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Old 04-15-2019, 10:16 PM
emmajs243 emmajs243 is offline
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Orchid Shipping/Importing Laws
Default Orchid Shipping/Importing Laws

Hey everyone!

SO! I am finally to the point of looking at the occasional orchid from places like brazil etc. that did NOT come from the wild but was just grown and started down there. This made me wonder, what do I need to know to legally make this want a reality! I DO know, that there are things like phytosanitary certs and....CITES? CITIES? I can't be sure...BUT I don't know if this is it OR when are these required and when are they not required?

This then also made me think to the orchids I have ordered already from within the USA and how they have that sticker on the box through the dept. of Ag which THEN made me think, as a buyer, I feel like I need to know the rules/laws for ordering orchids in states AND internationally so I at least protect myself right?

I don't know if it is entirely on the seller/sender to make sure everything is right for in state shipping but I feel like that isn't always the case for international shipping. Most sites say you need to get the paperwork. Plus, even for in states, are there different rules from places like Hawaii versus the main continental US?

AND! What if I decided to sell one of my orchids to someone in the USA? Do I need to do things? I feel like maybe I do?

Basically, not only am I becoming interested in import laws of orchids, I feel like I don't want to rely on my sellers to make sure I am complying with the laws. I want to KNOW I am complying with all the laws I should be. I hope that makes sense....I mean, if I were ordering from a vendor I know very, very well, then maybe I would just ask them what I need to do but often with importing, that isn't the case.

I guess, I feel like this is a two way transaction which means, I am responsible and I should do my due diligence so I know how things should go and be able to recognize when something isn't right or doesn't sound right!

SO! I hope that makes sense to everyone! And I apologize, i really didn't know where to post this....AND, I guess my question, i figured i would start out here with asking for help and seeking the knowledge of others! If you have recommendations for where to go to find this info out or who to talk to that would be great! If you can explain some laws, that's amazing! I'll take ANY help! Obviously, orchid board will not be my entire due dilligence performed but I feel like it may open up doors to other resources!
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Old 04-15-2019, 10:47 PM
AnonYMouse AnonYMouse is offline
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If you have to ask, you don't have the proper documents, authority, etc.

There are many international vendors that come to shows and ship from them domestically. They've taken care of all the paperwork.

Off the top of my head vendors:
Ooi Leng Sun Orchids also on ebay
Ten Shin Gardens (not sure if they ship from shows)
Japaneseorchids on ebay

Where are you located? If you have a show near by, you can preorder and pick up in person.

Edit: ongoing list as I think of them

Last edited by AnonYMouse; 04-15-2019 at 11:02 PM..
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Old 04-15-2019, 11:53 PM
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Subrosa Subrosa is offline
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It's all here:
USDA APHIS | Plant Import Information
Be who you are and say what you think. Those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter.
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Old 04-16-2019, 02:25 AM
emmajs243 emmajs243 is offline
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Orchid Shipping/Importing Laws

Thank you Subrosa! Wonderful link!

And AnonYMouse, thank you for the vendor list. The only one I had heard of was ecuagenera and they just were at a show I was at this last weekend....the plants they at least brought to our show....let me specify, the Cattleyas they brought to our show, were in some really, really rough shape. At least I felt like....I picked up one of the ones I really wanted because she was the healthiest of the bunch but still she has a lot of work to get rid of issues.

And your first statement I would say is correct, if I have to ask, I don't have the authority....currently. But I am asking because I would LIKE to HAVE the authority eventually. It's not like all of these business owners woke up one morning and magically had all the answers and knew all the laws when they decided to import. They ALL had to ask and do the research to acquire the ability to legally import.

And as previously mentioned, even if I never import a plant, I still feel like it's partially my responsibility to be aware of the laws of what is and isnt ok or required.

Frankly, ok yes, you know those vendors are good and you know they import good plants legally but I don't. And if they are saying all plants are imported with blah and blah, I would like to be able to recognize if that means they were imported legally or not versus trusting someone I've never ordered with before. There are just too many scams now a days and just plainly dishonest people. So, I feel like not only would it be useful for raising possible red flags about new vendors and weed out the bad ones , especially since two oI wor recommendations but even that doesn't mean the plants are necessarily.

