Can You Take Plants on a Plane? Seeds, Cuttings & Succulents

It can be quite tempting to bring back a plant, some seeds or a cutting from a plant you fall in love with while away on vacation to grow in your own garden. But can you take plants on a plane?

TSA rules allow passengers to bring plants on a plane in either carry on bags or checked bags. Some airlines may not allow them and those that do insist that if the plant is carried separately as a personal item, and not in your carry on bag, then it either fits in an overhead bin or underneath the seat in front. Customs rules may prohibit plants on international flights.

We have thoroughly researched this to ensure we answer every question that may pop into your mind related to carrying plants on a plane.

Can you take plants on a plane

Can you take plants through airport security?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) makes it possible for most plants to pass through the security checkpoint. They will need to be screened, either separately if you are carrying them, or in your carry on bag if small enough for that.

It should go without saying that you can only bring plants that are legal, so obviously you cannot take a cannabis plant for example.

The following is a query to the excellent #AskTSA service on Twitter from a passenger regarding carrying a plant on a plane and through airport security:

Can You Take Plants on a Plane

Can you take plants in your carry on?

You can take plants in your carry on luggage almost without restriction as far as airline rules are concerned.

If the plants are too large/fragile to go in your carry on bag, so must be carried separately as a personal item, then you need to check out the guidelines with the airline you are flying with to see if they have any specific requirements regarding traveling with plants or taking personal items as well as one carry on bag. 

Here are a few general restrictions that you should keep in mind:

  1. The plants should be packed to make sure that there is no spilling of water or soil while in transit. Packing it up in a sealed plastic bag.is probably the best way of ensuring this.
  2. The plants should fit easily into the overhead compartment or beneath your seat to avoid any hindrances for fellow travelers.

Can you take plants in your checked bags?

Plants can be packed in your checked luggage, but you should consider the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules (see below) if you are not traveling domestically within mainland US.

Clearly if you do pack such things as potted plants in your checked baggage then there is a very good chance that they will be damaged as checked luggage can get very roughly treated on its journey from check-in to aircraft and then aircraft to luggage carrousel. I would not recommend that.

However, checked bags would be suitable for other types of plant parts such as seeds or cuttings.

Packing plants in carry on luggage or checked luggage

Bringing live plants safely in your hand luggage or checked bag requires some extra effort to make sure they arrive in good condition. To pack plants consider the following suggestions.

  1. If possible, prune the plant to make packing easier
  2. If bringing potted plants make sure they are in something which keeps all the plant matter contained within it
  3. If taking bare-rooted plants then wrap the roots in moist paper and place them in a plastic bag
  4. If taking cuttings then make sure they are placed in a sealed plastic bag as soon as the cuttings are taken to prevent the cutting from drying out too quickly and pack them carefully, perhaps in a shoe if they are small

Can you take plants on a domestic flight

There are no restrictions on taking plants on domestic flights between different states in mainland US.

Since you will not pass through a customs checkpoint when traveling domestically within the mainland no checks will be made on any plants you may have with you.

There are various Customs and agricultural policy restrictions relating to plants being carried into mainland US and also internationally.

Bringing plants into mainland US

There are various restrictions imposed by the US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on what plants, or types of plant material, you can bring into the mainland US.

These rules are predominately to ensure that foreign pests and diseases are not brought in that may harm US agriculture or the environment.

Travelers entering the United States must declare all agricultural products on their U.S. Customs forms. U.S. agricultural inspectors will examine your items to be sure they meet entry requirements and do not harbor harmful foreign pests or diseases.  U.S. inspectors have the authority to make a final determination about whether your products can enter the country.  We recommend that you keep receipts and original packaging of agricultural products as proof of their country of origin.

As long as you declare all the agricultural products you are bringing with you, you will not face any penalties – even if an inspector determines that they cannot enter the country.

USDA: International Traveler: Plants, Plant Parts, Cut Flowers, and Seeds

Restrictions do depend on where you have traveled from. For example, there are a set of rules for traveling from Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, another set for Hawaii and then yet more for different foreign countries.

This is a query to #AskTSA on Twitter regarding carrying a lei from Hawaii:

Bringing plants into mainland US

Taking plants overseas from the US

Just as the US does, many other countries also have restrictions on what plants or plant parts you can take into their country with you. You will need to check online or with an embassy for specific rules.

General rules relating to flying overseas with plants

You should check the rules for the country you are traveling from or to but there are a few general rules which are:

  • 12 or less plants are generally allowed that also meet the other rules
  • All plants and plant material will need to be declared and inspected on arrival
  • Dried plant seeds can normally be carried but tree and shrub seeds are not normally allowed from overseas
  • Bare rooted plants can normally be carried (as soil is normally restricted)
  • Cuttings are normally allowed (but they must have no pests on them)

Conclusion

Bringing plants on a domestic flight is not a problem as far as airport security is concerned and you comply with the regulations of the airlines that you will be traveling with. Make sure that you pack plants carefully to prevent damage.

If you transport plants separately as carry on items and not in your carry on luggage, then the entire plant should be able to fit into the overhead compartment or beneath the seat in front and it may be that plants count as your personal item. You may find that some airlines have their own rules on bringing plants on a plane.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I take succulents on a plane?

You can take succulents on a plane either in your carry on or checked luggage but if traveling internationally you must check the Customs rules. In fact succulents will probably survive the journey better than any other plant type.

Can I carry a potted plant on a plane?

The TSA allows you to take potted house plants on a plane. You only need to follow the rules and regulations of the airlines that you will be traveling with and check if they are allowed if flying on international flights.

Can I water my plants on a plane?

Although there are no specific rules to prevent watering a plant on a plane during a flight, in practice it is could be a problem as you may spill water everywhere. Just make sure they are watered before packing them and they should be fine.

Can you take seeds on a plane?

You can take seeds on a plane if traveling within mainland US but if traveling from outside then you need to declare them.

Can you take fresh flowers on a plane?

You can take flowers on a plane, certainly when flying domestically, but packing fresh cut flowers so they don’t get damaged might be difficult.

Can you take a cactus on a plane?

You are permitted to take a cactus in your hand luggage or checked bags. When bringing plants with spikes such as cactii, roses etc you must ensure that they cannot injure a TSA agent when they undergo security screening at the security checkpoint or other passengers when onboard.