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Shipping Trees and Other Nursery Stock this Arbor Day

April 26, 2023 Kevin Baxter

Trees Nursery Stock

Perhaps the most common activity associated with Arbor Day is to plant a tree. Getting those trees in bulk (and intact) to locales across the country requires specialization in shipping nursery stock. National Arbor Day 2023 falls on April 28, smack dab in the middle of what is generally considered peak nursery stock shipping season, which runs from March 1 to June 1. It should be noted that some states celebrate Arbor Day on different dates depending on the best tree planting time of year locally. At any rate, trees and other nursery stock find themselves on the move this season and must be handled properly to get to the end customer ready to grow and flourish.

What Is Nursery Stock?

Nursery stock encompasses a wide range of plant life, with the key being that the plants are grown for sale and/or distribution. Some examples of nursery stock include

  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Ornamental plants
  • Grass sod
  • Foliage plants
  • Marsh plants 

An even more simplistic definition of nursery stock is plants grown in a nursery.

Keys to Shipping Trees and Nursery Stock

Nursery stock is considered perishable, as these are living plants that require care to remain that way. Add in the fact that when trees and other plants undergo the shipping process, they are in pots or other storage devices that are not ideal for their long-term health. That means, without proper care and attention, they can suffer damage from

  • Extreme temperatures (hot or cold)
  • Desiccation (drying out due to underwatering)
  • Mechanical or mishandling-related injuries (like broken branches, damaged roots, even simply being dropped)
  • Molds (that develop during shipping or lengthy periods of storage)

Just as with produce, time is of the essence in the journey from the nursery to final planting. With spring being the peak season of movement for nursery stock, trees and other plants may travel without temperature control, but that requires routes to be well-planned to avoid any freezing temperatures or blazing heat. The safer method is to use refrigerated (or reefer) trucks or containers to ensure consistent conditions throughout. Other variables of course involve the size of the nursery stock, as some large, mature trees may fall into the oversize load category as they fail to fit in standard containers or trucks.

Finally, and just as importantly, there are requirements relating to inspections of nursery stock before shipping in some states like Florida and Indiana. Check the National Plant Board site for more specifics on state-by-state requirements and quarantines. On top of that, any plants being imported into the country must clear customs and conform to any USDA requirements.

Not sure how to get started shipping trees and other nursery stock? Just drop us a line in our Request a Quote form and we'll get back to you to discuss solutions. If you're interested in reading more from us, check out our Freight Guides

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