Buying seeds and plants from Abroad

Today i will share with you some important tips on Buying seeds and plants from Abroad. There is an increasing trend in gardeners in Pakistan to buy seeds and plants online and grow them in Pakistan. While there is no harm in doing that but one must keep in mind that local indigenous flora must be protected and alien species should not take over them. Here are some of the tips when buying seeds and plants from internet. Just a slight note here

What is Pakistan plant zone? Zone 9?
When buying seeds and plants online then every website has categorized the plant into various zones. Generally speaking the lower the zone, the colder it is. And higher the zone, warmer it is. But one must kept in mind that these zones were created keeping in mind the USA climate and not the climate of Pakistan. Basically plant zone (Also known as hardiness zone) tells you whether a plant growing in this zone will survive its winters or not? It does not tell you whether it will survive the summers or humidity of that area.
So zone 9 or zone 10 does give you a hint that a plant has potential to grow in that area but it does not give you guarantee that it will grow well there. So always consult your local horticultural society or Facebook group or any gardening forum whether this plant/seed is suitable to the area or not, before you buy. Remember, not only hardiness zone but relative humidity in that area, day night temperature difference also play an important role in success of a plant.

The higher you go in altitude, the zone goes lower, so Islamabad is cooler than Lahore and hardiness zone of Islamabad is 9 which is lower than zone 10 of Lahore. Similarly Murree might be in Zone 8 and Skardu might be in Zone 7 (approximate). So your motia cannot survive the winter of murree but grows very good in Lahore. Similarly plants like clematis and hydrangea do not grow in Lahore but feel at home in Murree and high altitudes.

In my experience, for Lahore, see if the plant grows well in Phoenix, Arizona, USA then it will survive the summers of lahore. Because phoenix arizona is also a semi desert city and Lahore is semi desert in summers. Lahore has subtropical and semi arid climate. Karachi is more tropical than Lahore. Hawai USA is zone 11 and it is pure topical, has lots of beaches and humid climate. Srilanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and all tropical in nature and this is the reason most of plant containers bought by big nurseries are always from this cities/countries.

There is a relatively better measure than winter hardiness zone and that is called heat zone. Heat zone combined with hardiness zone are better indicator of plant success in that area.

From where to buy
Apart from local seeds vendors there are many online international seeds vendors who will deliver to Pakistan. Whenever you will buy from an online seeds/plant shop, first check if the website has Pakistan in its country list both in the delivery address and in the billing address. If Pakistan is not in country list in delivery address then it cannot ship to Pakistan. If Pakistan is not present in country list in Billing address then it means Credit/Debit card of Pakistan cannot be used for making transaction.
Always always mention to the seller website that the seeds packet must be marked as a gift item for horticulture use and must not mention seeds price. This will avoid custom issues.
Online shops will send you through air mail but may not send you the tracking code. Tracking code can be checked on that country’s postal website.

some of the reliable seeds shops which deliver to Pakistan include Chiltern Seeds UK, Thompson and morgran UK, Georgia Vines USA, Sunshine Seeds Germany etc. Also find some of my reviews of international seeds vendors here and here

Restrictions on importing seeds and plants
When importing seeds or plants through post or mail office, your package might get seized by the GPO specially if it is large order or a live plant. Either you can bribe the guys at GPO (not recommended) or go the official way. The official way is that you have to get certificates from both Environment Protection department and from seeds corporation department. The guys from environment protection department will physically check your package and then approve it.

Generally speaking small orders reach home directly. I have ordered up till 25 seeds packet to Lahore but never had a problem.

When bringing plants through luggage, there is not restriction, you can bring whatever you want unless it is a huge plant noticeable by everyone and some official stops you:)

For importing live plants through Post, phytosanitary certificate is required. This certificate is issued by the seller website and they charge extra for that. Again, there are workaround to resolve this issue in GPO.

Remember, the GPO will always impose customs duty on your plants and seeds too, if they seize your package.

Best time to import bulbs/seeds
Never buy bulbs from abroad during hottest months specially Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar etc. Unless the bulbs are of summer planting like gloriosa lily, tube rose etc. Bare roots, try to get in cooler months, cooler the climate, better it is. Remember, and i repeat again, Spring of UK and most Europe is not our spring .Their summer is cooler than ours and not our summers. If you get bulbs from abroad, plant them as soon as possible. In case of bulbs, try to dispatch the bulbs to some relative of yours in the seller country like UK, USA etc and ask them to bring the package in their luggage. Buying bulbs through post creates many issues. Just to give you a hint, most south african bulbs do very good here. And some australian too.

Seeds can be bought year round. Although most of seeds mentioned in summer catalog of US and UK seeds shops are planted in Fall in hot climate cities like Lahore and Karachi however seeds like morning glory, rudbeckia etc are summer sown here. Seeds if need to be stored should be stored in fridge in zip lock baggie which are easily available. Here are some of my tips for successful seeds germination 

Making online transactions
Best option is to use your debit credit card. Remember Paypal does not support pakistan and for purchasing through paypal you need to have an international paypal account. Credit cards work fine but not all debit cards work. I have successfully used Standard Chartered debit card, UBL prepaid visa card, MCB prepaid visa debit card and i believe there are few others debit card as well. But not all debit cards work online. For some banks cards, you need to activate your card for internet shopping for limited time duration, always note that the website might complete your transaction immediately after completing your order but your card might be charged much later. Always use that website which make use of 3 digit CVV code on the back of your card.

I hope this guide was helpful to the newbies and gardeners interested in buying seeds, bulbs and plants online. Your comments are always welcome and i will try my best to give answers to any of your questions as soon as possible.

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2 Responses

  1. Just wanted to add that in order to import live plants, you need a Quarantine certificate and a permit to import. Both of these documents should be obtained in advance and it does not cost much to get these documents. With these two documents in hand, you will save a lot of time and hassle at the GPO.

  2. Arshad says:

    Very informative post, thank you.

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