Ultra Cheap Plant Shipping Method (Under $2)

Spokane, WA(Zone 5b)

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This is a method that I have been using with good success for small plants/small trades. It typically costs me between $1.50 - $2.00 in postage. The key is to get the weight below 13 oz. A package can then be shipped with first class postage which is far less expensive than priority mail and typically is just as fast (especially when the trade is only a few states away). I would be careful with this method for cross-country trades which can take a day longer than Priority mail. The plant leaves sometimes have to be carefully flattened and folded...so don't use this method if you want a show-quality speciment right out the box. But the plants don't seem to mind much and quickly readjust their leaves after they've been replanted.

I've set this up in four steps. I hope they are easy to follow:
First I cut a 4" to 6" wide x 16" long (or longer) strip of rigid cardboard out of box. I fold a two inch tab at the top. An then proceed to create folds as shown in this image. Two of the folds must be 3/4" or less apart. The post office charges more if the package is thicker than 3/4".

This message was edited Jun 25, 2008 1:36 AM

Thumbnail by willmetge
Spokane, WA(Zone 5b)

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Next I prep the plant in the typical fashion by rinsing all the dirt from the root and wrapping them in a moist paper towel and then plastic wrap. I should note that the root ball/crown/stem needs to be less than 3/4" in one direction or it will not fit in the envelope box, however I've found very few perennials that are this bulky. If it seems that the plant may move around in the box tape the root ball to one side of the cardboard. If the leaves are large and flexible, they can be carefully bent over to fit. Several plants can be fit into the box with root balls being placed in alternate directions. You may need to cut the cardboard larger depending on how many plants you are planning to send with this method. I've sent as many as five plants and still kept my weight under 13 oz.

This message was edited Jun 25, 2008 1:30 AM

Thumbnail by willmetge
Spokane, WA(Zone 5b)

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Finish folding the box with the tab on the underside as shown in the diagram (this holds the cardboard away from the plant and protects it from being crushed). Use a piece of strong tape to close the box.

Thumbnail by willmetge
Spokane, WA(Zone 5b)

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Finally use wide tape (1-1/2" or wider) to close/seal off edges. Label box and send...I prefer to use the post office's automated postal machine at crazy hours of the night when I finally get my plants dug up, however midnight hours are not required for this method to work. I just sent two packages today...one for $1.50 and the other for $1.80. They each had a couple of plants in them. I should note that I haven't had any plants shipped to me this way. I've only shipped to others. Luckily, I haven't received any hate-mail (DG'ers are so polite). Most people have said that the plants have arrived in good condition.

This message was edited Jun 25, 2008 1:40 AM

Thumbnail by willmetge
Naples, FL(Zone 10a)

This works too if you use the 'boxes' some of Amazon's books are shipped in. They fold in a similar way.
Great suggestion. We can all use help with the rising cost of shipping.

Madison, WI

I got a plant shipped this way some time ago, maybe from you Will.
It worked very well. I was lazy making the boxes, but with Priority shipping
so costly now I am rethinking :) It's a great method for small trades.

Athens, OH

Great illustrations!

Chesapeake, VA

Thank you for sharing this with us, willmetge!

Middle of, VA(Zone 7a)

Excellent Idea!!! I know I sent cuttings in a folded over piece of poster board then inserted into a bigger bubble envelope and they arrived just fine. Your idea, though, avoids the charge of the bubble envelopes.

Honestly the PO seems confused still, about their own rates. I have to correct them each time when I'm mail a small bubble envelope explaining that it's only an additional .20 on a regular 1st class stamp. Numerous times one of them will attempt to charge me a $1 something for these when it is not needed.

And remember to recycle those bubble envelopes - I've had one used 3x and was perfectly fine.

Judsonia, AR(Zone 7b)

i've received books this way but not plants yet, usually my trades are very large trades LOL

i've seen them tape the two pieces of cardboard together on one end and make it like a book too.

neat idea.

NE, KS(Zone 5b)

Nifty idea, Will! Thanks for sharing.

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

Yes, the trick is to use First Class instead of Priority. I've used pasta boxes and it works fine. I've also received plants in gift boxes box before, but sometime they tends to get squish, although plants were fine.

The other thing I do is if I use a cardboard box, I would cut off some of the flaps on the side of the box, this will reduce the weight on the thicker boxes.

Toadsuck, TX(Zone 7a)

Nice trick......love it. The post office is getting too much for too little service.


Fate, TX(Zone 8a)

and bubble envelopes work very well as well.

Spokane, WA(Zone 5b)

Bubble envelopes seem to allow more damage to the plant (i.e. Aunt Therba's 15 lb. fruit cakes at the top of the mail bin). The rigid cardboard adds some measure of protection from being crushed and some air space so the plant can breathe.

This message was edited Jul 1, 2008 9:44 PM

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

It would depend on the plant. I wouldn't send my rooted plumeria in a bubble envie, but I would send plants from softwood cuttings.

Seneca, MO(Zone 5b)

willmetge - thanks for the easy to follow instructions and illustrations!!! I love it!

Re: bubble envelopes... I would never send anything this way unless it is a plant that is really hard to kill and can withstand a lot of abuse - being bent and/or broken, etc. I have received 3 "bubble envelopes" now and they have all arrived with nearly dead plants/cuttings, or in pieces! Beware the bubble envelope! willmetge's method is a great way to mail safely while keeping costs very low! :)

Northern California, United States(Zone 9a)

I think you should request this thread to be a 'Sticky'!

