The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source
site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Factors Influencing Shipping of Acclimatized Foliage Plants
C. A. Conover and R. T. Poold
University of Florida, IFAS Central Science
Agricultural Research and Education Center Apopklibrary
AREC-Apopka Research Report RH- 6-11
OCT 14 1987
Introduction University of Florida
Extensive research (10,11,13,25) has shown that acclimatized foliage
plants grow and survive under interior environments that are often damaging
to nonacclimatized plants. Benefits of acclimatization have resulted in
interiorscapers specifying acclimatized foliage plants for most indoor
plantings. Consumers are also aware of the benefits of purchasing and
using acclimatized foliage plants in their living spaces, although they
often do not know how to select such plants.
Transportation of foliage plants over long distances has become common
in recent years (2,14,17,21,22,36). However, parameters for shipping
foliage plants have been vague and quality has often decreased during
transport. The primary method of shipping potted foliage plants within the
U.S. and Canada has been by truck; generally in temperature controlled
reefers, but also in trucks without temperature control. Product quality
has been satisfactory after shipping for 3 to 7 days provided temperatures
were maintained between 60 and 700F.
During the 1970s, shipping of foliage plants (mainly cuttings) from
the Caribbean region to the U.S. became more and more common as numerous
stock plant farms were developed. Most of these shipments were by air, but
by the late 1970s, growers had started to use temperature controlled
reefers which could be loaded onto ships. By 1980, shipments of potted
foliage plants to the United States from Puerto Rico and Hawaii had become
fairly common, but plant quality was often reduced when shipping durations
exceeded 7 days (1). Also, by 1980, interest had developed in shipping
potted foliage plants to Europe and the Middle East, where shipping
durations of 12 to 45 days, respectively, could be expected to occur.
Shipments to Europe were generally successful, although even the best
shipments required some regrowingg" to restore quality. Shipments to the
Middle East were often unsuccessful, even though many plants survived,
because long regrowth periods were required.
The research discussed in this report was initiated in 1980 when
facilities necessary for conducting simulated shipping experiments were
acquired. Initially emphasis was placed on short shipping durations
(9,30), but this was changed to 4 weeks in 1981. In all our shipping
Professor and Center Director and Professor of Plant Physiology,
respectively, Agricultural Research and Education Center, 2807 Binion
Road, Apopka, FL 32703.
research we utilized acclimatized potted foliage plants which had been
grown under specified light and nutritional levels to maximize adaptability
to interior environments (13).
Factors, such as light, water, fertility, etc., that occur during the
growing period can have a large effect on the ability of a plant to
maintain high quality during shipping and when placed in an interior
environment. Therefore, proper production procedures and pre-shipping
handling can have a large effect on the ability to ship potted foliage
Light Production light intensity is the most important environmental
factor affecting acclimatization of foliage plants, and the ability of the
plant to maintain high quality during the shipping period (3,10,13).
Research has also shown that by reducing light levels the light
compensation point (LCP) is reduced to a level that aids plants in
adaptation to interior environments. While plant species with low LCP's
are well adapted to survival under interior conditions, this ability does
not always seem to guarantee it will be a good plant for long-term
Fertilization Production fertility levels have considerable effects
on acclimatization, but are not generally observed during shipping.
Research has shown that foliage plants grown on higher than recommended
nutritional regimes often will not be as highly acclimatized and will
ultimately lose more leaves and be of lower quality than those properly
acclimatized (4,29). In general, serious reduction in plant quality during
the shipping phase will only be noticeable if the fertilizer level is 2 to
3 times the recommended level.
Irrigation Plants produced with frequent irrigations or subject to
drought stress during production have been observed to have reduced levels
of acclimatization (26,28) as evidenced by increased leafdrop during and
subsequent to shipping. However, these production factors are considered
less important than production light and nutrition levels.
Potting medium Although factors relating to the growing medium have
been related to acclimatization (28), specific recommendations do not
exist. However, potting media with noncapillary pore space percentages
below 5 or above 25 should be avoided.
Limited research has shown that growth regulators can improve the
acclimatization level of foliage plants (24). Whether this is due to
lowered LCP or reduced respiration rate is not presently known, but
research is being continued in this area.
Preparation for Shipping
Actions taken immediately prior to shipping can have a significant
effect on maintenance of plant quality.
Watering Research has been conducted on the influence of soil
moisture level at time of shipping. Excess leafdrop has occurred when the
potting medium was either too dry or too wet. Previous recommendations
concerning irrigation the day before or the day of shipping do not appear
to be valid. Thus we feel that neither wet nor dry media are desirable,
and the media should be moist (about 50% of capacity) at time of shipping.
Fertilization Although we have not observed increased loss of plant
quality during shipping from high fertilization levels, we nevertheless
suggest that plants not be fertilized during the week before shipping.
