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All About Importing

ETA: This has taken me two weeks to write. What follows can only be described as the emotional rollercoaster that is importing plants. The intention of this post is not to discourage you from importing, rather I want to share with you the risks of importing and help you manage your expectations.

Why import?

When you find yourself on a website where gorgeous, mature aroids are being offered for $40-80, it can start to feel like you've found a brand new Prada Matinee Top-Handle Tote for a few bucks at a thrift store.

I hesitate to recommend, or even discuss particular vendors because I've had really great and really awful experiences with each seller I've ordered from more than once. I will say this:

  • Read all of the reviews you can find online.
  • Search YouTube for unboxing videos from the companies you're considering.

People often ask why US sellers 'mark up' their plants so much when you can import for a fraction of the price. The answer is risk and inherent loss. Everyone that imports plants will at some point experience ugly plants, completely dead plants, plants that need major rehabilitation. They'll also likely experience excellent orders that arrive in nearly perfect condition! Each time you import, it is necessary to understand that you are rolling the dice. 

I recently had my worst import experience yet. It's been months since I placed my order, almost a month since I received it, and who knows how long until I'll have the whole nightmare resolved with the company I ordered from (my experiences with imports are at the end of the post).

When can I import?

Most of the popular Asian and South American companies will ship year-round. Be very cautious about when you order. I typically do not import during the summer because the Texas heat just seems too risky. Those of you that live have very cold winters, be prepared for that risk as well. Sellers will not typically offer heat packs and instead offer to wrap plants with extra insulation which is fairly useless protection from cold.

What paperwork do I need? Do I need a license? How do I make sure I am importing legally?

When I first decided to research importing plants, I was so confused by the information I found online, so here it is, simplified for those of you that would like to import plants without a nursery license:

  • Make sure your seller is including a phytosanitary certificate.
  • Do not order more than twelve plants, as that is the limit for imports without a nursery license.
  • Pay via PayPal Goods and Services so that you can file a claim in the event that your plants arrive poorly.

Receiving Your Imported Plants 

Expect your plants to lose leaves, sometimes even all of them.

Give your plants the best possible environment you can. Your plants will need the best possible conditions to recover in. This includes high humidity, warmth, and indirect light for most species. 

It is very unlikely that roots will arrive in perfect condition. Cut away any dead or rotting roots. Be sure to cut well above the rot if there is any. Roots that are dry should be soaked in water for up to 24 hours before potting.

Preference with potting mediums can vary. I tend to put my imports in sphagnum and do not disturb the roots again unless I see major signs of decline.

My Experiences

I'll touch on the imports that were particularly good as well as the ones that were particularly bad. I'm leaving out the so-so's because I've imported many times and it isn't helpful for you to read about every single plant. 

Indonesia Order #1 - Greenspaces

4/8 survived.
2/8 thrived.

My first ever import! Most of what went wrong with this order was my bad. I was inexperienced and far more hopeful than I should have been. 

  • Piper ornatum
    This plant just shouldn't be shipped. It's like Cissus discolor. It just totally freaks out, sheds its leaves, and does its best to die as soon as it can.
  • Alocasia Silver Dragon
    Alocasias are iffy shippers as well. Generally, the dragons and shields ship better than odora, but they are still a bigger risk than something like a Hoya or Philodendron. 
  • Philodendron melanochrysum (2)
    This order was my first indication that philodendron ship well in general. I have since learned that melanochrysum and melanochrysum hybrids are pretty tough and can withstand some time in a box. If I had known how to care for this plant at the time, I think these would have done quite well.

  • Cercestis mirabilis (2)
    Forget it. My two arrived looking pretty great! A couple of yellow leaves, but nothing terrible. They died two days later.

  • Anthurium crystallinum (2)
    This order also taught me that Anthurium are potentially the best plants to ship! They are tougher than their reputation would make them seem. The two crystallinum were the only plants in this order that survived and thrived almost immediately.


Indonesia Order #2 - Rootgreenhaus

9/10 survived.
9/10 thrived

This was a dream order. It was only in the mail for 2.5 days and arrived nearly perfectly. The Ficus triangularis died fairly immediately but I know that Ficus are challenging and took that risk on. The Aglaonema lost all of its leaves but that's also to be expected. I imagine it will produce leaves again at some point as it has healthy roots and stem.

  • Aglaonema pictum bicolor
  • Syngonium podophyllum 'Pink Splash' (2)
  • Amydrium medium Silver (2)
  • Anthurium clarinervium (2)
  • Syngonium podophyllum 'Army' (2)
  • Ficus triangularis


Indonesia Order #3 - Private Seller

1/1 survived.
1/1 thrived after extensive rehabilitation.

This was a group order that was put together with some friends. I only ordered one plant.

  • Rhaphidophora formanifera
    This plant was so much bigger than I expected! Four leaves and decent roots. Luckily, I knew how to rehabilitate plants by this order, otherwise I'm not sure that this plant would still be alive. I lost two leaves almost immediately before realizing root rot had set in and I needed to remove most of the roots. 

    After removing the roots, I put the plant in water but noticed it still seemed to droop and the leaves would not fully unfurl. I put it in a humidity tent for a full day and it perked up dramatically.

