Cacti and succulents can safely be sent through the mail but if you are mailing plants from one country to another, you should contact the Plant Protection Division of the Department of Agriculture for their country to find out what the guidelines are about what plants you are allowed to mail and where you can mail them. The purpose of this article is only to tell you how to mail them.
People who have been growers of non succulent plants may not be aware that succulent plants including cacti can be successfully mailed from one person to another and an entire collection can be packed and moved along with household belongings if you are moving your home from one place to another.
The unique thing about cacti and succulents is their ability to survive without any moisture for reasonable periods of time. They are therefore ideally suited to mailing or transporting either with their roots or without their roots.
Here’s how to proceed.
1. Shake all soil off the roots of the plants being careful to break as few roots as possible. Don’t worry if a few roots are broken. That won’t kill the plants. It is much easier to remove the soil if it is dried out. Don’t try to remove the soil after you water the plants!
2. Any plants that are in full growth and seem rather too juicy or turgid are safer allowed to dry out for a few days without water which will harden the growth and then they will be less likely to bruise or rot.
3. You can trim back excessive roots if you like, again with no damage to the plant.
4. Make sure the plant and roots are very dry. Succulents travel more safely if the roots are dry. And most important, there will be less weight to pay postage on! And these days heaven knows anything saved on postage is a bonus.
5. Prepare a label for each plant with the name of the plant on it.
6. Wrap each plant in soft paper – with the label with the name of the plant on it. If it is a delicate plant use soft kitchen towelling. If a stronger plant you can use newspaper. If lots of spines, use two or three layers of newspaper. I like to put a note on such plants to be careful when opening so people don’t stab themselves when opening the parcel.
7. A little different procedure is needed for a few plants such as Epiphytes, Orchid Cacti or Christmas Cactus. If they have roots, they do not do as well if left dry for too long. Use a small plastic bag containing a pinch of damp peat moss and wrap it around the roots only and secure with a rubber band. Actually it is better to send dry cuttings of these than to send cuttings with roots. If there are no roots you don’t need to worry about moisture-just wrap them dry.
8. An important safeguard for succulents sent through the mail is a strong, light weight box. The best type of box is one made of corrugated cardboard. Try your hardware store, garage, drugstore or the grocery store where you will often find these and they are usually free. If the box is too big, it is not difficult to make a smaller box out of a larger corrugated one. Just crease the folds with the back of a knife or ruler, cutting off excess where necessary.
DO NOT use cereal boxes, shoe boxes and the like and expect your package and plants to arrive uncrushed!! Remember your parcel can go hurtling along conveyor belts and down long chutes landing in huge piles with heavier packages on top of yours. Parcels have to withstand much battering as it goes through the post office. If you don’t wrap it right, it will fall apart. You could, however, use those flimsy types of boxes inside the box you are mailing to contain and separate some plants from others if you are packing quite a few. I find them handy for plants with really vicious spines which insist on piercing all sorts of paper but which are quite protected in a box within the box.
9. Pack sufficient extra paper (shredded paper or crumpled newspaper is good) around the individually wrapped plants in your box so they won’t shake around. Fill in also any empty spaces when all plants are put in the box. It is very important that the plants or cuttings do not move around in the box or they will damage each other.
10. Seal the box tightly with proper tape made for wrapping parcels. Ordinary scotch tape won’t hold! Do not use string or twine or cord. They are not allowed by the post office (at least in Canada). There is no need to wrap the box again in paper. If the box has been in the mail before and there are addresses or other notations on it, strike these out boldly with a marking pen.
11. Prepare three labels. Two for the outside of the box – top and bottom and one to go inside, just in case anything happens to badly damage the outside of the box. Either print out a label on your printer or print by hand – your address in the upper left hand corner. The address of the person you are sending it to in the middle further down. And make sure postal codes are shown for both addresses.
12. Write on all three labels in large letters at the bottom P E R I S H A B L E.
13. One final tip. If you send your plant parcels by regular parcel post which is the cheapest parcel rate available .. and spend and extra 50 cents or a dollar to insure the parcel with the post office, you will find that it goes through the post office very fast. They do not want insured mail to get lost so priority is given to getting it there. There is no point paying for what is now very expensive first class mail if you do it the insurance way and save many dollars in the process. And please note parcels sent by parcel services will often take much longer to arrive than those sent through the post office, especially if they are going outside your country.
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