Bringing Home a Little Bit of Your Vacation


Are you thinking of bringing a bit of your vacation home with you? Assuming that you can provide the right conditions for your vacation plant, they can be a wonderful “keepsake.” However, there are a few things you should consider…

In the past, well meaning but ill-advised travelers have brought back plants infected with foreign pests which have gone on to inculcate themselves in areas that were unprepared for such pests. For example, travelers are thought to have brought the green lacewing to California’s (fantastic!) wine growing regions. It  costs a ton (well, actually, $120 billion!) to fight invasive species each year, so you definitely want to be careful to bring your plant back according to the rules.

On a typical day, U.S. Customs will seize 4,300 prohibited animals and plants at airports, ports and border crossings. If you follow these tips, you’ll have an easier time getting through customs and won’t have to worry about bringing invasive pests to your area:

  • You must declare all plants and plant parts (stem cuttings, seeds, fruits that contain seeds) on your customs form.
  • If you are planning on propagating any plant part once you get home, you must fill out a form called the phytosanitary certificate in advance.
  • Many plants from Mexico and Canada can be easily transported across the border, however there are some that require a special permit. If you have your heart set on bringing home a certain plant, check ahead of time to see what the rules are regarding that particular plant.
  • Under no circumstances can you bring soil into the U.S. from a foreign country unless you have a special permit (which you would need to get before you left, and isn’t worth it for the casual plant collector). That means that you can only transport seeds, cuttings and bare root plants.
  • Check to see if nurseries in your vacation destination have a website that ships internationally, as it may be easier, and your plants may arrive in better condition, if you go that route.

Even if you are not traveling outside of the U.S., you still might have problems. You cannot, for example, bring certain plants back to the mainland from HawaiiPuerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also, some states are very strict (California and Hawaii come to mind, and I’m sure there are others) about bringing plants into the state, even if the plant you are transporting is from somewhere else in the U.S.

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