This is especially true for granulated and encapsulated fertilizers, since
they tend to slip between the potting medium and the container wall during
Packaging material The packing method utilized depends on how the
plant material will be handled and the type of shipping container. We have
observed that plants shipped without sleeping or boxing in full container
loads maintain quality and high humidity levels (15). The same high
humidity levels can be obtained in partial loads when plants are boxed or
sleeved with the sleeve closed at the top (32). In all long-term shipments
(more than 1 week) the reefer air controller should be placed in the closed
position so as to maintain high humidity, or plants should be boxed (17).
Relative Humidity Short term shipments (7 days or less) rarely
induce plant desiccation even if humidity within the container is low. As
long as relative humidity is maintained between 80 and 90%, there will be
little loss in quality even during long-term shipments provided
acclimatized plants are shipped and suggested shipping durations are not
Foliage moisture Presence of free moisture on the foliage at time
of packing (dew, irrigation water, rainfall) may present problems during
shipping if disease is present. The best policy is to pack and ship plants
with dry foliage. Since this cannot always be done, one must recognize the
problem and the possible results. Most diseases affecting foliage plants
will not develop rapidly at lower shipping temperatures (55 to 60*F), but
they may be severe at 75F. Therefore, adjustment of shipping temperatures
may be beneficial in reducing disease severity if plants with wet foliage
The actual shipping period includes not only the time in transit, but
the loading and unloading periods which may cause the most plant stress.
Factors which influence postharvest quality include temperature, humidity,
ethylene and shipping duration.
Temperature The actual air temperature surrounding a plant during
shipping has a direct influence on the plants physiological processes. Low
temperatures reduce respiration and aid in conserving stored carbohydrates,
but if too low, may cause chilling injury (7,12,27). On the other hand,
high temperatures will increase respiration and possibly ethylene evolution
- 3 -
(23). Therefore, the correct shipping temperature is the one that
maintains optimum plant quality for the period of shipping and thereafter.
Suggested shipping temperatures for a wide range of foliage plants are
listed in Table 1 (5,6,8,16,18,19,20,31,33,34,35,37,38).
Duration The actual period of time a plant is shipped has a
tremendous effect on quality. Short term shipments (1 7 days) are
possible with most foliage plants, provided the temperature is maintained
between 60-65"F. Long-term shipments (8 28 days) often require more
specific temperatures, since plants will be under stress longer. We have
observed that some plants ship better at lower temperatures, but over
longer terms chilling injury may occur. Shipping of foliage plants is not
a process that increases quality, and one should remember that the shortest
time period is the best.
Humidity Replicated research has not shown the most desirable
relative humidity for shipping, but observation has shown that desiccation
can occur at low relative humidity. Based on the experiences of shippers
and our own observations, we concluded that relative humidity of 80 90%
resulted in maintenance of highest plant quality. For long-term shipments
this has required shipping in sealed containers (17,21).
Ethylene Foliage plants are generally not ethylene producers, and
ethylene is rarely found within foliage plant shipping containers.
However, ethylene has been shown to cause damage to certain foliage plants
at levels of 1 to 2 ppm (23). Ethylene can be produced in fairly large
amounts by fruits and vegetables during ripening therefore, these items
should never be carried as mixed loads with foliage plants. Ethylene
evolution is greater at higher air temperatures, as is its activity.
Therefore, recommended shipping temperatures should be as low as can be
achieved without causing chilling injury.
Time of year Some data indicates that plants produced during certain
seasons have greater potential for maintaining quality during shipping than
others (12). Ficus benjamin plants shipped in late summer incur severe
chilling damage when shipped at 50F, but not at 55"F. During winter or
spring, however, these plants do not incur chilling damage at 50*F. In
general, foliage plants shipped during spring maintain quality better than
plants shipped at other times.
Foliage plants often lose quality during shipping which can appear as
drooping or misshapen foliage, chlorosis of new growth or leafdrop. Rather
than place the plant immediately into its final interior environment, it is
often best to place it in a low-light greenhouse or well lighted interior
plant holding area. Foliage plants shipped for less than 7 days normally
do not require any recovery period. For periods beyond 7 days the need for
a recovery period varies with species.
Greenhouse Facility Greenhouses can be used as recovery facilities
and can be excellent provided they are controlled carefully. Light levels
should be no greater than 1000 ft-c, but should not drop below 500 ft-c for
more than a few days. This may require utilization of artificial lighting
during winter in some climates or during lengthy cloudy periods.
Greenhouse relative humidity should be as low as possible, preferably in
range of 40 to 60%. This will be beneficial in aiding in plant adaptation
to the lower humidities found in most building interiors. Irrigation
levels and temperatures should be nearly similar to those used indoors.