I feel like if I am talking to them and they say we import plants with this and this and this paperwork, I should know what they mean and that it's correct. Otherwise, well, maybe I shouldn't be buying from them.

I don't know, I feel like it is better to ask and figure out what you have to do to legally import plants versus just doing it without following any laws or guidelines.
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Old 04-16-2019, 08:24 AM
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Ray Ray is offline
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Knowing how you get really concerned (obsessed?) about everything you observe, I'd not jump into the importation side of it just yet, as I'd lay down money that you'd be really upset with the condition most will be in when they arrive, and then will worry yourself silly about trying to get them to recover.

Think about that cattleya you saw - a plant with stout pseudobulbs for storage of reserves, yet still in sorry shape. As it was hand-carried by the importer, it probably came through more quickly than if it had been shipped to an individual from overseas. Now picture a plant with lesser reserves...

Then there's the cost - yes, the seller must acquire phytosanitary and CITES documentation, but who do you think beard that cost? Then there's international express shipping.

Once you have truly put a lot of growing experience under your belt, and there is a plant you HAVE to have and is only available by importing it, then consider it.
Ray Barkalow, Orchid Iconoclast
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Old 04-16-2019, 09:53 AM
SaraJean SaraJean is offline
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I agree with everything Ray and others stayed above. These things will typically arrive in very poor condition compared to the orchids you are used to getting and can require an extreme amount of care for the first year or two. They will be bare root (in my experience at least, sometimes a bit of sphagnum) and usually have most of the roots cut off to ensure that the orchids pass inspection. Also, depending on where the orchids come from, you will have to deal with acclimating them to the northern hemisphere and a completely different environment. And you are doing all of this with an orchid that has spent an absurd amount of time in transport. You just need to know what to expect when you open the box. Keep expectations looooow.

The easiest way to legally import plants from other countries (I.e. not getting your order seized at the border and slapped with a fine) is to look at some of the vendors you are interested in and wait until they do a show in the U.S. That way you just put together a pre-order, email the vendor your order, pay, they will bring your orchids with them when they get stateside, they take care of all permits, and they will ship it from the U.S. The large shows like Redland, Tamiami, and Pacific Coast expo, to name a few, all have international vendors that accept pre orders which they will ship to you from the show location using normal shipping rates. No need to travel and pick up your plants. The condition of the plants will be the same, maybe marginally better as the orchids spent less time in transport, but at least itís a bit cheaper. It doesnít make much sense to import as an individual with an order of a dozen plants. Laws change and they can be hard to interpret unless itís your job to do so on a regular basis

Oh, and Bela Vista is probably my favorite Brazilian vendor. Pre-orders are closed for Redland but they will be back in January for Tamiami. Just subscribe to their email list

Last edited by SaraJean; 04-16-2019 at 10:29 AM..
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Old 04-16-2019, 11:03 AM
emmajs243 emmajs243 is offline
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Orchid Shipping/Importing Laws

See Bela Vista is EXACTLY who I wanted to order from! I almost pre ordered for redland but didn't know if I had to be there or if they would ship when they got state side or how all of that works..so sarajean SUPER helpful. Redland airfair was OUTRAGEOUS by the time I heard about it.

So sarajean, I totally can just from them and they will ship once stateside?! That would be perfect!

And Ray, I wasnt necessarily planning to jump and import anything asap! But I was curious what it would take to do. And I also was curious what people's opinions on it would be!

Now what I didn't think about in all of this, the plants from ecuagenera I saw at my show, can I expect those are all recent imports or are they plants that have been with ecuagenera for a while?? I'm guessing from your comment those are recent imports which was REALLY helpful to put plant condition in perspective! If the plants were cheaper, I probably would have tried out a few other plants I had been looking for but ugh....for the price, some had black Rot, some so infested with scale that no viable eyes were left, like not ALL were...practically on their way out but out of 10 Catts I really wanted to buy, I only took 1 of them and yeah, she is still in rough shape. So that is partially my fear with pre-ordering or importing. I don't even get to see that the ones I choose at least salvageable.

So thank you VERY much for those who likened it to the plants at the show! Very, very relatable! The show was eye opening however....there were tons of people buying plants just covered in scale or that weren't even green anymore but entirely yellow for high prices. I don't know if they just didn't know and will probably end up on this board looking for help or if they were confident In their abilities you know? But it did make me realize that my plants are In amazing condition in comparison and how tough orchids really can be.

