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Importing Flowers to the U.S.: Everything You Need to Know

Flowers in a greenhouse
When importing flowers to the United States, careful consideration must apply. There are numerous rules and regulations that may be applicable. This guide will help get you started.
Harriet Daniels
January 27, 2022
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Last Modified: October 21, 2022

A bouquet of beautiful, fresh-cut flowers adds a special flair to any occasion and is sure to bring a smile to a recipient's face. The business of providing pretty arrangements of blooms of all shapes, sizes and colors requires importing flowers from a variety of countries of origin. It takes a well-organized effort and close attention to detail to make it all happen.

Flowers imported into the U.S. are required to comply with a number of regulations from both the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Customs and Border Protection. Depending on factors like country of origin, whether the flowers are cut, have berries, and more, you may need an import license.

Dealing with flowers, especially fresh cut varieties, means the clock is ticking so that each delicate stem of roses, carnations, or potted plants arrive in time for peak freshness and are showcased in floral arrangements. Our team of experts have compiled a wealth of knowledge that covers everything you need to know about the importation of cut flowers.

Can Flowers Be Imported into the U.S.?

Bouquets of flowers bunched up

The U.S. ranks as the largest consumer of fresh flowers in the world, followed by Germany and the United Kingdom. On average imported flowers makeup about 64% of fresh flowers sold in the U.S. 

Most of the flowers imported into the country are grown in South America. The market for selling cut flowers in the U.S. is estimated to ring up over $1.83 billion in sales each year. Think about Valentine’s Day, and other holidays such as Christmas along with occasions like birthdays, weddings and funerals. 

It’s clear that the sheer volume of flowers needed to keep up with the demand is massive. Popular stems imported to the U.S. include roses, carnations, tulips, orchids and chrysanthemums to name a few.

Top Flower Producing Countries

Flowers grow in just about every sector of the globe and chances are, if it blooms, it likely can be imported into the U.S. Whether it’s an exotic flower only found in South America or the fragile orchid grown in Asia, getting to port and then cleared for final delivery takes a lot of work to satisfy all import requirements.

The top flower producing countries around the globe are as follows:

CountryPercentage of Flower Production

Source: About Flowers/Society of American Florists

How Can I Import Flowers to the U.S.?

Assortment of flowers

Navigating the import requirements to bring a shipment of flowers into the U.S. is a critical step to make sure each bloom arrives ready for a starring role in a variety of floral arrangements. So just how is it all done? Well, let’s take a closer look to get an idea of what it takes to import flowers.

1. Comply With Import Regulations

When importing any product into the U.S., there are always a number of federal agencies that importers are required to comply with. In the case of importing flowers, CBP and USDA/APHIS are two of the key agencies to pay attention to.

CBP: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is tasked with making sure shipments meet federal guidelines to reach a port of entry along with paying all fees and taxes. When it comes to importing flowers, the CBP inspects flower shipments to certify they are pest-free before clearing the port.

An additional task of the CBP is to ensure each shipment of fresh cut flowers being imported into the U.S. is properly marked with the country of origin.

USDA/APHIS: The U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regulates the importation of fresh cut flowers to be used for decoration or ornamentation. The agency also works to protect plants on the threatened or extinction list under the Plant Protection Act, Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

A helpful resource for importing flowers is the “Cut Flowers and Import Greenery Manual” produced by USDA/APHIS. The manual covers the guidelines and regulations of fresh, cut sections of the plant which includes the bloom, greenery like leaves, along with the branches, stems and any attached fruit, that is not intended for consumption or growing.

2. Find a Reputable Supplier

Importing goods is not to be taken lightly, especially when sourcing flowers from around the globe. The sign of a reputable supplier is one who is transparent about the process from start to finish, follows the rules and regulations of each variety and country of origin and avoids taking shortcuts. 

Working with a reputable supplier will help ensure all required information about the floral shipment is accurate and meets all the standards in place for importation to the U.S.

The fragile nature of flowers means the import timeline is expedited in order to get the product shipped, clear customs and be delivered. A reputable supplier will not jeopardize the shipment which could result in non-payment by the importer, impact repeat business and garner negative reviews. 

