How Long Can Plants Survive in the Mail? What You Should Know


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Many times we have to resort to purchasing plants online that we just can’t obtain in our local plant shop. The length of time the plant can survive will depend on the plant and the shipping conditions.

Small, water loving plants like Anubias and Java ferns can survive between 7 to 12 days in the mail while larger more established plants like Air plants and Jasmines can remain for longer periods. Packaging, handling and shipment duration all plays a crucial role on how long a plant can survive when bought online.

Plants can survive longer periods during shipment only if the conditions are suitable for the plant within the packaging.

In this article we are going to outline the different factors which affect the survival rate of plants during the crucial shipping period.

What to Expect when Shipping Plants

Plants wilt when shipped, this is perfectly normal. Here’s why.

Transpiration 

Plants naturally respire which means that they let out water or sweat as some may say. See our article on what causes plants to sweat.

This transpiration reduces the amount of water within the plant and the soil or paper that it is wrapped in. As a result the plant will begin to wilt as the water is lost to the packaging.

Think of it like the cucumber experiment. When you slice a cucumber and place salt on it, the cucumber begins to lose water to the salt and becomes flacid. 

Which is the same kind of process that is occurring when plants respire.

As a result some of the plant leaves may also begin to turn yellow. 

This does not mean that the plant is to the point of no return. What the plant needs is to be de-stressed.
(go to Recommendations for Reviving a plant after shipping further in this article)

Transpiration

Pro Tip

Do not cut the yellowing leaves as yet if there are any. These leaves may still have the ability to photosynthesize and make food for the plant.

After two week when the plant has fully recovered you can now remove any unhealthy leaves for the foliage to prevent those parts from using necessary nutrients.

Heat does more harm than cold

When shipped plants can undergo tremendous stress if they are exposed to extreme heat or cold conditions.

As described before, plants transpire which means they give off water. This is done as a natural response to heat so that the plant can cool itself.

For this reason you may find more water loving plants may become soft and squishy as they wilt. 

Some plants which share these similar characteristics are also termed stemmed plants where the stems or barks of the plants are long and are mainly bright green as they mostly made up of water.

Cold conditions on the other hand can help preserve the moisture content within the plant by slowing down the process of transpiration

For this reason plants are sometimes shipped with a cold pack inserted into the shipping packaging.

Plants that Can Survive Long Shipping Periods

Plants that can survive shipping conditions will tend to be more rugged and have larger leaves with tough, well established stems and barks. Bulbs and potted plants also do well during shipping.

Additionally the shipping packaging also plays a big part on how well the plant copes during shipping. 

Some other factors that affect the plants ability to survive is 

  • Handling during shipping 
  • Shipping duration

Here is a list of plants that survived long shipping duration from people who purchased them online.

Plant SpeciesShipping Duration Tolerance
Sarracenia2 to 3 Weeks
Drosera2 to 3 Weeks
Nepenthes10 to 15 Days
Heliamphora10 to 15 Days
Pitcher plants3 weeks
Darlingtonia3 to 4 Weeks
Drosera/UtricsBetween 2 to 3 Weeks
Crypts plants3 Weeks
VeitchiiUp to 1 month
Rotalas and Riccia plants5 to 7 days
Anubias and Java ferns10 to 12 Days
Air PlantsUp to a Month
StephanotisMore than 1 Month
Jasmines Sambac2 to 3 Weeks

Plants that Cannot Survive Long Shipping Periods

From research we have found that not many people have success after purchasing these plants which were kept more than 5 days in shipping.

  • Sundews have a harder time, especially if shipped bare-root
  • Nepenthes tends to wilt after 1 week
  • Lobelia Cardinalis had trouble after 5 days
  • Most stemmed plants turn to mush

Again, the probability of these plants surviving, also depends on the packing, shipping duration and the handling during shipping.

How Plants Are Shipped 

Plants can come bare root wrapped in moist paper, peat moss or even in individualized boxes. 

Bare root plants is just what it sounds like, bare roots! Meaning that it does not come with soil. This is a very cost effective shipping method as it eliminates the extra weight of the soil.

The moist wrapping provides the moisture it needs to survive the week long journey to your home from the supplier.

Other plants can be shipped in boxes without the pot. This cuts shipping costs and is easier to pack. The roots and minimal soil is wrapped in plastic to prevent the soil from shedding all over the place and creating a mess. 

The soil used in this method should not be removed after you receive the plant as it may cause stress which we will discuss later in this article where we go through how to ensure your plant survives after shipping.

Plants can be shipped using the following materials

  • Corrugated boxes 
  • Lightweight plastic pots
  • Sterilized potting soil
  • Packing paper or wrapping paper or newspaper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Flea collars
  • Plastic bags
  • Ties or rubber bands
  • Paper towels

Recommendations After Receiving a Plant in the Mail

Firstly, if you can, you should go to the pickup facility and get your plant to prevent delays.

Tropical plants after shipping, can be really stressed as they are out of their environment and the conditions that they are accustomed to.

Some plants tend to start to go limp while others will start getting yellow blotches on the leaves.

When you receive the plant you should not remove any bad looking leaves.

Allow the plant to revive which may take between 1 to 2 weeks before you start pruning away bad leaves.

Take a picture of the plant and send it to the seller. 

Get into a conversation and relay whatever information possible so that the seller can help you diagnose the problem and prevent the plant from dying. 

During the shipping process many things can go wrong including –

  • Temperature drop
  • The package was not handled as it should
  • The plant does not like dark damp places

When the plant arrives the first thing you should do is place it into water

plant in water

Steps to Ensure your Plant Survive After Shipping

  1. Remove the plant from the packaging
  2. Put the roots of the plant in water for a 24 hour period
  3. Replace the water if its a water loving plant (change water after 1 day)
  4. If its a non water loving plant use a moist moss
  5. Pot after a few days (5 to 7 days)

If you have received your plant and its in soil that is bone dry then you should consider bottom watering.

Bottom watering helps the soil to uniformly absorb water and provide water for the entire root system. This also prevents overwatering and prevents root rot.

Additionally, when repotting after hydrating the plant you should not remove the substrate from the roots (the soil that it came in).

Simply place the plant with the soil that it came into the new plant pot and fill it with new soil around the plant and substrate that it came with.

Do Not Stress Your New Plant

If you have received your plant and it’s perfectly normal and everything’s fine you should allow the plant to acclimatize to your environment. 

Remember the plant was previously in a nursery environment around other plants with a different humidity and environment.

When it’s shipped it’s introduced to a very different and very new environment. 

Some plants are stressed during shipment and you should just leave it in the soil or container that it came in and just allow it to accept and acclimatize to your environment to prevent stress and the symptoms associated with stress.

After a week you should repot the plant in well aerated and well draining soil. 

Repotting a new plant

The new potting container should be 2 inches larger in diameter than the container that came in so that it would have room to grow.

Remember plants in nurseries are planted in very fertile soil and in the smallest possible container for the plant to survive for a period of time before it is sold. 

Therefore you should be mindful of this and repot in a larger container than the one it came in.

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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