I am partially a little shocked I haven't even posted about the one I got at least to get some opinions but idk, I feel like she will come around!

I got an Lc. Canhamiana 'Azure Skies' for only $30 and although she has quite a few back bulbs with no leaf and that were packages in the newspaper with her roots (bareroot) so they have started yellowing, all her pseudobulbs are the plumpest I have ever seen. Her root ball isn't in great shape but it's coming back. I did a soak in the garden solution....thank you Ray! And she her roots are looking better. She had three new growths so I knew she would be putting out roots soon at least (although one was broken in transport it looked like) and she has two sheaths, one definitely has buds although, Idk that I will let her bloom or not depending on her health. She does have some smaller black spots on the underside of a few leaves that I will need to try and take care of but overall, I definitely feel like she will come back. She is in good enough condition to fight at least I feel like!

So I am going to pull the velamin off the dead roots but leave her be for the most part and just focus on getting her healthy! A new orchid friend told me something like, "my view on bacterial/fungal issues, they are only a problem if the plant is weak or stressed. Focus on getting the plant strong and healthy and they can overcome much of that stuff." And I really took it to heart! I've been much less panicky since! Along with seeing the other Catts at the show and their condition, I've realized they are tougher then I ever thought and don't need constant human interference but just need some good culture and should be ok!

I know this unfortunately may not always be the case but it was an eye opening experience at least! And! I have much less anxiety about every little thing finally!

Last edited by emmajs243; 04-16-2019 at 11:08 AM..
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Old 04-16-2019, 02:51 PM
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Hakumin Hakumin is offline
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Import/export procedures can be simple, or it can be mindbogglingly complicated, requiring up to 5 individual permits/certificates for a given shipment. The details all depend on a number of different factors.

I suggest avoiding going into this venture unless you are dead serious about doing everything correctly. Also, while not always the case, as others have said, sometimes itís not worth the effort because many international imports arrive in poor condition.

So, in any case, for the sake of information:

There are two sides to the process. The Export and the Import. For a shipment to be legal, the originating nursery needs to follow Export law in the originating country, and you need to follow Import law in the destination country. Since you are in the US, Iíll limit this to just for exportation from a foreign country for import into the US. Other countries may have even more complicated rules.

The following are various factors that may change the import/export procedures:

CITES status of the species (Appendix I or II) - All orchids are at least Appendix II, with a bunch listed explicitly in Appendix I. The requirements for export and import are different between the two Appendices, but all orchids will require at least a CITES export permit from the originating country.

Endangerd Species Act Status - Is the species specially covered by the Endangered species act in addition to CITES? If so, it may require an additional permit.

Flasks or loose plants - The import procedures and paperwork required is different for flasks than they are for loose plants. The only practical way to import certain species (i.e. Appendix I) is in a flask. Loose plants must be bare root and clean or potted in an approved medium if coming from an approved facility.

The country you are importing from - Each country has their own export laws and paperwork required to allow the plants to even leave their borders. The US also has different regulations for certain exporting countries.

How many plants you are importing - The exporting country may have legal requirements pertaining to the number of plants you are exporting. The US has different procedures depending on how many plants you have in the shipment.

Quantity of each cultivar you are importing - The exporting country may have restrictions on the numbers of each cultivar in a shipment, and the US sometimes has different procedures depending on the number of individuals of the same cultivar.

What state you are importing to in the US - Some states have stricter importation laws than the federal law, and may require additional permits and inspections.

Intent to sell the imported plants - Importation for intent to sell requires formal importation procedures and full import permits regardless of quantity of plants. Importation of 12 or fewer individual plants for personal use may waive the need to obtain the permit if other requirements are also met.

Possible requirements for export out of the originating country:

Cites Export Permit for each species - The exporter needs to go to their governmental agriculture office to obtain a CITES export permit for the individual shipment. Each shipment requires its own permit. The office may subject the nursery for inspection to ensure that CITES regulations in regards to propagation are met. The exporter will usually have you reimburse them for the fees.

Cites Import Permit information of the importer in the destination country - Some countries require that the importer (you) have a permit regardless of the US law to even allow the plants out of their borders.

