5 Tips For Growers Shipping Plants Online

5 Things For Growers Shipping Plants Online

2020 was THE year for shipping plants online! Despite having been around for several years, until 2020 the Home & Garden Industry never quite jumped on the eCommerce bandwagon. But, desperate times called for desperate measures.

While there were already a couple of players in the industry, like our client Nature Hills, there were still many growers throughout the U.S. who didn’t see the value in shipping plants by way of the internet. But, as quickly as 2020 began, all of this changed.

In 2020, the demand for online shopping of live plants was at an all-time high.

The pandemic forced both large and small businesses that were selling plants to pivot and consider this new market with little time for second-guessing. As these businesses and growers extended their shipping services to meet the increasing demand from people all over the world, regulators were also getting to work.

While shipping plants online may be a good change for the industry, regulators and industry experts have a long list of reasons why shipping plants throughout the United States can be just as hurtful as it is helpful.

Here are the 5 things growers and online plant nurseries need to know about shipping live plants using the E-Commerce model.

1. Regulations Still Apply

While many growers and nurseries would expect nothing less, unfortunately, there are still some companies out there that may be a little surprised by this. Despite the number of web pages out there (roughly 1.7 Billion of them), Regulatory Officials have wasted no time at all in auditing online websites.

While getting garden plants delivered to your doorstep sounds like it would be harmless enough, there are still a number of online stores that do not disclose the origin locations of their goods. If a plant comes from overseas or from an infected nursery, that order, and consequently that plant put all the other plants in that truck at risk. 

To combat the efforts of negligent sellers, regulators throughout the U.S. have pivoted to auditing online storefronts and notifying businesses if it looks like they’re selling invasive plants or non-compliant goods. 

2. Knowing Where Your Plants Come From

When it comes to shopping plants online knowing where your plant is coming from can be challenging. As a consumer, not all companies are transparent in their supply chain to try and protect their network from the competition, but that doesn’t make it less important.

When buying and selling plants online location is quite literally, EVERYTHING. If a plant is coming from overseas there is quite a bit of risk that the plant can pose to the North American ecosystems and consequently, you run the risk of the plant never being delivered.

But, if the plants are coming from different parts of the country, chances are you’re going to get it. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to get it fast, or that it’s still in compliance. Different regions of the country have different regulations for compliance, because of their vulnerability and risk to their agriculture, businesses, and the environment. 

A prime example of this is the state of California. They have so many different ecoregions within one state that some parts of the state can’t ship to the other. The different environments contribute to different pests, plants, and diseases posing a risk to the other plants in the other regions of the state.

Before investing too much as a grower in your e-Commerce journey, make sure you’re already fully invested in the most up-to-date certifications and regulations for where you’re shipping.  

Every state is different, and while you’re State Regulator may say that everything looks good, the destination state may have different ideas. It’s good practice to reach out to ensure you have everything you need.


3. Applying Restrictions On The Site: Plant Sentry™ API 

Believe it or not, despite everything we do in our business, we still have room for more! 

Besides being a one-of-a-kind database for all of the regulation and compliance needs for the Garden Industry, we also have a modern technical approach to aid in protecting any type of plants. 

Plant Sentry™ has developed a state-of-the-art API that can connect with the shopping cart feature on any e-Commerce website! The value that this tool can bring to your website is immeasurable. The API service uses the destination location of the plant against our database to ensure the customer request can be met, and saving you the hassle of managing restrictions. 

If you’re a grower and would like to learn more about this feature, please reach out to us in our Contact Us section below and we will be happy to tell you more!

4. Shipping Your Wide Selection of Plants

Once you’ve nailed down your compliance and have Plant Sentry™ set up on your site, you’re pretty much ready to rock and roll. 

But, there’s just ONE more thing.


Shipping live plants is a delicate process and should be treated as such. During the pandemic carriers have been overwhelmed with record highs of packages, making traveling through the mail a bit more difficult for live goods.

With that in mind, you want to make sure your packaging will keep your plants healthy and alive throughout their journey. With carriers sometimes taking anywhere from 1 to several extra days to make a delivery, set your business up for success and optimize your plant’s packaging.

This includes making sure all required labels are easily accessible for officials and your packaging indicates fragile or live goods.

5. The PPQ Mail Interception Dashboard

As if we couldn’t give you enough tips to make you successful, the USDA’s APHIS team also has your back!

In efforts to help combat unauthorized shipments of goods into the U.S., the USDA-Plant Protection & Quarantine (PPQ) team uses both specially trained detector dogs and their innovative PPQ Mail Interception Dashboard. Each of these services works to protect the people of the U.S. and prevent unauthorized shipments from making their way illegally through our country.

The dashboard tracks and provides visual data on locations of the stopped packages, and provide unique insights into where the unpermitted shipment came from. The program aims to achieve turning this information gathered into ways that the agency can put a stop to the numerous mail pest pathways throughout the country. 

So there you have it! In 5 easy steps, you too can launch your e-Commerce version of your business. Whether you’re looking to ship to Los Angeles or New York City, be sure to stop by our Contact Us page below to reach out for our help.