Storage Facility Environmental rooms designed for foliage plant
recovery and/or storage are becoming more common. These types of
facilities can be designed to provide 500 to 1000 ft-c of light with
durations as needed. These facilities are easier to control humidity in
than greenhouses, and can be heated or cooled as needed. The key to use of
non-greenhouse storage facilities is sufficient light to allow plants to
acclimatize to the interior environment.
The data presented in Table 1 are provided as a guide to shippers of
foliage plants. Use of shipping temperatures within the ranges will aid in
maintaining highest quality, provided high humidity is maintained and
suggested shipping durations are not exceeded.
1. Akamine, E. K. 1978. Test shipment of ornamentals by surface
transportation. First Annual Ornamentals Seminar Proceedings, Kahului,
Maui, Hawaii. Miscellaneous Publication 172:44-46.
2. Anonymous. 1982. Optimum conditions for long-term shipment of yucca
cane in reefers. Sea Land Service, Inc., Elizabeth, NJ. 16 pp.
3. Batson, D. B. and T. M. Blessington. 1983. Influence of production
light levels on long-term effects of dark storage on the postharvest
keeping quality of Schefflera arboricola. HortScience 18(1):82-83.
4. Ben-Jaacov, J., R. T. Poole and C. A. Conover. 1982. Effect of
Nutrition, Soil Water Content and Duration of Storage on Quality of
Dieffenbachia maculata (Lodd.) G. Don 'Rudolph Roehrs'. HortScience
5. Ben-Jaacov, J., R. T. Poole, and C. A. Conover. 1982. Effect of
Long-term Dark Storage on Quality of Schefflera. HortScience
6. Ben-Jaacov, J., R. T. Poole and C. A. Conover. 1985. Long-Term Dark
Storage of Dieffenbachia Sprayed with Cytokinin. Gartenbauwissenschaft
7. Blessington, T. M. and T. L. Buck. 1984. Benefits of controlled
reefer temperatures and transit exposure time on the keeping life of
prominent fig species. Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Experiment
Station Research Report 9(10):1-4.
8. Collins, P. C. and T. M. Blessington. 1983. Postharvest effects of
shipping temperatures and subsequent interior keeping quality of Ficus
benjamina. HortScience 18(5):757-758.
9. Conover, C. A. 1980. Maintaining foliage plant quality during
transit. Florists' Rev. 165(4290):31,69.
10. Conover, C. A. and R. T. Poole. 1985. Acclimatization of Foliage
Plants, a manual. Hort. Res. Inst., Washington, D. C. 8 pp.
11. Conover, C. A. and R. T. Poole. 1984. Acclimatization of indoor
foliage plants. Hort. Rev. 6:119-154.
12. Conover, C. A. and R. T. Poole. 1983. Chilling injury of Ficus
ben.iamina during simulated shipping. Univ. of Fla., IFAS, AREC-Apopka
Research Report RH-83-25.
13. Conover, C. A. and R. T. Poole. 1981. Guide for fertilizing tropical
foliage plant crops. Univ. of Fla., IFAS, AREC-Apopka Research Report
14. Conover, C. A. and R. T. Poole. 1983. Handling and overseas
transportation of acclimatized foliage plants in reefers. Univ. of
Fla., IFAS, Agric. Res. & Ed. Ctr. Apopka Research Report RH-1983-1.
15. Conover, C. A. and R. T. Poole. 1983. How environment affects
long-term shipping of tropical foliage plants. Southern Florist &
16. Conover, C. A. and R.
duration on simulated
Fla. State Hort. Soc.
T. Poole. 1984.
shipping of small
17. Conover, C. A. and R. T. Poole. 1982.
shipment. Fla. Nurseryman 29(4):28-29.
18. Conover, C. A. and R. T. Poole.
Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (areca
Res. & Ed. Ctr. Apopka Research
19. Hoogerwerf, A. and E. P. Sterling.
tiidens de afzet von potplanten.
Rapport No. 2296.
Influence of temperature and
potted foliage plants. Proc.
Results of the Floriade test
Simulated shipping of
Univ. of Fla., IFAS, Agric.
S1985. Onderzoek naas knelpunten
Wageningen (Sprenger Instituit) 1985
20. Hoyer, Lars. 1984. Potteplanters holdbarhed under og efter transport.
Indlaeg pa potteplantedagene. Institute for Vaeksthuskulturer. 10 pp.
21. Ilker, Y., C. A. Conover and B. J. Pratt. 1983. Overseas
transportation of potted ornamental foliage plants in integral
refrigerated containers. Paris (16th International Congress of
22. Molenaar, W. H. and E. P. Sterling. 1983. Behoefte aan kennis
bewaring en transport. Vakblad voor de bloemisterij 42:40-43.
23. Marousky, F. J. and B. K. Harbaugh. 1978. Deterioration of foliage
plants during transit. Foliage Digest. 3(7):9-14.
24. Peterson, N. C. and T. M. Blessington. 1982. Postharvest effects of
ancimidol on-Ficus beniamina L. HortScience 17(4):612-614.
25. Peterson, N. C. and T. M. Blessington. 1982. Postharvest effects of
dark storage and light source on keeping quality of Ficus benjamin L.
26. Peterson, J. C., J. N. Sacalis and D. J. Durkin. 1980. Promotion of
leaf abscission in intact Ficus benjamin by exposure to water stress.
J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 105T6T:788-793.
27. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover. 1983. Factors influencing chilling
damage of foliage plants. Interscape 5(14):12-13.
28. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover. 1985. Growth of Ficus benjamin in
combinations of peat, sand and Melaleuca. HortScience 20(3):383-385.
29. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover.
conditions on simulated shipping
State Hort. Soc. 95:172-173.
1982. Influence of cultural
of Ficus benjamina L. Proc. Fla.
30. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover. 1979. Influence of shade and
nutrition during production and dark storage simulated shipment on
subsequent quality and chlorophyll content of foliage plants.
31. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover. 1983.
environments on foliage plant quality.
Influence of simulated shipping
32. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover. 1983. Packaging of Foliage Plants for
Shipment. Nurserymen's Digest 17(11):86-87.
33. Poole, R. T. and C. A. Conover. 1983. Storage of Ficus benjamin L.
as Affected by Viterra and Temperature. Univ. of Fla., IFAS,
AREC-Apopka Research Report RH-83-16.
34. Poole, R. T., C. A. Conover
Storage of Foliage Plants.
35. Poole, R. T., C. A. Conover
storage of foliage plants.
and J. Ben-Jaacov. 1984. Long-Term
Scientia Horticulturae 24:331-335.
and G. L. Staby. 1984. Reduced oxygen
Univ. of Fla., IFAS, AREC-Apopka Research
36. Sterling, E. P. and W. H. Molenaar. 1982.
onderzoek transportgeschiktheid potplanten.
Vakblad voor de
37. Sterling, E. P. and W. H. Molenaar. 1985. The influence of time and
temperature during simulated shipment on the quality of potplants.
Wageningen (Sprenger Instituit) Rapport No. 2286.
38. Woltering, E. J. 1982. Kennis ethyleengevoeligheid onontbeerliik bij
lan'ge bewaartiiden. Vakblad voor de bloemisteri,i 42:56-59.
Table 1. Suggested shipping or storage temperatures (F) for acclimatized
Plant name 1-14 days 15-28 days
Acoelorrhaphe wrightii 50-55 -
Aglaonema 'Fransher' 55-60 60-65
Aglaonema 'Maria' 55-65 55-65
Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' 60-65 60-65
Aphelandra squarrosa 55-60 55-60x
Araucaria heterophylla 50-65 50-65
Ardisia crispa 50-60 50-60
Aspidistra elatior 50-55 50-55
Asplenium nidus 50-65 50-65
Beaucarnea recurvata 55-60 55-60
Brassaia actinophylla 50-55 50-55
Cereus peruvianus 55-60 55-60
Chamaedorea elegans 50-60 50-60
Chamaedorea seifrizii 55-60 55-60
Chrysalidocarpus lutescens 55-65 60-65Y
Codiaeum variegatum 'Norma' 60-65 60-65
Cordyline terminalis 'Baby Doll' 55-60 50-55y
Cordyline terminalis 'Dragon Tongue' 60-65 -
Crassula argentea 50-65 50-65
Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Snow' 55-65 55-65y
Dizygotheca elegantissima 55-60 55-60
Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig' 60-65 -
Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii' 60-65 -
Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' 60-65 60-65
Dracaena godseffiana 'Florida Beauty' 55-65 55-60x
Dracaena marginata 55-65 60-65
Dracaena reflexa 50-65 50-65
Epipremnum aureum 55-60 55-60x
Ficus beniamina 55-60 55-60
Ficus elastica 'Burgundy' 50-60 50-55
Table 1. con't.
Ficus elastica 'Robusta'
Hedera helix 'Eva'
Hedera helix 'Sweetheart'
Hoya carnosa 'Tricolor'
Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'
Philodendron scandens oxycardium
Pilea 'Moon Valley'
Pilea 'Silver Tree'
Pittosporum tobira 'Wheelerii'
Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa'
Syngonium 'White Butterfly'
ZPlants shipped or stored for 1 to 7 days
temperature listed for that plant.
should be held at the highest
YPlants observed to have a loss in quality of about 25% per week beyond 2
XPlants observed to have severe loss in quality beyond 2 weeks.
WData not available.
- 10 -