How To Ship A Bonsai Tree Safely

At some point or another in the art of Bonsai you will probably find yourself having to ship a tree.  Or you will purchase one from afar and have it shipped to you.

It will never cease to amaze me how they survive the process of shipping, but if packaged right, I promise they make it just fine!

Now, there is no special “Bonsai Tree Box” to use, or anything of the sort.  You’re going to have to innovate, pretty much with every tree.  They are all different shapes and sizes.

Here are some guidelines to follow when shipping a tree:

  • Only pack your tree a few hours prior to taking to the carrier or less.  This will minimize stress on the tree tremendously.
  • Tree should be kept thoroughly watered for the day prior to shipping.
  • If it can be shipped in the pot do so.  If not, it must be partially or completely bare rooted.
  • The tree must be securely attached to the bottom of the box.  In a manner that even if you flip the box upside down the tree should not fall out or move. *If in pot
  • The box size should be about 2 inches larger than the tree on all sides.

Supplies You Will Need:

  • Box
  • Tape
  • Peanuts
  • Shrink wrap/plastic wrap/Saran wrap
  • Wire/cord
  • Sphagnum Moss or paper towels

First thing you want to do is prepare the box.  Put it together and put it aside.

Then using another spare piece of cardboard you can make a “base plate” used to attach the tree to the bottom of the box.

Note: this is not the only way and depending on your tree, etc…. there may be a better way for you to attach the tree to the bottom.

First poke 4 holes in the cardboard piece.  You will run your wire or cord through these holes.


After the holes are complete, run your wire/cord through these holes.  This piece is now complete and will be attached the to bottom of the box like so:

20170619_155148In this example, I twisted the base plate sideways because in this “diamond” pattern it’s easier to tape (more contact area for the tape) and is also wedged tight on the sides.

The tree for this box is a small, 6 inch tree so I didn’t need anything much stronger.  For a heavier tree, you can always glue the base plate to the bottom of the box.

For even larger trees, you can easily make a wooden frame with a wooden bottom to wire the tree to.  Then drop the whole thing in a cardboard box.

Tip:  If you can use wire instead of cord/rope/string.  It will hold much better.  

Once the base plate is complete and attached to the box you can now go get the tree ready.

If shipping in the pot:  Make sure the soil is thoroughly moist.  The pot should not drip but it should have been dripping 10 min ago, if you catch my drift!

You’re going to need to keep that soil in the pot for one, and also assist the tree in not drying out.  This is where the moss or paper towels come into play.  Either works just fine.

Put moss or paper towels on top of the soil in the pot and press it in gently to fill the pot up to the rim.  Once you’ve done that, wrap the entire pot with shrink wrap or Saran Wrap.  Use a lot of wrap.  Wrap the pot to keep the moss/paper towels in place and keep wrapping it many times.  When done the only thing not covered should be the trunk.

This will keep all that good water from evaporating and will also hold the soil tight so the roots don’t get damaged.  This is important.

If shipping bare rooted:  Wrap the root ball in moss and then wrap that in a good amount of shrink wrap.  You can use a smaller box this way but bare rooting is dependent on species, time of year, and climate.

The tree still should be secured in the box so it doesn’t bounce around.  Packing Peanuts work best for this.  Make a layer on the bottom place the tree in the box and cover it with peanuts.

Tip: Put enough peanuts in, but not so many as to crush the tree when closing the box.

This is what a potted tree should look like wrapped and strapped into the box:


In this case I used some air bags around the pot to assist in holding the pot steady, but to be honest it’s not necessary.

If that tree is tightly and securely attached to the bottom of the box it won’t move.  When adding peanuts make sure you fill in UNDER the branches first so they have something to rest on, then add peanuts on top.

If you just dump peanuts in the box all the branches will bend and break downward.

Tip:  Make sure you get a big enough box.  Allow room around the branches. The elm above has young super flexible branches that I could curve into the box.  However, rigid branches will snap if touching the edge of the box and the box is hit or jolted.

I know I mentioned it above but it is so important.  Don’t pack your tree at night and leave it for yourself to take the next morning to the carrier.  It’s going to sit in the box at your house all night, then at the carrier all day until it leaves that night to a sorting facility where it won’t leave until the next morning.

Pack the tree a few hours before you take it to the carrier.  Also try to take it to the carrier before their last truck leaves for the day.  This will ensure your tree will get there healthy, and will keep stress to a minimum.

Tip:  Only ship out on a Monday or Tuesday to ensure the tree doesn’t get “stuck” in a facility over the weekend!

I know this post covered a bunch but I hope it helps you in shipping your trees.  Enjoy Bonsai and happy shipping!!!!!



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