Plants for Planting FAQ's

Plants for Planting FAQ's

Q. What type of permit do I need?
A. The type of permit depends on the kinds of plant material you wish to import. Use these forms for these purposes:
PPQ 587: Application for permit to import generally admissible plants or plant products, including the small lots of seeds program.
PPQ 588: Application for permit to import prohibited plants or plant products for experimental purposes.
PPQ 621: Application for protected plant permit to engage in the business of importing, exporting or re-exporting terrestrial plants or plant products that are protected.
PPQ 526: Application for permit to move parasitic plants or noxious weeds
PPQ 546: Agreement for postentry quarantine. For this type of permit, fill in the first 5 blocks of the form and then contact your State Plant Regulatory Official to set up an appointment for a site inspection and consultation.
PPQ 586: Application for Permit To Transit Plants and/or Plant Products, Plant Pests, and/or Associated Soil Through The United States.

Q. What is the turn around time for a permit application?
A. Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) requires up to 30 business days for processing a permit application and issuing a permit. Please apply at least 30 days before you order your first shipment.

Q. Do I need a permit to bring back plants from my travels abroad?
A. If you bring back 12 or fewer articles of admissible plants that have no special restrictions, you do not need a permit. However, you do need a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin.

Q. How do I know if a plant or plant part is generally admissible without special restrictions? 
A. For help in determining admissibility, refer to the Plant Protection and Quarantine Plants for Planting Manual's reference section. Click on “Plants for Planting Manual”, and then find the List of Regulated Propagative Material. Plants that are not listed in this section are generally admissible. Check for entries at the family, genus and species levels. When in doubt, you can submit a new application for the kinds of plants in question.

Q. Do I need to apply for a permit for every shipment?  
A. No. One permit is valid for future shipments of the requested commodities until the permit expires. If you wish to add new species or countries of origin, then an amendment to your permit may be required. Be sure to request an amendment at least 30 business days before you need the amended permit. Apply for new permit at least 30 business days before the current permit expires.

Q. How much does a permit cost?  
PPQ currently charges no fees for permits, except for the General Permit to Engage in the Business of Importing, Exporting, or Re-Exporting Terrestrial Plants listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The fee is for this permit $70.00. User fees for other types of permits will be implemented sometime in the future.

Q. Can companies outside the United States apply for a permit?  
No. We issue permits only to U.S. residents who have valid U.S. street addresses.

Q. What should I do if I am not sure whether or not the plant material requires a permit? 
When in doubt, you can list the scientific names on the PPQ form 587 or in the e-permits application and submit the application to the Permit Unit. You will receive a permit for enterable kinds, and notification if some of the kinds are prohibited or otherwise restricted.

Q. I applied for a permit to import plants for planting, listing the species and countries of origin on the application. I received a permit and now I want to import additional species and/or add additional countries of origin. Should I apply for a new permit? 
A. A plants for planting permit is issued for admissible nursery stock, plants, and plant parts capable of propagation that are not subject to postentry quarantine. You can import additional plants under your permit as long as the plants are generally admissible.

Q. Does my existing permit to import generally admissible nursery stock (PPQ form 597) cover shipments under the Small Lots of Seed Program? 
A. No. To import small lots of seed without a phytosanitary certificate, you must obtain a special permit for small lots of seed. You must apply for this special permit in addition to your permit for generally admissible nursery stock.

Q. Does APHIS regulate aquatic plants? 
A. Yes, the Plant Protection Act does not distinguish aquatic plants from terrestrial plants. When imported for growing or propagation, aquatic plants require a phytosanitary certificate issued by the exporting country and a written import permit for shipments of 13 or more articles. Like all plants intended for planting, aquatic plants are subject to inspection at the port of entry and must be free of quarantine pests.

The following aquatic plants are prohibited federal noxious weeds, which may be imported or moved interstate only with a PPQ 526, permit to move live plant pests and noxious weeds:

  • Azolla pinnata (mosquito fern, water velvet)
  • Caulerpa taxifolia; Mediterranean strain (killer algae)
  • Eichornia azurea (anchored waterhyacinth, rooted waterhyacinth)
  • Hydrilla verticillata (hydrilla)
  • Hygrophila polysperma (Miramar weed)
  • Ipomoea aquatica (water-spinach, swamp morning-glory)
  • Lagarosiphon major
  • Limnophila sessiliflora (ambulia)
  • Melaleuca quinquenervia (broadleaf paper bark tree).
  • Monochoria hastata
  • Monochoria vaginalis
  • Ottelia alismoides
  • Sagittaria sagittifolia (arrowhead)
  • Salvinia auriculata
  • Salvinia biloba
  • Salvinia herzogii
  • Salvinia molesta
  • Solanum tampicense (wetland nightshade)
  • Sparganium erectum (exotic bur-reed)


Q. Does APHIS regulate algae?
A. Yes, we recently expanded the scope of the plants for planting regulations to include nonvascular plants, which is defined to include mosses, liverworts, hornworts and green algae. Import of all nonvascular plants including green algae will require a phytosanitary certificate and an import permit. At the present time, APHIS prohibits only one alga, the Mediterranean strain of Caulerpa taxifolia. No one may import or move interstate this strain without a Federal noxious weed permit (PPQ form 526).

