Plant swap packaging & shipping 101 – mailing cuttings



Hey plant people! :wave: For all new users, and anyone who is interested in how to send clippings, here are some tips on how to ship plant cuttings.

Weather: Freezing temps or over 30 degrees Celsius are risky, best to postpone shipping until milder weather.

A. Unrooted cuttings: Make sure the mother plant is well hydrated /water the plant the day before cuttings will be taken. Some fresh cuttings can be shipped as is. For more delicate plants, or when the weather is very warm or the journey long, this method reduces the risk of cuttings drying out: Remove most leaves and wrap cuttings in moist paper towel and some plastic leaving the very top part exposed (the plastic acts as a barrier so the cuttings don’t dry out completely, since cardboard/paper packaging sucks up all moisture. Use your best judgment, in hot weather cuttings tightly wrapped in plastic could cook.) Cuttings of hardy succulents and cacti that were taken a while ago and left to callous can be shipped as is.

B. Rooted cuttings: For already rooted cuttings the roots must be kept wet during transit – wrapping roots in wet paper towel and a piece of plastic/a little plastic bag works well. The foliage should be kept dry. (For potted plants: Shipping bareroot keeps costs down, gently remove the soil and then wrap the roots as described above.)

  • To further protect the cuttings, it’s helpful to wrap old newspaper around them (picture a cone of newspaper). Very fragile plants can be placed in kitchen/toilet paper rolls or some such. If you’re shipping multiple varieties, it’s useful to label what is what.

  • Ideal packaging is a flat box that still counts as a letter (check size guidelines of your country, most countries allow boxes of up to 2,5 cm height). Padded envelopes may work for certain kinds of succulents. However, envelopes might be processed by machines that would crush delicate plants. See if you can reuse packaging you already have at home (packaging you received or old packaging for food/electronics etc… Also in some countries free packaging might be available at the post office.).

  • Place the cuttings in the flat box, tape (the plastic-wrapped part) down if necessary, and fill empty spaces with additional paper (crumpled old newspaper, brown paper, tissue paper etc.). The paper keeps cuttings from shuffling around and getting damaged (good way to check if your box needs more paper is to gently shake it, there should be barely any rattling inside). Avoid using plastic or aluminum foil as padding, as those can create a harmful microclimate (get too hot or cold) and damage the cuttings.

  • Some people like to add something along the lines of “Live Plants” or “Keep out of direct sun” on the packaging. Certainly doesn’t hurt to do that. Goes without saying: Keep the mail item cool until you can drop it off at the post office.

  • Shipping cuttings as a letter is preferable for multiple reasons: it helps to save on postage; letters tend to move quicker vs. parcels; letters can be delivered if the recipient is not at home (in some countries parcels that cannot be handed over to the addressee are taken back to the post office. In other countries such parcels might be left out on the porch in the sun/cold or with the neighbors, which could end bad).

  • Choose a shipping method that is a decent compromise between cost and delivery time (most cuttings will be fine with a few days in the dark but as a general rule: the faster the journey, the better the condition upon arrival), unless otherwise agreed (e.g. express/tracking might be desired for rare or expensive plants).

  • Mail your cuttings on a Monday or Tuesday, ideally before midday so your mail leaves the post office the same day (pick up times vary, ask your local postal workers for details). Mailing at the beginning of the week lowers the risk of cuttings getting stuck somewhere over the weekend.

  • Let the recipient know you’ve posted the clippings, ask them to notify you when your mail arrives, and share the condition of the cuttings (this helps to identify mistakes and learn from them).

Have any more helpful tips or ideas? Please leave them in the comments! TY & happy swapping! :green_heart: