Bringing plants on a plane

Can You Take Plants on an Airplane?

Carrying a potted plant or a small bonsai tree through airport security will definitely earn you some double takes but, hopefully, no problems. Airlines usually don’t object to flight passengers traveling with plants. Certain restrictions come into play when it’s time to pass customs in a foreign country, however. Those restrictions vary by country and by plant type, and even a jet-setting botanist probably couldn’t keep them all straight. If you’re flying outside of the contiguous United States, permits and fees may be a necessary part of traveling with a plant in hand.

The TSA’s Verdict on Plants

TSA agents have seen it all at this point, so they probably won’t even raise their eyebrows at the sight of a passenger coming through security carrying a plant. The TSA allows passengers to transport plants either as carry-on items or in checked bags. Like the rest of your belongings, plants will need to undergo security screening. Plan to send them down the X-ray conveyor belt with the rest of your carry-on luggage.

Plants and Your Airline

Every airline sets its own policies regarding what passengers are and aren’t allowed to bring on its planes, but these policies are generally in keeping with the TSA’s restrictions. Basically, if the TSA allows it, your airline probably allows it too. Your plane’s crew won’t object to plants as carry-ons, assuming they comply with the airline’s baggage rules. Plants must fit either in the overhead compartment or under the seat. Check the airline’s size guidelines for carry-on luggage. A plant that exceeds that size won’t fit in the overhead compartment.

Plants count toward your personal baggage allowance. Coach passengers are typically allowed one carry-on suitcase and one personal item. Depending on the size of the plant, flight attendants and gate agents may decide to let it take the place of a carry-on bag.

Take care to pack the plant in a way that will keep soil, water and plant matter contained. The easiest method is to place the entire plant inside a plastic garbage bag. Let some air into the bag and tie it closed.

Plants and Travel Restrictions

Flying across the state with a small fern or a bouquet of flowers shouldn’t cause any issues, but traveling internationally with plants can be troublesome. National agricultural departments generally have strict rules regarding which plants may be carried into or out of the country. One invasive plant or insect can cause a domino chain of damage when introduced into a new environment. Island nations such as Australia are particularly strict. Hawaii also has a long list of plants that are allowed into the country only if they’re permitted and possibly quarantined or treated. Even permissible types of plants have to be declared and inspected upon arrival, and they have to be free of soil, insects and signs of disease.

Because each country has its own rules and those rules often vary depending on the type of plant, do specific research before flying to another country with plant life. Contact the country’s department of agriculture at least a month (or ideally a few months) before traveling, as they may require a permit. Even if the department of agriculture gives you permission to carry a certain plant into the country, customs agents have the final say about what visitors can and can’t carry across borders. Don’t travel with a plant that you would be devastated to lose.


Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

About the Author

Kathryn Walsh has been writing about travel topics for more than 10 years, but has been feeding her inner travel bug for much longer. Her favorite place to visit is Scotland, and her work has appeared on sites including USAToday, AZCentral and Choice Hotels.

Flying With Plants: Can I Take Plants On An Airplane

Taking plants on flights, either for a gift or as a souvenir from a vacation, is not always easy but can be possible. Understand any restrictions for the particular airline you are flying with and take some steps to secure and protect your plant for the best outcome.

Can I Take Plants on an Airplane?

Yes, you can bring plants on an airplane, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the U.S. The TSA allows plants in both carry on and checked bags. You should know, however, that the TSA officers on duty can deny anything and will have the final say on what you can carry when you go through security.

Airlines also set their own rules as to what is or isn’t allowed on planes. Most of their rules fall in line with those of the TSA, but you should always check with your airline before trying to take a plant on board. In general, if you are carrying plants on a plane, they will need to fit in the overhead compartment or in the space under the seat in front of you.

Bringing plants on a plane becomes more complicated with foreign travel or when flying to Hawaii. Do your research well ahead of time in case any permits are required and to find out if certain plants are banned or need to be quarantined. Contact the agriculture department in the country to which you are traveling for more information.

Tips for Flying with Plants

Once you know it’s allowed, you still face the challenge of keeping a plant healthy and undamaged while traveling. For a plant carry on, try securing it in a garbage bag with a few holes punched in the top. This should prevent a mess by containing any loose soil.

Another way to neatly and safely travel with a plant is to remove the soil and bare the roots. Rinse all the dirt from the roots first. Then, with the roots still moist, tie a plastic bag around them. Wrap the foliage in newspaper and secure it with tape to protect leaves and branches. Most plants can survive hours to days like this.

Unwrap and plant it in soil as soon as you get home.

You can’t just stuff a living plant into a carry-on bag and expect it to be in fine shape when you arrive home.

You’re traveling far from home and you see a plant you just can’t resist. A perennial you simply can’t find in your local nursery, for example, or a small shrub you’ve been seeking for years. But you’ll be flying home with only a carry-on bag. How can you bring it back in good condition without having to buying a new suitcase… or arriving home to find your bag full of freshly liberated potting soil?

