant from Spain.
That being said, you can travel with up to five plants from the EU. Again, if you need to travel with more, then you will need a phytosanitary certificate. You can also bring up to 50 stems in a bouquet on a flight with you. If you’re planning some holiday traveling, you can bring a wreath with you, too.
You will need to declare whatever you are traveling with, even within the EU. That includes any plant or even fruit and vegetable products.
If you are unsure about any plants, it’s best to speak to a Border Force Officer before traveling.
If you go over your permitted allocation of flowers, wreaths, bulbs, etc – all of the plants in question will be automatically seized. You could also face further repercussions, so be sure you know your limits!
This may all seem excessive, but it’s all to do with restricting the spread of plant disease and preventing invasive species from taking over local specimens.
Can I take a plant on a domestic flight in the US?
There are very few restrictions for flying with plants within the US. However, it is essential to keep abreast of the rules from state to state just in case.
For example, certain states such as Arizona, California, and Florida may require specific permits for the importation of plants. Moreover, US islands such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are not mainland US and therefore have different travel regulations regarding flora. In fact, if you are bringing plants from any of these islands, it is best to consider them as international flights, at least from a greenery point of view!
How to take plants on a plane
Getting permission to travel with plants is one thing – actually bringing them onboard is something entirely different! Not only can it be challenging to meet the airline’s guidelines for flying with plants, but keeping your growth safe and alive throughout your journey can be a nightmare.
Here’s a quick step by step rundown of how to prepare your plants and flowers for air travel.
- For plants coming with you in the cabin, ensure that they meet the size regulations before wrapping them up to go.
- Once you’re clear to go, you will need to contain the soil in a secure pot and cover the top of the plant. The plant will need air, so ideally, you should cover it with a bag in which you cut out a few small holes. Avoid taping the bag over too much, as the plant will need to be seen going through security.
- If border patrols have to cut open the packaging, all your hard work will be for nothing! You could even use something like a zip-lock bag (if the plant is small enough), as it is easy to open and close, transparent, and easy to dispose of when you arrive. It will also be strong enough to contain the plant while being flexible enough to perforate and wrap around so as not to damage it.
- To avoid any mess with soil, you can also travel with your plant’s bare roots. This will be a stipulation or guideline in many cases, as soil is difficult to travel with. It can contain diseases and pests that may be dangerous for a foreign country’s ecosystem and, therefore, inadvisable for you to travel with. However, you can travel with nearly any plant out of soil, as long as it is adequately prepared.
- You will need to remove the soil from around the roots carefully. Use your hands or even a small stick to remove it from all of the crevices. Be careful not to damage the roots, which may not be able to recover properly out of soil.
- Once you have taken out all of the soil, rinse the roots under clean water to dispose of any leftover pieces.
- While the roots are still damp, get a clean plastic bag, and tie it around the bottom of the plant. Try to keep the bag clean and dry on the outside to make transportation easier. You can use another plastic bag or even an old newspaper to protect the foliage and the branches on the plant.
- Your plant should be able to survive a few days like this safely on the move. Once you get to the plant’s final destination, be sure to put it in suitable soil, position, and temperature to suit the plant.
- Leave it for a few days to let it settle. This will give the plant time to recover and will better ensure its health in its new home!
How to fly with plants – other flight conditions to consider
Remember that while the plant or plants you carry may be small, they may also be considered extra bagging. In fact, if you are bringing them with you in the cabin, your airline may class them as bags on their own.
Therefore, you may be charged even more if you are carrying plants as extra items. When bringing plants into the cabin, most airlines will also request that they be small enough to fit neatly under the seat in front of you. This is to ensure that should there be any issue, the plant can be safely stored without getting in the way of an escape.
On the other hand, if you are traveling with a plant in the hold, it is best to ensure that it is thoroughly covered and secure so as not to get damaged.
Again, depending on how big your plant is, it may also be counted as an extra bag. And, even if it is small enough to fit into one of your cases, it is essential to declare it once you arrive so that there is no confusion or issue during transit.
Always keep your airline informed. Rules are in place to ensure your safety as well as everyone else’s! Unfortunately, there’s still going to be rigorous checks over any plants you bring on board, even if it’s a tiny potted aloe vera or two!
Can you bring plants on a plane? Yes, but you’ll need to plan ahead.
Flying with plants can be a daunting experience for multiple reasons. It can be worrying to think about whether or not the plant will survive, whether or not it will get damaged during the process, and, of course, whether or not you are breaking any rules by flying with one.
However, more people fly with plants than you might think, so do not worry about reaching out to your airline staff for advice!
The main thing you can do to ensure your safety and easy travel is to research the country you are flying from and into to ensure that you follow all of the rules.
It is important to remember each country has its own regulations regarding plants, so even if you manage to depart one country easily with your flowers, your arrival in the next may not be easy.
You will also need to keep in contact with the airline you are flying with in case their regulations about the transportation of plants change.
As a plant lover, you will know that ecosystems, in general, are very delicate and can easily be devastated by invasive species, diseases and pests. Sadly, it can be so easy to bring issues like these with us as we travel, even with the smallest of plants.
So, other than wanting to avoid fines, prosecution, and seized plants, remember that checking you’re safe to travel with plants is a matter of environmental protection – not just one of saving you money and hassle!