Buying plants Health through gardening

Can We Buy Plants Safely During the Coronavirus Outbreak?

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Question: During this period of COVID-19 confinement, are plants sold in supermarkets and hardware stores at risk of transmitting the coronavirus?

Answer: The quick answer is: no more than any other commodity on sale. But here is a more detailed answer:

A Commodity Like Any Other

Gift plants (pots of bulbs and indoor plants), cut flowers and pots of herbs can be found in many grocery stores, supermarkets and hardware stores, just as they were before the COVID-19 outbreak. Soon, too, there will be trays of annuals and vegetables. In fact, in milder climes than mine, they’re already on sale. Also, some areas, garden centers are already open for business. After all, edible plants and the products needed to grow them really are an “essential service.” You can’t stop people from feeding themselves!

Authorities do not consider plants to be a serious risk to public health; that’s why their sale has never been curtailed. But no, they’re not 100% safe, nor is any other item being sold.

COVID-19 doesn’t live long outside the human body. Photo: U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

We already know that the transmission of this virus via objects is very rare, largely because the virus remains fragile outside the human body. In addition, COVID-19 does not multiply on objects, including plants, and ceases to survive soon after it has been ejected from the respiratory system of an infected human being. In three days at most, any COVID-19 virus will have been eliminated. 

Also, the virus survives longer on smooth surfaces, like metal and plastic (up to three days) than on “absorbent surfaces,” like plants. On them, the virus is likely to be eliminated within 24 hours. Still, that’s in theory. Better to stay on the safe side and consider three days as the potential viability of a coronavirus on plants.

So, the risk is minimal, even very minimal, but not entirely zero. A sick employee could have left traces of COVID-19 by sneezing or coughing near a plant or handling it. And it’s by manipulating it yourself, then bringing your hand to your mouth, nose or eyes, that there is a risk of transmission. True enough, it’s a very minor risk, but still a risk.

So, What to Do?

If you spot a great plant while shopping, sue: go for it! But do wash up afterwards! Photo:

If you are going to shop for the plant yourself, wash your hands before and after buying it. At home, clean the pot with soapy water and place the plant wherever you want. Then wash your hands again. After, don’t touch it for three days.

If you have a plant delivered to your home, again, wash the pot with soapy water, then thoroughly wash your hands. And again, don’t touch the plant for three days. Or instead, leave the plant in its packaging for three days before opening it.


After this three-day quarantine, you can touch the plant as often as you like, even give it a big, welcoming hug! There is no longer any risk to your health.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

4 comments on “Can We Buy Plants Safely During the Coronavirus Outbreak?

  1. Margaret

    Mail-order nurseries are experiencing unprecedented demand and so are experiencing major delays. Word to the wise . . .

  2. Margaret

    Thanks, Larry, for the timely info ???

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