Bare Root is the Secret

In general, the easiest way to bring a plant home by plane is bare root, that is, by first removing its heavy, messy soil. And it’s so easy to do!

First, though, find a plastic bag large enough to slip the roots into, plus a few sheets of newspaper. The hotel where you’re staying ought to be able to find them for you.

Just flush that annoying soil away!

Now, the night before returning home, remove the plant from its pot, plunge its roots into the toilet bowl and flush it while swishing the roots back and forth. Repeat if necessary. You want to remove as much soil as possible, especially if you will be crossing a border (in some cases, you can bring the plant back, but not the soil.)

(Don’t be squeamish! Toilet bowl water is perfectly clean, as clean as the tap water in the nearby sink… but don’t try to rinse plant roots in a sink. The drain won’t be able to handle soil and you’ll end up plugging it!)

Once the roots are as soil-free as possible, give the plant a good shake to remove most of the water. Then wrap the roots in a towel and squeeze very lightly, just enough to remove excess moisture (you’ll want the roots to be barely moist). Remove the towel and place the root ball in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out during your trip.

Wrap the branches tightly in newspaper.

In order to do the least amount of damage possible to the foliage during transit, wrap the plant in newspaper, rolling it tightly to pull the branches upward into a bunch.

You’re now good for a trip lasting from a few hours to up to a week or so (several weeks in the case of orchids and succulents, as they are especially good at tolerating travel).

When you get home, remove the newspaper and plastic bag and plant your discovery in the garden (or repot it if it’s a houseplant), then water well.

It’s as simple as that!

Plants Across International Borders

It’s best to consider reserving the technique described above to situations when you are travelling within your own country. Without an import permit and a phytosanitary certificate, it is almost always illegal to import living plants from abroad. Even within the US, some states, like California, Arizona, and Florida, may require plants undergo inspection or have proper permits before bringing them into the state.

Canadians can however bring houseplants back from the continental United States and Hawaii, although there are a few exceptions. Check here for current information: Plant protection import requirements for plants and plant parts for planting.

Also, plants can travel freely between the countries of the European Union (between Italy and France, for example), but there are restrictions on the movement of certain plants from certain areas because of localized disease or insect infestations. The nursery where you buy the plant should be aware if the movement of any of their plants is in any way restricted.

Bon voyage … and happy gardening!

Traveling with Live Plants: Here’s What You Need to Know

Thinking about bringing your favorite plant with you on your flight?

Then you’re in the right place because in this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know about taking plants on planes – is it allowed, what are the differences between domestic and international flights, and how to properly pack them.

Some of the things that we’ll talk about here are really important, especially if you’re flying internationally.

Let’s begin.

Can You Take Plants on a Plane?

According to the TSA (Transport Security Administration), plants are perfectly fine to bring on planes. You can pack them safely inside checked luggage or hand luggage, and long as they fit the airline size and weight restrictions, and the soil doesn’t contain too much liquid. The soil can be damp, but you can’t transport plants and saplings with the roots soaked in a water container.

If you want to bring your plant on the plane, it will have to fit the carry-on size requirements, which, most commonly, are 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Plants larger than that will have to be checked-in because they won’t fit inside the overhead compartments. For checking in, your best bet would be to pack your plant inside a hardside checked suitcase, to avoid any damage. Checked bags are usually up to 32 inches in length, so you should be able to fit pretty large plants in there.

When going through the security, plants will have to be screened through the x-ray machine. If you don’t want your plant to go through the x-ray machine, your best bet is to leave it home, because screening all of your items is mandatory. Only a few items are allowed for manual inspection, like prescription medicine or baby food.

Additionally, TSA controls only the U.S. airspace. If you’re flying internationally, you should also look at what other airline regulators say, as well as the airlines themselves. However, we looked around and didn’t find a single airline or airline regulator that has banned plants on planes, so you’re most likely good to go.

The only institution that has strict limitations for plants is the customs, so be sure to read the next two sections about traveling internationally vs. domestic.

Bringing Plants on Domestic Flights

Traveling with plants within the U.S. is usually pretty straightforward. There are little restrictions because on most flights you don’t even have to go through the customs. So if you’re traveling within the mainland U.S., you’re usually free to bring any plants onboard.

But there still are a few restrictions when traveling domestically. Some plants require additional permits when traveling to certain states, like California, Arizona, and Florida. But as many people suggested, rarely are there any agricultural inspections in airports on domestic flights, so you’re usually good to go even if the agricultural department doesn’t allow bringing in specific plants into the state.

That said, bringing pants to or from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin islands is much more restricted. Although they’re within the U.S., many plants or pests from there could cause a serious environmental impact in the mainland. So if you’re bringing plants from any of these states, treat them as bringing plants on international flights.

Bringing Plants on International Flights

Traveling with plants on international flights unprepared is usually a bad idea. On international flights, the customs limit plants only to a few species, which aren’t invasive and wouldn’t cause harm to the ecosystem.

