How to Ship a Plant
Question: How do you ship an African violet?
Answer: This is something we get asked a lot at the shop. Though we do this as part of our business, it’s something anyone can do. After all, many of our customers ask us to ship plants as gifts to relatives or friends, when they grow violets themselves, and could easily do the same. Violets are fragile, but not as much as you might think. With careful packing, they can be easily and safely shipped almost anywhere. Here’s how we do it.
Since the package is certain to spend much of its time traveling “upside-down”, you need to keep the soil from coming out of the pot and making a huge mess of the plant and box. We do this by making a plastic “collar” that we fit over the top of the pot, underneath the leaves. Cut a piece of plastic (from a trash bag, for example) that is twice as big as the pot. Cut a slit in the plastic from one edge, stopping at the center. Then slide this over the surface of the soil, beneath the leaves. The neck goes into the slit, so that the collar should slide easily and snugly around it. Being sure the collar covers the soil completely, fold the edges over the pot rim and secure them with tape or rubber band (we use the latter) to the pot. Next, find a sheet of stiff, yet soft, paper, twice as tall and wide as the plant’s diameter (we one or two sheets of newspaper). Gently bending the leaves upwards, place the plant against the paper and roll it into a paper cone, leaving excess paper both above and below the plant. Then seal both ends with tape or staples. For plants too large to seal the top, we tape the pot to the paper when we are rolling it. This will keep the pot from sliding out of the paper cone, and insulate it a bit.
Use a box that won’t be crushed when placed on the bottom of a pile of heavier boxes. When placing the wrapped plants in your box, it is better to slightly overpack. Be sure that whatever material that fills the remainder of the box won’t settle or move during shipment. Pack as tightly as possible without crusing the plant, yet tightly enough so that the plant cannot move. If shipping during unusually warm or cold weather, you might want to insulate the box–we line the interior with fiberglass insulation. Label the box as very fragile, though you don’t need to mention its contents (in some states this only gives them an excuse to open and examine the contents). Remember, too, that labeling isn’t a good substitute for good packing–your package will still spend time being tossed around. Lastly, unless it’s being sent as a surprise, it might be a good idea to call ahead and tell the recipient of its arrival, so that it spends as little time as possible exposed to the weather on their front doorstep.