Those importing flowers should ask plenty of questions upfront when seeking to source from a supplier and then check out their credentials and track record in the industry.

3. Determine Your Responsibilities For the Import

There is a lot of information to juggle when importing goods to the U.S. Importers have to determine if they have the stamina to make importing a solo project to get all the documentation in place for each shipment or if they will need help. 

If the decision is to handle everything in-house, there is a lot to know going forward. Consider working with an import expert who can handle the details as the importer of record and make sure the shipment of flowers arrives ready for arrangements.

4. Calculate the Import Duty

There are a number of importing requirements that must be met which include paying the taxes and fees assessed to each shipment. These fees are known commonly as import duty or customs duty. The amount of import duty to be paid is determined by the actual value of the goods.  

Import duty can be found by identifying an item’s HTS code. Getting the help of a Licensed Customs Broker or using a free HTS Code Lookup tool are both ways of ensuring that your HTS codes are correct so that you pay the correct import duty.

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5. Arrange For Transportation

Flowers are typically considered fragile freight which presents a challenge when it comes to shipping long distances. It is critical that flowers being imported are properly preserved during transit. The best way to protect flowers is to transport them via refrigeration to keep the blooms safe and cool to reach floral shops or other outlets.

Importers should work to secure transportation options with reliable access to refrigerated units that are ready to load when the flowers are harvested and prepared for loading. If the shipment has to wait several hours or a day, it could put the flowers at great risk, severely damaging the blooms which may result in being rejected upon delivery.

Is a Customs Bond or Import License Required When Importing Flowers?

Flowers in bulk packaging

Preparing to import flowers means making sure a customs bond is in place for shipments of goods intended for commercial use valued at over $2,500 or more. Factors such as whether or not the flowers are cut or whether they include berries will determine if you need to obtain a license to import flowers. 

Figuring all of this out can be a daunting task, especially for those who are new to importing a specific commodity. It is advised to consult with a licensed customs broker who understands the requirements and can outline the best option for each shipment based on the floral variety.

With a few key pieces of information, a Licensed Customs Broker can work to obtain a customs bond for imported goods.

Items needed for a Customs Bond includes:

1.     Commercial invoice (includes: product description, purchase price, country of origin)

2.     Packing list

3.     Bill of Lading

4.     Notice of Arrival

There are various types of customs bonds that can be applied to floral shipments depending on frequency, size and value. A licensed customs broker can help importers obtain the right customs bond to fit their shipment and help file the proper documentation to clear customs without problems. 

Remember, while an import license may only be required if berries or fruit are attached to a flower, a customs bond is always required when the commercial value exceeds $2,500.

Get Help Importing Flowers to the U.S.

Importing flowers to the U.S. can be overwhelming if going it alone. Why risk losing money and time when the team at USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, is ready and able to lend their wealth of knowledge to find the best solutions to get an array of blooms delivered for any occasion.

Our team of experts understand the fast-paced timeline of importing flowers from around the globe and are able to help shippers navigate the process in order to fulfill the demand. Consider working with a Licensed Customs Broker who acts on behalf of the importer to get everything done professionally and efficiently. 

Why not let an importing expert guide each step of the process, get the right documents and approvals lined up and ready to ship so time or money is not lost.

Contact us today for a one-on-one consulting session with the team of experts to answer importing questions. Let us help with each step of the process to ensure nothing is overlooked whether it’s florals for a birthday bouquet or an arrangement for Mother’s Day. 

Utilize a variety of resources to make the importing process go smoothly. Give us a call at 855-912-0406 today to obtain a customs bond or schedule a consulting session. 

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Need Help Importing Flowers to the U.S.?

Schedule a 1-on-1 session with one of our Licensed Customs Brokers and get the importing help you need.

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3 comments on “Importing Flowers to the U.S.: Everything You Need to Know”

  1. Hi iam from India
    I have lot flower avilable. So
    Iam intrested in export. So anybody help me. Then I will pay amount.

    1. Hello Satish,
      My name is sapan from USA. I want to startup flower business and looking for vendors from India who can ship flowers to USA.

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