As you surf the Net and visit great gardening sites around the world, you will probably consider ordering plants at some time – this spring or later. Many fascinating plants are listed, but restrictions are not mentioned on most of the Web sites.

However, purchasing plants from another country is not like ordering a book. To protect local flora and fauna from new diseases, insects or other plant pests; most governments have regulations controlling importation of plants. Canada’s regulations are some of the strictest in the world. Virtually all countries have restrictions of some sort.

The buyer (importer) of the plants has primary responsibility for knowing the regulations and informing the seller about them. To avoid problems, investigate thoroughly before you place an order from one country to another.

Important Information for Americans interested in ordering plants from anywhere in Canada

Shipping will cost about $200 at a minimum since couriers will not handle plants due to international regulations and they have to be sent air freight. You, as the buyer, are also responsible for ensuring that that the regulations of your state and country are fulfilled. We can arrange to have the plants inspected, but request which permits you need to have filled out when you order. There are also import permits that you will have to fill out yourselves.

If the proper forms are not filled out, the plants will be seized by customs officials at the border. The plants are not returned to us, they are destroyed, so you have paid for plants that you will never receive. (They will send you a nice receipt for the destroyed plants though!)

For anyone ordering plants from another country, see below. Outlined below are regulations that apply in Canada. Similar situations may apply to you if you are in another country; read them carefully to avoid disappointment:

A. Some plants are prohibited entry into Canada. There is also a worldwide ban on buying/selling plants on the CITES list – that is, plants that are rare and/or endangered. Nurseries in other countries probably will not be aware of Canada’s strict requirements. Remember, it is up to you, the buyer to ensure compliance.

B. Every plant shipment (package) that comes into Canada requires a phytosanitary certificate. This means that a government certified agriculture inspector at the place of origin of the plants must go to the nursery and carefully inspect each plant. If he/she finds them disease and pest free, he will issue a phytosanitary certificate. For this service, plant nurseries will charge you a fee. This could be as much as $75 (U.S.) In Great Britain, the recent rate for a phytosanitary inspection was 70 pounds sterling per hour (about $160 Canadian). That is, the rate charged by the government to the nursery. The charge to the customer may be greater.

The certificate must accompany the plants in shipment, and upon arrival in Canada, Agriculture Canada inspectors will inspect the plants again and check the phytosanitary certificate. There is another fee to pay for this inspection (plus G.S.T.!). Plants that have the proper paperwork, are not a prohibited species, and are disease and pest free are released to Customs for levy of the appropriate duty and G.S.T. If these conditions are not met, (for example – there are tiny snails or insect eggs present), the whole shipment of plants will be refused entry or confiscated and destroyed. Only after the plants have cleared both departments, are the plants released for further transport, (which you may have to arrange at this point).

C. When importing from most countries, a permit from the Canadian Government is required . This entails listing the species names of each and every plant you wish to import. This in itself precludes ordering from some nurseries who do not list the plants this way, and may not even know the correct botanical nomenclature. The balance of the information requested is fairly straightforward: name and address for both you and the seller , approximate date to be imported and the port of entry where the import will take place.

D. A test of the soil in which the plants were grown at the nursery can also be required. Many countries have pests that do not exist in Canada so this can be vital. It can take considerable time for a foreign nursery to be visited by an Agricultural Authority to take samples for testing – especially in the busy spring season. Unless the nursery is counting on obtaining many foreign customers, they may be unwilling to spend the time and effort to do this. The fees for this may be totally charged to you, the customer, or spread among several customers.

E. In Canada, there are also some prohibitions on shipping interprovincially. British Columbia, for example, are very careful about fruit bearing plants.

F. Lastly, but not least, consider the climatic conditions under which the plants have been raised. There can be a major setback or even fatal shock if the conditions vary greatly. Even plants that seem to settle in well frequently cannot survive our severe winters. However, trees for example, if they survive the first winter, may gradually acclimatize themselves, given extra care. Surprisingly, even a plant of the same species as one that you or a friend may have grown with no problems, when raised in a warmer climate and imported may not be able to survive the Canadian winters. Some plants originally native to Canada, when grown for several generations in a warmer climate and possibly selected for some other desirable trait, may no longer be winter hardy in Canada.


Regulations vary from state to state. Some are more strict than others – for example, Hawaii and California have very strict regulations. Some plants are prohibited for inter-state sale (ie. Water Hyacinths), and other regulations may exist. If you are ordering plants from another country to import into the U.S.A., be sure to investigate and find what federal and state regulations must be followed. Some or all of the regulations listed above for Canadian importations may apply to American plant imports. It is your responsibility as the buyer, to check federal and state regulations very carefully, obtain all permits and request from the seller all certificates needed.


It is always wise to send the seller a copy of all of your country’s regulations, so that they are aware of their responsibilities in shipping plants to you.

Due to these all these requirements, most courier companies will not accept live plants for air shipment to Canada. Unfortunately, by any other method, the shipment often takes two weeks or more. By this time, live plants usually aren’t!

It is often not economical, either in time, money, or effort, to buy a few plants from another country. If you find a plant you really MUST have, usually a specialist nursery (rather than a garden centre) will be able to obtain it, if they do not grow it, or most importantly, they should be able to tell you why you cannot find it in your country!