How To Bring Succulents on a Plane: The Complete Guide

Woman carrying Succulents on a plane

If you have a plant that’s too good to leave behind, you’ll sometimes have to take it along on your plane rides. Thankfully, the TSA allows passengers to travel with plants (including succulents), but you must pack them correctly. Otherwise, you’ll risk creating a mess in your case!

To bring succulents on a plane, make sure they’re the correct size. They must fit in your case or under the seat if you’re bringing them as carry-on luggage. You should also check the airline regulations, prune the plant before the flight, avoid watering it before you fly, and pack it securely.

Following the right procedure is essential to bringing a succulent on a plane. Therefore, if you’re thinking about traveling with your favorite plant any time soon, make sure to keep reading until the end.

1. Make Sure the Succulent Is the Right Size

Firstly, you must ensure the succulents are the correct size. If putting them in your check-in bag, make sure that they fit safely with all your other items. When bringing it with you on the plane as a carry-on, make sure it fits in your bag or that you can put it securely under your seat.

If the plant is bigger than what’s generally allowed on a flight, you won’t be allowed to bring it on board. You might also need to pay a fee to have it transported for you. Alternatively, the airline staff could make you dispose of it (if you bring it to the gate and try to board the plane with it).

Remember that airlines have different baggage sizes and weight limitations, so if you’re unsure, check with the airline before your flight. For example, if flying with American Airlines, your carry-on bag shouldn’t exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches / 56 x 36 x 23 centimeters. If the succulent is bigger than this, you may need to check it in on an American Airlines flight.

Regarding check-in baggage, you also need to consider the weight. The maximum weight for a standard check-in bag with American Airlines is 50 lbs (23 kg), so make sure your plant isn’t too heavy.

Some airlines allow you to check in overweight and oversized bags, but it comes at an extra cost. In most cases, succulents are small and not too heavy, so this shouldn’t be an issue (unless you’re bringing multiple plants on the flight).

2. Check Airline/Destination Rules and Regulations

It’s also a good idea to check that the airline allows plants on board. You shouldn’t run into any issues if flying domestically within the US. However, it can get tricky if it’s an international flight because the rules will depend on the final destination. 

For example, you won’t need a permit to import most plants from the US to Canada, but you will if flying from outside the continental US (for example, Hawaii or a different country). 

Many countries other than Canada may require a permit if bringing succulents from the US, so check the regulations in the country you’re traveling to. It’s best to do this as soon as possible, as it can take a long time to get a permit.

Moreover, some airlines may allow you to count the plant as a personal item rather than your primary carry-on. This means you could bring the plant and a carry-on bag with you instead of having to put the plant in your bag. 

However, others might not allow this. So again, you must check the airline website or contact them to get the information you’ll need. 

3. Prune the Succulent

Once you know the airline’s regulations regarding bringing succulents on planes, you can start preparing the plant for the journey! Although it’s not entirely necessary, it’s good to prune the plant before bringing it on a plane, as it will reduce its size and make it easier to pack.

When pruning, remove the oldest-looking branches, but avoid removing too much. Over-pruning a succulent and other plants can cause extensive damage, so only cut off what’s necessary. 

Furthermore, remove any branches that look too long because these will make it more challenging to fit into a case, bag, or box. Use scissors or shears rather than your hands to ensure you get a clean cut. If you’re in a hotel and don’t have access to these tools, try to find a sharp knife. 

4. Avoid Watering the Plant Right Before the Flight

You don’t want to water your succulent too close to the day of the flight because it will be too damp and can cause damage to your suitcase. It could even leak out onto the plane if it’s particularly wet, so avoid watering for a few days before the journey.

Ideally, you should carry out the last watering a week or two before the flight to ensure the soil has time to soak most of the moisture up. Most succulents only need to be watered once every week or two, so your plant shouldn’t become dehydrated if you avoid watering it for a while.

However, it’s also crucial that it’s not too dry. Allowing the plant and soil to become overly dry can lead to dehydration, which can be detrimental if not treated promptly. As long as the soil doesn’t feel completely dry, there shouldn’t be any issues. 

Moreover, the air in planes is dry, so your plant can dry out quicker on an aircraft. Therefore, while you don’t want your succulent to be too wet, you certainly don’t want it to dry out entirely from the low humidity levels on the plane! Thankfully, many succulents are hardy plants, so it’s unlikely that yours will become damaged from dehydration over the course of one flight. 

5. Pack the Succulent Securely

Once the day of the flight is approaching, you can pack your succulent securely. The exact way you pack it will depend on whether or not you’re keeping it in a pot. If putting it in a check-in bag, ensure it’s extra secure because your suitcase could be thrown around. The last thing you want is to open your case and see that your succulent has been destroyed!

Below, I’ll discuss how to pack your succulent securely when using a pot and no pot.

Packing a Succulent in Its Pot

If you like the pot, you’ll want to bring it with the plant, and that’s OK! However, it’s important to remember that plant pots can add a lot of extra weight to a bag, which is particularly important if it’s a check-in case because most airlines have strict weight limits. 