    Once removed from the tent, it went right back to drooping and curling its leaves. It was at that point, almost three weeks after receiving it, that I realized it was infested with spider mites. A quick bath with neem and dish soap and it's looking great!

    Now that it isn't spending its energy fending off pests, it has put out new roots, unfurled its leaves, and perked up! This plant is on its way to thriving.


Ecuador Order #1 - Ecuagenera

3/3 survived.
3/3 thrived.

My favorite import so far! Only three plants in this order, but all of them arrived in nearly immaculate condition and put out new growth almost immediately. All of them were bigger than expected and never skipped a beat! I have one more order on the way from Ecuagenera before I can decide if they will be the first company that I have repeatedly good experience with.

  • Philodendron melanoneuron
    One of my new favorite species! 

  • Philodendron nangaritense
    Gorgeous, large velvety leaves!

  • Anthurium insigne
    Definitely a tough species. Mine arrived with three large leaves that feel rubbery, but soft.

Indonesia Order #3 - Rootgreenhaus

1/12 survived.
0/12 thrived.
Replacements pending

This order has been my least enjoyable import order so far. 

I had a good experience in March, but they had left two plants off of my order. Instead of having them just resend the two forgotten plants, I decided to place a new order and they would simply add the forgotten plants to this order.

This company has always responded to me very quickly through WhatsApp when I had a question or concern. I inquired several times about when my order would ship because the date kept being pushed back. With COVID-19 happening, I completely understand shipping delays and definitely don't fault them for that.

  • Anthurium jenmanii var.
    I really thought this one would survive even though its leaves fell off because it had a great root system. Unfortunately, the next day, it also turned to mush and there was nothing left but a pile of beautiful, but useless roots.

  • Anthurium Crystallinum
    Just... mush. Stinky... mush.

  • Anthurium dorayki
    The dorayki and crystallinum were indistinguishable mush parties.
  • Variegated ZZ
    I was scared this plant would kick the bucket as well, so I removed the leaves from one stalk in an attempt to propagate them, and stuck the leafless stalk and the stalk with leaves in coco coir to root. The leaved stalk has begun to root after three weeks, but the leaves have still not fully opened and they have a lot of browning. All of the leaf propagations died.

  • Aglaonema pictum bicolor
    This one and the next two reacted exactly like the jenmanii.
  • Philodendron Florida Beauty var.
  • Alocasia Black Velvet
  • Anthurium 'Silver Blush'
    Another Anthurium, another mush pile.



Aside from the variegated ZZ, all of these plants seemed to melt right off of their roots. It was a bizarre indication that they had been treated with a chemical. 

After checking the phytosanitary attachment, sure enough, they had been dipped in a chemical pesticide. If any pests are found on plants shipping out of Indonesia, protocol is to dip the plants in an effort to not introduce pests to other countries. Unfortunately, the slightest error in how long these plants are left in the chemical, or the concentration at which the chemical is mixed, can leave your plants looking like a pile of wilted spinach.

In Indonesia, the plants are the responsibility of the seller until they leave the country. Because these plants were dipped as a result of pests located on them, it is the seller's responsibility to replace or refund the loss.

I immediately messaged Rootgreehaus with pictures and videos of the plants. I believe what I experienced next to be a difference in customer service culture and expectation, however, I'll lay it out as neutrally as I can so that you can decide for yourself whether dealing with the inconvenience is a risk you'd be willing to take.

The company responded immediately on WhatsApp and offered to replace the dead plants. I was so relieved. Then I realized several of the species were now out of stock for them.

In light of this, I messaged again, offering them a simpler resolution. I suggested they send a smaller quantity of a more readily available plant, like Philodendron billietae. This way, they experience less financial loss, but I am still able to make my money back assuming the plants arrive in good condition.

I was told billietae were out of stock as well, until September. Since September is when my ability to submit a PayPal claim for this order would expire, I sent another message, letting them know I would be okay with negotiating whatever species they had in stock so that we could resolve this in a timely manner.

They stopped responding to me.

After a week of messaging them, I decided it was unfortunately time to open a claim with PayPal. As soon as my claim was open, I received a message from them, both on WhatsApp and via email. I was told they are having problems with WhatsApp and to please communicate via email. 

I was asked to choose plants from what is currently in stock on their website. I sent them a list of seven plants to replace the eleven that arrived dead in my order. They agreed to send the requested species and asked:

"Can you please close the case at PayPal first? So we can prepare your plants."

This made me nervous, but there is nothing preventing me from reopening a case if I need to. I closed the case, and responded to their email asking when I could expect the order to ship.

Today, I received an email that my replacement order has shipped. I'm hoping this is all that needs to happen for me to regain at least some of the value of my order.

Overall, this company has been fairly responsive and helpful. Unfortunately, sometimes these things happen to orders and you can only hope to reach a resolution quickly.


Summary: Top Tips

  1. Research who you are importing from. Look up reviews online and on YouTube.
  2. Always pay via PayPal Goods and Services
  3. Do not order from a seller that won't include a phytosanitary certificate.
  4. Always film yourself unboxing your order so there is no question about how the plants arrived to you. Message the seller immediately if you are unhappy with your order.
  5. Have supplies on hand to help your plants acclimate as soon as you remove them from the box.



1 comment

  • What happened with the replacement order from Root Green Haus? Did you get good plants again with this order or was it another disaster?


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