Recently I have been asked how to pack and ship plants. Everyone has a different method how to pack and ship their plants. Today I will discuss the how's and why's of how I ship my plants and leaves.
Let's start with leaves first. The day you are going to ship, cut your leaf (leaves) from the plant with a good amount of stem if possible. Place the leaf in a ziplock bag that is big enough for the leaf to comfortably fit. Now, before you close the bag, exhale into the bag slightly. The moisture from your breath will keep the leaf fresh during it's travel. Also the slight air pocket it creates will help insulate the leaf. You only need a small amount of air. Too much will take up too much space when it comes time to pack causing you to use a larger box than needed.
When shipping leaves try not to send old leaves. First, they are not as vibrant and will take much longer to root. Secondly, an old leaf tends to dieback before they produce babies and if they do, will not produce as many babies. Try to select a medium size leaf, large enough to root. These are ideal candidates as they are not small and too young but not too old.
You maybe asking how old a leaf is too old? A leaf that is large and shows signs of yellowing, has 4 or more flower stalk stubs, has a tired look to it, a pale green vs a healthy green, blemishes. ( ex. random black spots, dieback either on the tip of the leaf or the sides) These are typically not good candidates to ship let alone to use for propagation.
Next, let's talk about plants. Plant leaves unless they are extremely long and will interfere with being placed in the box I recommend not cutting the leaf. (leaves) If you cut a leaf prior to shipping, there is a possibility of a leaf starting to rot. Fresh cut plus darkness is how it could start. If you must cut a leaf, dust the end with cinnamon. This will seal the cut and act as a fungicide. Many growers cut leaves prior to shipping as they feel it is easier to pack. This is a personal preference, one which you will ultimately decide.
Preparing the plant prior to wrapping. Take a square piece of plastic 6" x 6" and slit it 1/2 way in the middle of the sheet. Take the slit and slide it under the leaves around the crown. Overlap the slit ends and place a piece of scotch tape to secure. Make sure there is no gap between the plastic and crown where soil can escape. Now take the plastic around the cup and gently pull it tight. Take a elastic band and put it over the plastic. Make sure the band is tight. If need be double the elastic around the cup until tight. The band needs to be at least 1/2" above the end of the plastic. Secure elastic band with a small piece of tape on each side of the pot.
You are now ready to wrap your plant. Here I will explain how to for a 3oz solo cup. Use the same method for larger pots and plants.
Take a 1/2 page of newspaper on a flat surface. Place your plant on one edge of the paper. Using a corner of the paper to start, carefully roll the plant with leaves as upright as possible careful not to break the leaves and roll as tight as possible until you reach the end. Secure the side with tape. Now the top and bottom should have a tube like look.
Cut any excess paper from the bottom, leaving just enough to fold 2x to rest just below the cup and tape securely. Do the same with the top and carefully fold toward the top of the plant. Be careful not to catch any of the leaves in the fold. I like to leave a 1/2" space between the fold and the leaf. Secure the fold with tape. It is better to have too much tape than too little to secure the top and bottom as the plants will be jostled in the mail. This will insure the plants move as little as possible and greatly reduce any damage.
Now the most important piece in shipping, the insulation of the package for two reasons; 1. To protect the leaves or plants from temperature extremes, excessive heat or cold. 2. Properly packed, leaves or plants will not be able to shift inside the box, minimizing damage as well as adding a protective layer in the event of the box being crushed slightly.
I recommend for packing materials either house insulation or styrofoam peanuts. Both do a wonderful job protecting plants during shipping and help insulate the box to keep temperature extremes reasonable. Start with 1" of peanuts or 1 piece of fiberglass on the bottom of the box. In the case of fiberglass line the sides before placing the leaves or plants in the box. With peanuts wait until the plants are in the box then fill around the leaves or plants. Once they are in packed, then place enough insulation/ peanuts to fill the top. In the case of peanuts, shake the box gently to settle the peanuts and add more if necessary. If the top is slightly hard to close this is good! Press gently down on the packing material until you can close and seal the box.
Mark the outside of the box on all sides, Live Plants! Keep between 60-80 degrees. Not marking your boxes will increase the chances of them being left in extremes of heat and/or cold. Post office employees will get the message especially if you print legibly and in big print. Using a red permanent marker helps as well.
At what temperature range is it safe to ship? Temperatures between 50 - 85 degrees with 85 degrees the maximum. Remember, when you ship to check the weather between you and the place it is being shipped to. It maybe 60 degrees where you live and 90 degrees where it is being delivered to. Between the two points the temperature could be say 102 degrees. It is important to take this into consideration. Once the box leaves your hands you have no control over how it is handled. It could stay in a delivery truck for hours in that heat. Well, add another 20 degrees to the temp it is sitting in. This could cook a plant or create mushy leaves. The same problems could occur in cold weather as well.