Succulent Plant Business e-Course

Packing and Shipping - how to get the plants to the customer safely

Succulent Plant Business Training Manual

So now you have lots of gorgeous plants to sell, and it's time to get them to the customer. 

This is a process that is a delicate balance - the plants have to be prepared to be packed and shipped to cause the least amount of damage in shipment.

How on earth do you do this?  By drying them out carefully so they go into a semi dormant state, of course!  Others have asked this question, and I've answered it here.

Materials and Supplies

Boxes; I use liquor store boxes; these are heavy enough to stand up under shipping conditions. 

You can also use grocery store boxes, but choose the ones that are used for shipping cans or bottles of grocery products. 

These are much sturdier than those specifically for light items such as paper towels or dry goods.

Keep the dividers that are used to hold bottles - for larger sized rosettes for wedding flowers, put each of them into a paper coffee cup, and stack them three high in each slot. 

This gives the best protection for these fragile types of shipments.

Purchase boxes from Little Box Company or somewhere similar; the best sizes are 40, 55 and 70.  The 40 size is perfect for a Sempervivum Collection, or Jovibarba Collection. 

Boxes can be cut down to smaller sizes using a sharp razor blade and straight edge.

Spacers; especially good for the Sempervivum plugs for wedding favors; these are just a length of twig big enough (size of your thumb) to protect the rosettes, or a small piece of cardboard creased to make a peaked roof. 

Carefully set it on top of the plants, then use a thick layer of several sheets of newspaper, with the next flat on top of that.

Razor blades, sharp knife, scissors (for cutting the plastic flats, use a pair of kitchen scissors like those used for cutting up a chicken).

Tape gun; be aware that not all of these are created equal. 

Look for one with a serrated blade to cut the tape, and sturdy construction.  Pay a little more from a professional packing store, rather than the dollar store.

Packing tape; this is like the tape you get to do packing of presents, but a lot wider; again, it's not all created equal.  The tape you can purchase directly from Canada Post has a lot more 'stick' to it.

Paper; newspaper to make dividers between layers or to buffer the top layer between the plants and the box. 

Make sure that everything is firmly packed, so it doesn't move.  This is what causes the most damage to plants in transit.

Sempervivum Plugs

Ship these really dry; it's amazing how well they ship, if they're properly prepared.  This is good for three reasons;

1) the dryer the plants, the cheaper they are to ship, and, the box won't get soggy.

2) the dryer the plants, the less chance that they will continue to grow in transit; this is especially important for wedding favors.

3) the plants will go into a semi-dormant state, and lose some of their stiffness, becoming a bit more limp and rubbery.  This prevents them from snapping off, and they are more able to withstand the shipping process.

The plugs can be shipped in their plug trays, cut to fit the box, or taken out of the tray.  Lay them on their sides in layers, with newspaper in between.

Sempervivum Plugs for Wedding Favors

These are critically important to ship carefully; what bride wants to open the box of favors a day before the big day, only to find an irreplaceable mess?  Take the time it takes to ship them with great care.

So, as above, drying them out to exactly the right stage is important.  In sunny warm weather, they dry out much more quickly than in damp rainy weather, so gear your watering of these plants to the weather. 

In the tiny cells, they are so quick to dry out too much. 

However, it's better to have them too dry, than too wet. 

You can use a sprayer and give them a little spritz the day before shipping if they are really dry.  This is a judgement call.

For packing them, start with a liquor store box, laid on its side;

Place the first half a flat inside the box, then put two spacers, evenly spaced in between the plants. 

Don't crush them when doing this.  Put a thick layer of newspaper on top of these, then carefully slide another half a flat in on top. 

It helps to set the front of the box on something to use gravity to assist you.  Allow the second layer to settle a bit, jostle it very carefully.  Two more spacers, then a thick layer of newspaper (this means several sheets). 

Gently stuff any spaces with crumpled newspaper, using your hand as a guard so the plants don't get crushed. 

Stand the box up. 

Check for movement, and if all is packed tightly, close it up.  The plants will ship on their sides, but this prevents them from packing down too tightly on top of each other.

Packing Sempervivum plugs for shipment;

Packing succulents for shipping

The flats are cut in half, and stacked carefully into a liquor store box on it's side. 

Newspaper is between the two layers, and a piece of cardboard creased to form a bit of a divider.

Carefully cut the flats of cells

The third layer won't fit without completely crushing the plants, so the cells are cut into strips (kitchen shears will do this, with care).

Strips of cells are wrapped in newspaper

Two strips are laid together on a a sheet of newspaper, which is then folded around them and taped.

The packaged cells are carefully slid into place in the box...

Slide the packaged cells on top; two will fit on top, and sometimes, depending on the size of the box, another one will slide in beside. 

Otherwise, crush up a couple of sheets of newspaper to cushion the flats and prevent too much movement.

Taped up and secure in the box...

More newspaper all around, then tape the boxes up. 

Two liquor store boxes the same size will hold one and a half flats each.

Packing Large Succulents

Liquor store boxes are good for more than wine bottles...

These can be shipped extremely dry; they can shrivel to nearly nothing, and are shipped best bare root, with most of the soil removed. 

Generally, they are sold in larger quantities, and can be from all the excess unnamed stock that gets mislabeled or over produced. 

No-name varieties are fine. 

Pack in a paper bag, or in layers with newspaper between (dry), or stack them in a liquor store box with the cardboard bottle holders in them.

Packing Larger Plants in Pots Individually

Plants are often grown in plastic pots, and these are a bit challenging to pack for shipping.  Here are some images to illustrate how they can successfully navigate the pitfalls of shipping.

Packing Succulent Plants in Pots
Roll Cardboard Tubes to hold the plant in place
The mulch is kept in place with shaved wood or excelsior
The plant emerges with little to no damage

Sedum unrooted cuttings

Dry overnight, and ship in a paper bag. Many will start to grow roots even in transit!

Sempervivum plugs for general garden use

These can be stacked on top of each other, without any consideration at all.  A layer of newspaper to stop from pulling them out is all that is required.

Jovibarba species

Ship these bare root, either as a plug or potted, or field grown.  Keep in mind that they will generally lose many of their chicks, which are very loosely attached.  They should be very dry, and packed in paper bags.

Jovibarba heuffelii

Same as above.  Keep in mind that these are very fleshy, especially the roots, so they will need more drying to prevent them from rotting in transit.

So what do you put on a shipping label?  Here is an example of my address label.

Got some ideas on how to ship your wares but need some feedback to see if it will work?  Ask me!

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