While plastic pots are generally light, pots made of ceramic and other durable materials are heavier.

Here is a guide on how to pack a succulent in its pot before a flight:

  1. Make sure the pot is durable. Avoid bringing the succulent in its pot if it’s really thin or likely to shatter. This is especially important if you’re checking it in. A broken pot means there’ll be a mess in your bag when you open it, and you definitely want to avoid that!
  2. Remove any excess water. If there’s water in the pot, drain it because you can’t bring a plant in your carry-on if it contains liquids. This shouldn’t be an issue if it’s in your check-in bag.
  3. Place a towel over the roots and soil. Since you’ll be keeping the soil in the pot, you must ensure it doesn’t spill everywhere. Placing a towel over the soil helps the soil stay in place and prevents leaks. Be sure to tuck it in well–if it’s too loose, it might fall off. It also helps absorb moisture that would otherwise damage your case.
  4. Place your succulent in a plastic bag. Place your succulent in a plastic bag to protect the plant and your case further. That way, any water or soil spillages are less likely to get onto other things in your suitcase, like clothes. Use multiple bags for more protection. 

It’s not entirely necessary, but you could also wrap the pot in bubble wrap if you’re worried about it shattering. Avoid covering the entire plant in bubble wrap because doing so will restrict airflow.

Packing a Succulent Without a Pot

If you’re not bringing a pot with your succulent, you won’t have to worry so much about its weight. However, you need to ensure the roots are wrapped well enough so they don’t make a mess. 

Below is a guide on how to pack a succulent without a pot before a flight:

  1. Place damp paper around the roots. This will help keep the roots moist without damping and wetting your luggage. However, the paper shouldn’t be soaked because that will cause issues. The paper will also help keep the soil in place.
  2. Place the succulent in plastic bags. Once the paper covers the roots, place the succulent in plastic bags to avoid a mess in your suitcase. Make sure the roots are entirely covered in plastic.
  3. Place it in a box. Since you don’t have to worry about the bulkiness of a pot, it will be easier to fit your succulent in a box to protect it. Any container, like a cardboard box, will help. Then, you can place the box in your suitcase. Pierce some holes in the box for ventilation.

6. Avoid Putting Valuables In With the Succulent

When packing the plant in your bag or suitcase, avoid putting anything valuable with it. This may include clothes you don’t want to risk getting ruined or electronic devices. Of course, there shouldn’t be any mess if you pack it securely, but there’s still no way to be entirely sure.

If a bit of soil gets onto other items in your luggage, they may get stained. Or, if you have an electronic device, some water from the roots may leak out. This could break your device, so be cautious when packing everything. If you have no choice, consider covering your valuables with plastic bags.

Additionally, avoid using your best suitcase or bag to pack your succulent. The last thing you want is your expensive designer case to get stained with dirt from a plant! Try putting the least costly/essential items closest to the succulent, so the pricier or more valuable objects are further away and less likely to get damaged.

Will Succulents Die if You Bring Them on a Plane?

Succulents won’t die if you bring them on a plane, especially if you prepare them and ensure they’re not dehydrated before the flight. As I mentioned earlier, be sure to water your succulent 1-2 weeks before the flight so that it doesn’t get completely dried out during the flight. 

Since succulents generally don’t need as much water as other plants, they’re some of the easiest varieties to travel with!

However, the plant could technically die if you’ll be traveling for a long time (i.e., on long-haul flights). While a succulent should survive one long-haul flight, it might not survive multiple in a row. If you have to bring it on various flights and the total journey will last more than a day, the plant is more likely to suffer. However, most should last a few days before risking extensive damage.

The best thing you can do is unpack your succulent right when you get home after the flight. Feel the soil to check if it needs water and give it some sunlight to ensure the plant remains healthy.

Can You Pack Water With Your Plant on a Plane?

You might want to bring water with your succulent to keep it hydrated for your travels, but unfortunately, this isn’t possible. That’s because the TSA enforces liquid rules. When bringing a plant in your carry-on, you can only carry a certain amount of liquid in a quart-sized bag. 

That means you can’t keep a succulent or another plant in a pot of water while traveling by plane. You’ll need to get rid of the water before going through the security checkpoint.

Final Thoughts

As long as you follow the proper steps, bringing succulents on a plane is a fairly straightforward process. Check your airline’s requirements to ensure they allow plants on board. The succulent should also be small enough to fit in your suitcase, below your seat, or in the overhead locker.

Avoid watering the plant before your flight. Ideally, you should water a succulent 1-2 weeks before the flight. That will give the soil plenty of time to soak up the water without your plant getting too dry.

Tina Painter

Tina Painter is a Succulent Plant Advisor. She is interested in helping others learn the proper care, maintenance, and growth of healthy succulent plants. Tina is well known as a succulent lover and is in the process of developing her "Growing Succulents Masterclass for Succulent Lovers." She also loves creating artistic and whimsical gardens with succulents.

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