But even if you’re allowed to bring a specific plant through the customs, you’ll have to follow additional rules:

  • Plants have to be bare-rooted and pest-free, which means they’re stripped from any soil and transported in a towel or a damp newspaper.
  • In the U.S., you’re allowed to bring 12 or fewer articles of allowed plants without a permit.
  • Some plants have additional restrictions: Permits, post-entry quarantines, ESA or CITES documentation, and additional treatments.
  • You’ll need a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin.
  • Plants have to be free of insects.
  • Plants that look sick will have to be thrown out.

If you want to bring specific plants into the U.S., your best bet would be to contact USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) directly and ask if that specific plant is allowed and what are the requirements. You can call them at (301) 851-2046 or (877) 770-5990 (toll-free), or email them at [email protected]

The only instance where traveling with plants internationally is somewhat easy is if you’re traveling with plants within the European Union. Only invasive and endangered plant species are banned. So if you’re traveling with somewhat common plants within the EU, you shouldn’t worry too much.

Read Next: 75 Packing Tips For International Travel

How to Pack Plants for Airplane Travel

Whenever you’re bringing plants on a plane, you must do a good job at packing. You see, plants are fragile, and if you don’t do a good job, they’ll die during your flight.

You can pack plants in hand luggage and checked suitcases, depending on your situation. The easiest way of transporting plants is usually bare-root, however, for shorter domestic flights, you might want to keep the soil instead and bring your plants as hand luggage.

How to Pack Plants Bare-Root for International Flights

If you’re flying internationally, the customs always require the plant to be transported bare-root. That’s because they can’t predict what pests and insects lie in the soil. Potentially, there could be hidden infectious pests inside, which could be catastrophic for the environment.

Here’s how you do that:

  1. For larger flowers and bushes, it’s advised to cut off all the excess parts, just like you would normally do before the winter. How much you can cut depends on the plant type, so do your research. This will save up some space in your suitcase, and there will be fewer plant parts to damage.
  2. Take your plant out of its pot, and try to get rid of the soil manually. Use your hands to get rid of as much soil as possible, but be gentle not to damage the plant.
  3. Use a bowl full of water for washing off all the excess soil from the roots. Wash off till there’s no soil residue left because it isn’t allowed through international customs.
  4. Use a towel to remove any excess moisture from the roots. You don’t want to leave the roots completely wet, because then the plant might become bad after a few hours. You want the roots to be only slightly damp before packing.
  5. Take a zip-lock or a regular plastic bag, and wrap it around the roots, so they don’t dry out during your trip.
  6. Wrap the whole plant in a newspaper to keep it moisturized and to protect it during your flight.
  7. If packed inside a suitcase, place your plant near soft items, and, if possible, in a plastic or cardboard container to avoid it from getting squished.

This setup should be good enough for 24-48 hour flights, depending on the type of the plant.

How to Pack Plants for Domestic Flights

For domestic flights, there’s no need to transport your plant bare-root. But if you want to, you can do that anyway to save some weight and space.&

Here’s how you transport plants with soil in your hand luggage:

  1. Make sure that your plant, together with the pot, fits the airline size requirements for hand luggage. Most commonly, it’s 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
  2. Before going through the security, try to keep the soil somewhat dry, because liquids are restricted in hand luggage. If the flight is short, it’s best to water your plant the last night.
  3. Cover the soil in the pot with a few newspapers, to avoid soil from spilling out and creating a mess. For additional protection, wrap the pot in a small plastic bag.
  4. To protect the visible part of the plant, wrap it fully in a newspaper. Do it carefully, though, to avoid damaging the leaves and the stem.
  5. Place your plant in a plastic bag, and you’re good to go. If it’s small enough, you may be allowed to pass it as a personal item and place it under your front seat.
  6. If you’d rather pack your plant inside the suitcase, make sure to surround it with soft clothes. Also, remember that when you place your suitcase horizontally in the overhead compartment, some soil might spill out from the pot.

Final Thoughts

Airlines and the airline regulators (TSA) treat plants like any other items, and they’re allowed on planes.

The only problems start when you have to go through the customs on international flights. Most plants are banned from bringing in, you’ll need additional permits, and they’ll have to be transported bare-rooted.

Although it’s possible to bring plants on international flights, we’d recommend sticking only to domestic flights. Bringing a few flowers for planting in your garden from your mom across the states is totally fine, but if you’re planning on bringing exotic plants back from tropical climates to plant in your greenhouse, you might get a headache from all the paperwork and restrictions.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

We get questions about bringing stuff on planes all the time. So we’ve written a lot of other guides, where we answer the most commonly asked questions.

You can check them out over here:

  • What Can You Take on a Plane in Checked Luggage?
  • Can You Bring Laptops on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Toothpaste on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Umbrellas on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Wine on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Mini Liquor Bottles on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Hairdryers, Curling Irons, and Hair Straighteners on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Razors on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Cologne on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Scissors on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Food on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Lighters on Planes?
  • Can You Bring Knives on Planes?

Can I bring flowers or plants onto the plane?

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