Q. Can I bring my house plants with me when I move from Canada to the United States?
A. Yes, in most cases. For further information contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for certification of the plants.

Q. If plant material is imported into Canada, under what conditions would the plants be considered of Canadian Origin?
A. An article imported into Canada from another country or locality shall be considered as being solely from Canada if it meets all of the following conditions:

a) It is imported into the United States directly from Canada after having been grown for at least one year in Canada;
b) It has never been grown in a country from which it would be a prohibited article or grown in a country other than Canada from which it would be subject to special restrictions outlined in 7 CFR 319.37;
c) it was not grown in a country or locality from which it will be subject to conditions of 7 CFR 319.37-7, unless it was grown in Canada under post entry growing conditions equivalent to those specified in 7 CFR 319.37-7; and
d) It was not imported into Canada in growing media.

Q. If bulbs are precleared do I need a phytosanitary certificate?
Precleared bulbs must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the plant protection service of the country of origin, including an additional declaration for freedom of potato cyst nematodes from specified countries. See 7 CFR319-37-5 (a) for the list of countries. Following is a list of documents that may be used in lieu of a phytosanitary certificate:

  • A “Copy-certificate of examination for USA”, this label or similar one used for precleared bulbs from Belgium, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, Turkey and the U.K.
  • A mailing label titled “Flower Bulbs From Holland” bearing a “Copy-certificate of examination for USA” at the bottom, used in Netherlands only.
  • An invoice or other document from the Netherlands stamped with “Precleared.”
  • A label on mail-order shipments with the words “Pre-cleared Flower Bulbs as per Phytosanitary Certificate” with the Phytosanitary Certificate number inserted at the top right. At this time, used by one company in the Netherlands.
  • A special certificate from the Netherlands that lists a serial number, the scientific name of the bulb, the country of its origin, and a date on which the special certificate expires.
  • Bulbs accompanied by a PPQ Form 203, or a telex (Chile) that verifies the shipment has been precleared. Also, applicable CITES documents will accompany these shipments.


Q. Do I need a USDA PPQ permit to import plant DNA?
A. Not unless the DNA is encoded with an infectious agent. In that case, it requires a pest permit (PPQ Form 526).

Q. Does USDA, PPQ regulate the movement of plants from one state to another?
A. Generally not, with the exceptions of parasitic plants and federal noxious weeds, which require a pest permit for interstate movement, and host plants regulated under specific domestic quarantines. Contact your USDA, APHIS State Plant Health Director to find out if a domestic quarantine applies to your plants. For contact information, see the APHIS " Report a Pest or Disease" Web page.

We recommend that you also check with your State's Plant Regulatory Official for possible state-level restrictions.

Q. Do I need a permit for herbarium specimens?
A. Yes, you need a permit for some herbarium specimens, such as specimens containing seeds of parasitic plants, federal noxious weeds, live pathogens, or other regulated organisms. We recommend that you apply for a permit using PPQ Form 588, Application for Permit to Import Prohibited Plants or Plant Products for Experimental Purposes; especially if you are not sure which species will be included in the shipment.

Q. Does my plant shipment have to come through one of the ports listed on my permit?
A. Yes. Restricted plant articles that require permits must be imported through specific ports of entry with USDA plant inspection stations. If you want to import through a specific port that is not listed on your permit, then you must send a written request to the Permit Unit.

Q. Can I hand-carry my plant material into the US? 
A. If you are bringing back 12 or fewer articles of admissible plants, and the articles have no special restrictions, then yes, as long as you have a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin. If you are bringing back plant material that requires a permit, then you should arrive through a port of entry that has a Plant Inspection Station (PIS). The importer must surrender the material to be forwarded to the PIS.

Q. How do I know if a plant to be imported is CITES protected?
A. You can find a listing of CITES protected plants at this website: When in doubt, you can call the permits Customer Service line at (301) 851-2046.

Q. How do I obtain additional green and yellow labels?
A. The answer depends on when your permit was issued. If your permit was issued before ePermits, you will see brown colored grid lines and “PPQ Form 597” in the bottom left corner of the first page of the permit. In this case, submit a copy of your permit and request form 564, which was mailed to you with the permit, to USDA, APHIS, PPQ, Permit Unit, Unit 136, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, MD, 20737.

If your permit was issued within ePermits, you will see the PPQ and APHIS logos at the top of the first page. In this case, you can access ePermits for label requests.

Q. How do I revise my general permit to import plants and plant products?
A. PPQ revises a permit only for simple changes such as address, permittee's name, phone number or zip code. For these changes, submit a written request to USDA, APHIS, PPQ, Permit Unit, Unit 136, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, MD, 20737. For other changes, submit a new permit application to replace the old permit.

Q. How do I revise my postentry permit?
A. This depends on the change you wish to make. If you want to add genera to your existing valid permit, contact your State Officials to have them send a formal request to PPQ. To change a growing location or permittee name, you must submit a new PPQ Form 546. For other changes, contact the Customer Service Representative at (301) 851-2046 for instructions.

Q. How long does a permit last? 
A. The general permit to import plants and plant products and the postentry permit are both valid for 5 years. The permit for small lots of seed is valid for 3 years.

Q. I don't see my question here. Whom do I call for assistance?
A. The PPQ Permits Customer Service number is (301) 851-2046.


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