Importing Houseplants Into Canada

Importing Houseplants Into Canada

Houseplants have become increasingly popular over the years, along with many search queries related to; importing houseplants into Canada, documentation for importing, import plant permits, and the costs and ways to get plants across borders. Importing plants requires just as much care as the plants themselves. Today we will share the requirements for documentation needed to import plants into Canada, the types of plants regulated, and information that would help to decrease the risk of your houseplant perishing at the border.

How Do I Import Houseplants? 

If you are importing plants into Canada, you will be formally called the Importer of Record (IOR) what this means is that you will be legally responsible for the plant's importation into Canada. Being an IOR, you should ensure you have all the necessary documents and permits for imports and declare your plants accurately to prevent them from either being destroyed or returned to the country of origin.

How To Import Flowers Into Canada In 7 Steps

Houseplant Sales On The Rise

Google Trends provides insight into the most-searched-for houseplants on their search engines: the snake plant, philodendron, spider plants, and peace lily. According to Statista, “a survey conducted in 2021, only 11.3 percent of respondents claimed they did not own a plant, while 24.7 percent of respondents stated they owned two to five houseplants.” They indicate, "In 2021, approximately 995.22 million Canadian dollars worth of potted plants were sold,” which shows an increase from the previous year's statistics that had a total of 903.83 million Canadian dollars worth of sold potted plants in 2020. 

As the interest in houseplants increases, so does demand. Some avid plant tenders are looking outside Canada to source and import specialty plants. 

Plant Import Documentation Requirements 

For the Importer to determine the import documentation requirements and whether or not the plants are eligible for entry into Canada, they must be able to provide information about the plants' species, where the plant was grown (country of origin), and the state of the plant with regards to cutting, rooted, dormant, in growth or flower, bare-root, in growing media or soil. This is especially important for potted plants as Canada prohibits the entry of soil from certain areas specified in D-95-26.  Additionally, the Government of Canada stated that “requirements may apply to plants with novel traits, including, but not limited to, plants produced by recombinant DNA technology, mutagenesis or wide cross.

Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) is the first step in determining plant import requirements. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) performs this assessment in conjunction with the exporting country's National Plant Protection Organization. PRAs are requested by Importers for products that are not allowed into Canada.

The various pathways pests can be introduced include: 

  • Wood packaging
  • Soil
  • Firewood
  • Containers
  • Transport vehicles (such as ships and aircraft)
  • As well as on the plant itself

The CFIA pest assessments help determine whether the goods could carry pests, diseases, or weeds that, according to the Government of Canada, could establish in Canada and cause significant losses for farmers and foresters and cause environmental change. The list of pests regulated by Canada is updated regularly and published on the official agency website. 

The Government of Canada provided a list of the regulated commodities:

  • Plants and plant parts for planting, including, but not limited to: nursery stock, greenhouse plants, houseplants, potted plants, orchid plants, artificially dwarfed plants (bonsai, penjing), plants with roots, in vitro/tissue culture plants, liners, cuttings, slips, seedlings, turf (sod), living mosses, epiphytes, aerial plantlets, bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers, tuberous roots, and herbaceous perennial roots
  • Certain fresh decorative branches
  • Pollen intended for propagation
  • Note: Pollen used for insect feeding is regulated by Animal Health
  • Packing material associated with plants for planting

Does Canada need an import permit for plants? In some cases, Importers of Record, otherwise known as Importers, may be required to get an import permit issued by CFIA following the national policy guidelines under the provision of the ‘Plant Protection Act and the ‘Plant Protection Regulations.

Import Plant Permits In Canada 

The Government of Canada stated, “The Permit to Import will specify how the material must be packaged, transported, handled, controlled and used; this will help ensure that pests or biological obstacles to the control of a pest are not introduced into or spread within Canada.” It is vital for Importers to note that if a CFIA Plant Protection Import permit is required, they must apply for and receive it before the plants leave the country of origin.

An additional form of documentation that may also be required would be the phytosanitary certificate provided by the plant's seller in the country of export. A phytosanitary certificate can only be issued by the exporting country's National Plant Protection Organization. It must provide vital information about the plant that confirms it conforms to the Canadian import requirements. According to the Canadian government, “any additional declarations required by the CFIA must be included on Phytosanitary Certificates.”

And finally, Importers must review the plant they wish to import against the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). If the plant is listed in the Appendices, a valid CITES permit must be presented when the plant enters Canada.   

6 Steps To Submitting Documentation To Your Customs Broker

Compiling your import documentation will allow you to comply with the regulations and help you complete the necessary steps to gain entry for your plants into Canada. Understanding every element of your import will provide you with more security and understanding of your trade, whether you are a first-time Importer or a seasoned one. 

Declaring Houseplants For Import 

The law requires that all food, plant, and animal products be declared before arriving in Canada.  These requirements are met by a customs broker's electronic submission of the Customs declaration or by the Importer self-declaring the product upon arrival at the first port of entry into Canada. Importers of Record that fail to declare their houseplants will be subject to penalties, prosecution, and the detention of goods. 

How To Import Flowers And Plants Into Canada

The Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) provides Importers with the CFIA import requirements for regulated commodities and references to applicable legislation, which makes it the primary tool used to determine import requirements. It also advises of a plant's pest risk assessment status and if it is prohibited entry into Canada.

FAQ About Importer Record-Keeping Responsibilities In Canada

The Ways To Import Houseplants Into Canada 

Houseplants are at higher risk of getting damaged during shipping. Importers of Record should take extra precautions to ensure minimal delays when choosing the modes and couriers to ship plants into Canada. 

Freight forwarders will all have quick shipping options; however, they can vary in price. The solution would be to find a company that provides you with all the services you need under one roof to mitigate the chances of inaccuracies in documentation, delays at Customs, and even penalties. Although companies like these seem to be more expensive, they will assure you that your houseplant and every other plant you plan on importing will arrive at the intended destination without the loss of the plant, which will cost money.

Shipping Perishables By Air & Ocean Freight

Companies specializing in freight services will provide transportation via sea/ocean freight, rail freight, road transport, and air freight shipment, ensuring that you have options to suit your budget and shipping needs. Additionally, they will supply you with the following in-house services:

  • Tracking tools to monitor your shipments
  • Trading advice from specialists who will help to ensure your imports comply with government regulations 
  • Expedited services to get your houseplant to where it needs to be in record time, preventing shipment damage

Importing anything can be grueling. Don’t let small mistakes get in the way; equip yourself with the tools and expertise to import compliantly with companies who care about your shipments as much as you do. 

Disclaimer: While reading, kindly note the date of this blog. At PCB we do our due diligence to write on the most relevant topic every week and naturally content may become dated as developments in a certain program/topic occur. For this reason, we greatly appreciate your readership and hope you continue reading with the posting date in mind. For the latest information on this topic please use our website's search function, or better yet, subscribe to our "Trading Post" newsletter to receive these updates directly to your inbox.
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About the Author
Gloria Terhaar
CCS (CA/US), CTCS, CBSA Prof. Designate

Gloria Terhaar began her career in Canadian customs brokerage 2007. She currently works in our Canadian division as a Trade Compliance Supervisor and Regulatory Compliance Specialist. Gloria has extensive experience in all aspects of documentation and regulatory requirements as they relate to importing products into Canada. Gloria is often called upon to train industry with some recent talks for MNP, the Surrey Board of Trade, TFO Canada and the BC Produce Marketing Association. In 2018, Gloria also participated in the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Horticultural Council advocacy event "Fall Harvest" in Ottawa where she participated in advocacy efforts for the Canadian produce industry.

While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.