Digging Up the “Dirt” On Geraniums

Digging Up the “Dirt” On Geraniums

Everything You Need to Know About the Ralstonia Outbreak

As the month of April came to a close the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the detection of Ralstonia solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 (R3bv2) in a greenhouse in Michigan. The infection was discovered in a species of geraniums identified as the Fantasia ‘Pink Flare’ variety.

It has been roughly sixteen years since this bacteria was last found on U.S. soil and since then has garnered itself the classification of a potential bioterrorism agent against the United State’s agriculture. In 2004, Florida’s tomato crops were threatened by the disease and led to the destruction of over 4 million plants to prevent its spread.

How It Can Impact the U.S.

This specific strain of Ralstonia solanacearum has the potential to impact several important agricultural crops. However, it is potatoes and tomatoes that are at the greatest risk from this disease. Both agricultural crops are common hosts of the disease and can wipe out the entire crop with infection before the symptoms can be identified.

The bacterial wilt made its way to the U.S, this time, through an infected shipment of plants from Guatemala. Since its discovery, the foreign greenhouse responsible for the infection has voluntarily ceased all incoming and planned shipments to the United States. With an additional 288 greenhouses in 39 states who also received cuttings from this grower, APHIS has been working tirelessly to prevent the spread of this infection.

Who & What They’re After

The plant is targeted for eradication is the Fantasia ‘Pink Flare’ geranium. As the USDA moves through greenhouses affected by this disease they will go through and sample, isolate and destroy any of the species. Due to the spread of the infection that can occur between host plants and non-host plants, the USDA will also target other geranium species in the suspected greenhouses for the same methods of control.

How Does This Happen?

While the majority of Ralstonia solanacearum strains infect tropical and subtropical climates, the host of the bacteria ranges into the hundreds and can be located in agricultural goods around the world. It is in colder tropical climates that R3bv2 develops. The development of this disease is majorly identified in the highland, cooler tropical, parts of Africa, South America, and Asia. 
In an AmericanHort webinar, hosted for awareness of the disease, Professor Caitilyn Allen of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison identified that the infectious tract for this disease is through the water-transporting xylem vessels. In a series of images she showed how, on a microscopic level, the bacteria infiltrates tomato stems and quickly takes over the healthy cells of the plant.

What To Look For

The most common symptom of this bacterial infection is stunting in plant growth. However, this disease can also be expressed by yellowing and wilting of the leaves, and eventually death of the plant. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension states in their reporting of the bacteria that, “Symptom expression is favored by high temperatures (85°F-95°F). Symptoms of this disease may progress rapidly after infection, but plants may remain without symptoms for extended periods.”

The lack of symptoms that are in hosts makes the danger of this disease all the more pressing to the U.S. Agriculture. With the disease leading to a potato farmer’s nightmare, brown rot, it is truly a team effort of the industry to keep this disease from spreading.

It is additionally important to note that while there are symptoms that can help in identifying the disease, there are also a number of ornamental plants and Nightshade family weeds that can host the disease without symptoms.

Symptoms of Ralstonia solanacearum:

Here are a few ways to identify if your plants may possibly be infected:

  • Upward rolling of the leaves, that eventually leads to their collapse
  • When squeezing the stem of a suspected infected plant, a milky white ooze comes out
  • Placing a suspected infected plant stem in a glass of water and after 15 minutes milky streaking of bacteria is coming out from the stem

How to Move Forward

While there are testing options available, they aren’t 100% accurate in many cases and can be quite expensive to carry out. Instead, the USDA is recommending that if you believe your plants to be infected by the disease, or that you have received a plant of the known infected variety to reach out to the contact facility or report the infection through the USDA State Plant Health Directors page. They will schedule a date to come out to the facility and inspect the plants, as well as obtain some first-hand information. Following their scheduling, they will issue their “Emergency Action Notification” document with a more detailed version of the following procedures.

It is asked that you hold all plants of the Fantastia ‘Pink Flare’ variety, as well as any other geraniums or known host plants of the disease. This qualifies towards any host plants that may have been shipped between 10/2019 until 04/2020. The USDA also asks that you hold any plant material that may have been exposed or come in contact with the suspected infectious plants or any materials exposed to it.

The suspected material will then be tested. If test results are negative, then the items are free to be moved again. However if the material is found to be contaminated, then the items will be destroyed and the area disinfected through means that have been outlined to be acceptable by the EAN procedures of the USDA.

The Ending Our Industry Deserves

While growers and inspectors seek out infestation to destroy this disease once again from U.S. soil, it is noteworthy to mention that 55 Canadian greenhouses have also been infected from this incident.

As we look to the future from this occurrence, many are wondering how they can protect their crops from something like this happening again? Our answer is simple, Plant Sentry™.

When infections like Ralstonia solanacearum are discovered, Plant Sentry™ works to immediately notify our clients of the potential risks their plants face. This communication is essential in helping to slow the spread of the disease from the grower to the vendor. 

Early notification provided by Plant Sentry™ can reduce the potential exposure of the disease and may prevent the elimination of plants due to quarantine and destruction procedures by officials. We understand that every dollar spent should equal a dollar saved. At Plant Sentry™ we apply that mindset to protect your bottom line when a disease shows up to your nursery door. It is our responsibility as an industry to protect one another from the potential danger that a disease like this can cause. With Plant Sentry™ on your side, protection gets a whole lot easier!

To learn more about our efforts be sure to view our other blogs!