Can You Bring Plants on a Plane?

It may be that you’ve fallen in love with a plant at your destination and want to bring it back with you, or that you’re relocating and just can’t say goodbye to your cherished house plants. The question of whether you can bring plants on a plane might seem like one that would raise eyebrows or cause confusion, so it is important to take into consideration the different rules and regulations that need to be adhered to.

Similar to bringing things like fruit, some countries are very relaxed about bringing plants on a plane, especially if traveling domestically, whereas others have restrictions on certain plants, which may need certain certificates to bring if they could potentially cause soil related diseases if planted in alien soil.

When it comes to taking plants on a plane, you also need to consider the rules of the country to which you’re bringing the plant into as well, and if this needs to be declared at customs.

Below, we’ve outlined what you need to consider and what the different rules are from country to country so that you, hopefully, don’t have to give up on your precious cargo!

can you take plants on a plane

Why Wouldn’t You Be Allowed to Take Plants in Carry-On Luggage?

There are various reasons why you wouldn’t be able to bring plants in your carry-on luggage and this really varies from location to location and country to country. Whilst some are more relaxed about taking plants in and out of the country, others are much more cautious. Here are the main reasons why.

Pests and diseases. Bringing plants to non-native countries can be a real problem. Whilst your pot plant may seem harmless enough, that doesn’t just answer the question. If someone brings a plant from another area and decides to plant it into the ground, it can actually introduce non-native pests and can create a pathway for diseases which can have a significant effect on biodiversity.

It can be illegal. There are some plants where it is actually illegal to transport them out of their country of origin and into another. Because of this, and because it would require specialist knowledge at the airport, it can make it trickier, and most countries will air on the side of caution.

It can be messy. If you were to take a plant on a plane with you, you would either need to have it in another bag, which means you’d need to pay extra for carry on, or carry it in your luggage. This could become messy and could actually be disruptive for the plant and cause damage to both the plant and your belongings.

So, Can I Bring Plane on a Plane as Carry-On Luggage?

The answer, as you might expect isn’t a simple yes or no and it really depends on each country. Some countries and areas are stricter and more cautious than others, whereas others are a little more relaxed. Though, as a general rule, and especially if the plant you’re hoping to travel with was expensive, you should air on the side of caution. 

USA – What Does the TSA Say About Plants?

The USA and TSA website very clearly states that you can take a plant on a plane with you, in both your carry-on baggage and also your checked baggage. The only information and advice they give is to say that the final decision does rely on a security officer at the airport. Therefore, even though it is technically ok, a security officer could decide that they aren’t ok with it, and they may confiscate it from your possession.

They also advise to check with your airline to make sure that it will fit in the overhead bin or underneath your seat, as you would not be able to keep the plant out for your flight and it must be stowed away.

https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/plants

The UK – What Are the UK Government’s Regulations Concerning Plants in Hand Luggage?

The UK’s rules aren’t so straight forward, and the gov.uk website says there are different rules depending on where you are bringing a plant into the UK from. If you’re bringing plants that are to be planted into the ground, trees, cut branches and certain tubers, you may need a phytosanitary certificate. This suggests that if you’re traveling with a pot plant, that you are not subject to any specific regulations, and it should therefore be ok. These rules aren’t explicitly suggested to apply to outbound and inbound flights, but it seems to suggest that they are.

Europe – What Are the EU’s Guidelines Regarding Plants?

Generally, you can travel through the EU and to other EU countries with plants in your carry-on baggage if they were grown in the EU and are healthy, free of pests and are for your own personal use.

If you are traveling out of the EU or are bringing in plants to the EU from countries outside of the EU, then there are much stricter instructions. This is to prevent diseases and non-native pests from infiltrating. However, this generally refers to plants that are to be planted into the ground, so if you plan to travel with a potted plant, you should be ok to take this in your carry-on baggage.

It is also important to note that plants are not included in the EU’s list of banned or dangerous goods.

https://www.easa.europa.eu/en/domains/passengers/dangerous-goods

Australia – Does the ABF Have Laws About Plants?

Whilst Australia doesn’t specifically state plants as an item on their list that you cannot take on a plane, there is further information on bringing plants in and out of Australia on the ABF website. They say that taking live plants in and out of Australia is not allowed, so therefore, this suggests that you should not intend to travel with a plant, either in your carry on or hold luggage. This appears to be the same for inbound and outbound travel.

https://www.abf.gov.au/entering-and-leaving-australia/can-you-bring-it-in/list-of-items?srckeyword=plants

New Zealand – What Are the CAA of New Zealand’s Rules About Plants?

Whilst the CAA of New Zealand don’t specify plants as such in their ‘What Can You Bring’ section of their website, it is also clear from the New Zealand Customs Service website that bringing plants in and out of New Zealand will need to be declared and therefore there is the potential that if it is decided that it could cause a threat to the local environment, it could be confiscated.

Traveling internally within New Zealand with a plant should be ok, but as the rules mean you’ll need to declare your plant, we’d advise it best to avoid traveling with a plant in New Zealand if at all possible.

Canada – What Does the CBSA Say About Plants?

As with many other places, the CBSA in Canada has different rules for traveling with plants depending on if you are traveling domestically within Canada or outside of Canada.

If traveling domestically within Canada, you are fine to take a plant (or flowers for that fact) on a plane. You are also fine to travel with a plant in your carry-on or checked baggage.