Fate, TX(Zone 8a)

i cushion plants with layers of newspaper. i have sent clematis and many other perennials this way. we are talking about getting plants sent cheaply and not arriving in pristine condition. i would send a rooted plumeria if it would fit the envelope. it's the roots that need protecting. lol.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Picturing how we have all seen examples of a hollowed out book to hide valuables, a gun, whatever....well, why not trace the pattern of the roots that need protecting and then cut that size "hollow" out of a thick layer of newspaper (just enough to pad that end of the small pkg). It seems like the newspaper form with the plant in it could then be taped (over the newspaper) to a piece of paper or thin cardboard and slipped easily into the envelope / pkg .
this plant shipping thread should deffinately be made into a "sticky"...how is that done?

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

I sent a cutting last week in a small bubble envelope with extra protection around the roots and it shipped fine.

Akron, PA(Zone 6b)

Would cutting a small rectangle out of styofoam for each end of the box help keep the box's shape to protect the plant without adding more to the package's weight?

I love your idea. I agree it should be idea to be added to the "sticky", although I have no idea how this is accomplished...

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Ahh yes, a thin peice of styrofoam would be gr8! even help insulate the seedling from the heat, i would think. bluestone Perenials packs w/ styrofoam peanuts & they're a very good co. ...styrofoam = much lighter than news paper also !!

Northern California, United States(Zone 9a)

The originator of the thread needs to request the sticky from admin. Just do a 'Contact Us' post at the bottom, linking this thread.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Great suggestions!

I think that keeping the thickness under 3/4 inch can make it qualify as a "large envelope" rather than as a "small package"... however, when you use a rigid material such as cardboard, I think it then becomes a "package" regardless of its dimensions (there is a maximum for the combined length+width+height of first class mail, though).

Still, if you keep the rate under 13 oz, it can travel by first class postage (cheaper) rather than priority mail rates.

I'm on the east coast, and if I'm not sending a package further west than the Mississippi River, it generally gets there equally fast by first class or priority mail.

Here's a link to the post office rate charts for first class mail. Note the different rates for envelopes and packages. :-)


North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

Thanks for that great link. It clarify the sizes of the packages.

9 out of 10 times, my first class will arrive in 3 days (same as priority mail). I also use Shipping Assistance, a free software, downloaded from USPS site, so it's easy to track your packages. Everything can be printed onto plain white 8.5 X 11 paper. Cut in half and one-half is the shipping label and the other half is for your record keeping. So all you have to do is make sure your box is wide enough to handle the half of the paper. If you use the online (I think it's called click-n-ship, you can specify for your carrier to pick up at your house - you can even specify the location of your house).

This message was edited Aug 17, 2008 12:10 PM

Zolfo Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

This indeed is a very helpful thread. Thanks for starting it. It is getting so costly to send anything.

Delhi, IA

I used a bakery box to try this. I added a small piece cut from the box to put inside in the middle to give a little stability as shown. However when the plant is inside it will probably do it.

Thumbnail by jamlover
Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Bakery box...Great Idea!
Thanks, jamlover!
so...under 13 oz, less than 3/4" thick, and within regulation size for "envelopes...should get us 1st class postage rates, right?

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

I didn't know they could only be 3/4 inch thick. I send stuff all the time that are thicker than 3/4 inches, but both width and length are shorter than 12 inches and under 13 oz. Actually, I think after 10 oz, the prices are pretty close to priority.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

"under 13 oz, less than 3/4" thick, and within regulation size for envelopes"

is a "large envelope" unless you make it too rigid.

Under 13 oz, any size, is a small package and can be sent by first class.

See my post and link to the USPS rate charts and definitions, a couple of posts up. :-)

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

Pricing for shipping goes up January 18th 2009 and again in march 2009 ... just a heads up ...

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

I believe the packagas pricing change in Jan and the first class mail change is in March. You can read more about it here:

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

thank you LilMerci ... :D

Palm Coast, FL(Zone 9a)

Im afraid to rinse all of the dirt off of my rooted cuttings. I just dont want to take a chance that the plant doesnt make it to its destination alive. is it that much more expensive to ship them in their 3 inch peat pots? Not to mention, some dont have an extensive root system on them yet and the roots are fragile, being a newbie, it makes me nervous to tamper with them just yet.

This message was edited May 25, 2009 6:57 AM

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

They'll weigh more, of course, but you can wrap the pot up to the stem in plastic wrap (I love press 'n seal) or in a baggie, then wrap the whole thing in newspaper. You do have to be more careful packing, because if the heavy rootballs in pots roll around at all, plants will get damaged.

See the other sticky on this forum, and also take a look at an article I wrote on packing plants: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1202/

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

I have shipped roots or a couple of rhizomes in the manila envelopes, plus a little bubble wrap. You an use paper towel or tissure paper rolls around plants too for support. Always write on the outside DO NOT CRUSH.

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

I did get some plants that way and they were fine. A little sad looking but made the trip OK. I don't like shipping plants in the summertime if I can help it but sometime a few holes in the box will help the plant travel better.

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Shipping during this heat is not advisable for any plant if it can be avoided.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9a)

Hi all!

I received a package from mamajack using this shipping method. It was mailed on 6/29 and arrived 7/01. It cost a grand total of $2.07 to send and my plants arrived in excellent condition with no signs of stress or damage. The package contained 3 large Iris and 2 (approx 4") rooted dicliptera suberecta.

I think this is a very cost effective way to send small trades and I will definitely be trying it out. I for one do not mind receiving plants this way.

Just my two cents . . .


P.S. I did take pics of the package and the unwrap process. If anyone is interested I can post them...

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