Phytosanitary certificate - The exporter needs to go to the ag office to have the plants inspected and get a phytosanitary certificate. The nursery may also need to subject their facilities for inspection for sanitary conditions. Theyíll usually have you reimburse them for these fees as well.

Possible requirements for importation into the US:

Cites Export Permit from originating country for each species - The original signed export permit for each species (or one listing out multiple species) needs to be affixed to the package.

Phytosanitary certificate - The original signed phytosanitary certificate from the originating country needs to be affixed to the package

Customs form - The customs form from the originating country needs to list the correct species and quantity of plants.

Purchase Invoice - The purchase invoice will need to be affixed to the package.

Protected Species Import Permit from the US for each species if required - Always required for CITES Appendix I species, and may be required for other species protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Agricultural Import Permit from the USDA for each species - Depending on certain specifics you may have to register with the USDA and obtain an import permit to import the plants.

State import permit from the destination state - If required by your resident state

USDA inspection and quarantine center shipping labels - If you are required an import permit for a given shipment, the package cannot be shipped directly to you. The package must be shipped to one of the US Inspection and Quarantine centers, where they will inspect the plants and treat or quarantine as necessary. They will then contact you and ship to you after the plants have cleared.

Plants individually and clearly labeled inside the package - For the purpose of identification during inspections.

Shipping considerations:

If you are not required a USDA import permit for a given shipment, the package may be shipped directly to you. However, if your shipment requires a USDA import permit, the package must be shipped to a quarantine and inspection center. When you sign up for an import permit, USDA office will send you green/yellow shipping labels. These must be physically sent to the exporter, and the exporter must affix this to the package. The package is then delivered directly to the inspection/quarantine center, they inspect it, and then forward the package to you once cleared.

Also, some countries have fast international shipping. For example, when I import Neofinetia from Korea, the package usually arrives in 4 days or sooner from the date of shipment. However, some countries do not have reliable shipping services, and sometimes it will take over a month for the package to arrive at your doorstep. While some species are durable enough to withstand that amount of time bareroot and without water, many others cannot.

To complicate this further, if the inspection center finds your plants infected or infested they may retain them for treatment or quarantine (and of course charge you the treatment fees). The quarantine center doesn't necessarily know how to care for the plants properly, so they may sometimes take a beating.


The costs of importing legally will vary depending on the specifics listed above, and you'll be paying separate fees to a number of places rather than as a single lump sum. However, the sum of the fees you may end up paying range from a minimum of $100 upwards of $500+ for each shipment.

Violation of the Law:

For Appendix II species, violation of any law or procedure in the importation process will usually end up in the USDA contacting you to correct the violations or sign up for any missing paperwork. If you cannot correct the violations or if the package is missing a CITES export permit or a Phytosanitary certificate from the originating country, the shipment is either returned to the sender, confiscated or destroyed.

For Appendix I species, violation of the CITES laws is a serious matter and may involve prosecution with possible jail time and enormous fines.

Come join the Neofinetia Facebook Group and the Neofinetia Subreddit!

Last edited by Hakumin; 04-16-2019 at 05:00 PM..
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Old 04-19-2019, 09:41 PM
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Fairorchids Fairorchids is offline
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If you can hold the import costs to $500, you are lucky. There are minimum fees for:
Air line (or FEDEX) freight
Freight Forwarder
Customs Broker (usually different from the freight forwarder)
Courier service from air port to plant inspection station
Shipment from inspection station to buyer

And, unless your shipment weighs at least 100 kg (220 lbs), air freight per kg is VERY high.

Also, you can't simply import. For security reasons, there is a vetting process before any carrier will accept your shipments.
Kim (Fair Orchids)

Founder of SPCOP (Society to Prevention of Cruelty to Orchid People), with the goal of barring the taxonomists from tinkering with established genera!

I am neither a 'lumper' nor a 'splitter', but I refuse to re-write millions of labels.
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Old 04-20-2019, 12:53 AM
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I think the lesson is pretty clear... leave the importing to the pros. International vendors know the paperwork. Many wait to ship until they are in the US for shows (when they include your order with their large number of plants for sale). The ones who ship from abroad also take care of the paperwork... shipping is typically more than for those who mail from within the US, but either way, they manage the documentation.
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due, feel, laws, orchid, orchids

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