However, if traveling internationally, or entering Canada from outside, things become trickier. Generally, you will need to check and verify the exact item you are looking to bring before traveling, to see what special requirements are needed. You can use the Canadian Food Inspection Agencies Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) to check this. This is due to potential diseases and threats to eco systems which can be caused by bringing in non-native plants.

The Rest of the World

If you’re traveling outside of the areas covered above, you will need to check directly with your country of travel from and to – and remember to check both your inbound and outbound points as traveling with plants can need checking with authorities on arrival too.

You should also check with your airline as they should be able to advise you on the best thing to do if trying to take a plant with you on a plane.

What’s the Best Advice for Travelling on a Plane with Plants?

If you are planning to travel with a plant on a plane, whether it is in your carry-on or your hold luggage, it is really important to make sure you are doing so correctly to avoid any disappointment before (or after) your flight.

Unlike many items, plants are something that you need to consider not just for your outbound flight, and going through security in your departure country, but also upon arrivals too. Many countries list plants as something of concern, and something that you may well need to declare once you arrive. This is because plants that are non-native to the area can introduce diseases, new insects and pests that were not present before which can create a threat to biodiversity and ecology.

Therefore, it is really important that you check not just the rules for the country that you’re leaving from but also the country you’re entering too. These rules can often be different depending on whether you’re traveling with a potted plant, or something that is intended for the ground. In some countries you may even need a special certificate or similar to travel with a plant.

This is the best way to avoid any potential upset, but it is also important to remember that if you are flagged by security and you need to give up your plant, that it may be a costly experience you want to avoid.

What Happens If Your Plant Is Flagged by Airport Security?

It is really important to remember that if you are flagged by security for traveling with a plant in your carry-on, you need to stay calm. As frustrating and annoying as it can be, especially if you feel like you’ve followed the rules, the security officer is just doing their job, and they are just being cautious to protect you and other passengers.

If the plant you’re traveling with is flagged in your carry-on baggage, you will usually have your tray or bags taken aside for a manual search. This is because the person working on the machine will have flagged something as being unidentified or not looking right. If you are asked to explain what your plant is, it is worth trying to oblige and be as helpful and friendly as possible.

If you are friendly with the officer, you are more likely to make it out of security with your plant by your side – so keep things nice and light. If you are running late for your flight, try to make them aware of this in as friendly a way as possible.

If the security officer ultimately decides that traveling with your plant as carry-on poses a problem, and your plant is confiscated, there is very little you can do about this. Their decision is final. It is unlikely that a plant will be held for you for later collection by your airline, so it really is important to consider if traveling with a plant is worth it, especially if it was a costly purchase.

How to Pack Plants in Your Luggage

Considering plants can be easily damaged when knocked and need to be well protected, there are certain things you will need to consider if you want to take a plant on a plane with you, either as carry-on or in the hold. You will also want to consider how you can carry your plant to avoid any damage to the other items in your luggage – due to potentially wet or damp soil spillages.

Packing Plants in Carry-On Luggage

One of the best ways to take a plant with you in your carry-on luggage is to have the plant be a separate item to your main bag. However, depending on your luggage allowance, this may mean you need to pay for an extra bag. Depending on your airline’s policy, and depending on the size of your plant, you may be able to count your plant as your one small personal bag alongside your slightly larger flight case or backpack.

However, if you do decide to go for this approach, you’ll need to ensure that the plant is well packaged for the flight. If it is going to sit in the overhead bin for a while, it will need to be able to withstand any potential movement, and not pose a problem to other passenger’s belongings. If there is any chance that soil or other items from the plant may damage another passenger’s items, the airline crew may tell you that you cannot fly with your plant.

You could also look to travel with your plant actually inside your carry on – but this will need more protection. If possible, use a plastic box with padding to make sure the plant doesn’t move in your case and ideally, you want to make sure that the plant can be stood up at all times. With this approach, you will also need to make sure that your plant doesn’t damage any of the other items in your suitcase and that the soil is as dry as possible before the flight.

Packing Plants in Hold Luggage

Packing a plant in your hold luggage is fairly similar to packing a plant into your carry-on baggage, except it is really important to make sure that it is well secured and looked after for the duration of travel.

Try to wrap your plant as well as possible – you can use a plastic container for this to ‘encase’ the plant and try to put packing materials around it to keep it from moving about inside the plastic container. This is to avoid any damage to the plant and also your personal items too as arriving at your destination with everything covered in soil won’t be a great start or end to your trip!

You should also try to make sure that your plant is as dry as possible before traveling to avoid leaking and again damaging your personal items. Generally, it may be better, though, to travel with a plant in your carry on if you’re going to, as you can keep a better eye on it throughout.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking to see if you can take a plant on a plane with you either in carry-on or in the hold, the rules vary from country to country. Generally, you can see that the rules are a little more relaxed if you are traveling domestically, but understandably, the rules do change depending on what you are entering or exiting the country with if you are traveling internationally.

Unlike other everyday items such as sunscreen, perfume and even electric toothbrushes where you can just think about your outbound journey and the best place to pack, you need to remember for plants to check both your outbound and inbound destinations for both departures and arrivals to see what the rules are. You may have to declare your plant at customs once you arrive, and be checked there, too. This is different to many things you travel with and is to protect the ecology of the area you’re visiting from non-native bugs, pests and other such potentially harmful problems.

If in doubt, it may be best, as sad as it may be, to try and avoid traveling with a plant – especially if the plant you’re looking to travel with was costly.