Written by Kelsey W.
When you care for a plant for many years, it becomes a familiar and welcome part of your home. You might even own plants your parents, siblings, or friends once owned, which makes them even more valuable. So, it makes sense that you might want to take your plants along for the ride when you move.
The good news is that it’s definitely possible to move with your plants, no matter the distance. Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, taking a few steps to preserve your plants during transport may mean the difference between life and death for your green friends.
Are you planning to move soon? Here’s everything you need to know about moving with your plants.
Can Plants Make a Trip Across the Country?
Many plants are entirely capable of surviving a few days of transport. Still, the type, size, and where you’re moving might impact their longevity. If you love cactuses and you’re driving north to a place with very short days during the winter, you might need to think about giving the plants a grow light at your destination or making sure you find a window on the sunniest side of the home.
Similarly, if you have a plant that hates the heat and you’re moving to a place like Southern California, you might want to rethink transporting the plant or making sure that you can provide an air-conditioned environment for your plant.
Don’t expect your pothos to enjoy a massive window with the bright sun blasting it all day. Make sure you can replicate the growing conditions of your old home at your new location. In order to survive the rigors of a cross-country move or a relocation that takes several days, it’s essential to give the plant a healthy growing environment immediately when you arrive at your new place.
Keeping Plants Healthy During Transport
The preparation you put into transporting your plants is the most crucial task you have in keeping the plants alive. Readying them for travel means ensuring they’re watered and giving them a secure place to stay during the journey. Cardboard boxes work wonderfully, and you can secure the pots by stuffing some old newspapers wherever you see gaps.
You can often place a few small plants in a single box, but you’ll want to give your tall plants some additional protection. You may need to employ some tall boxes or extra wrapping so the plants don’t wave around and bend during transport.
If you’re using an open-air transport like the bed of a pickup truck, you may want to avoid putting the plants in the bed with the rest of your possessions. You might get to your destination and find that your plants no longer have any leaves because the wind ripped them away as you drove down the highway.
Watering the Plants.
In addition to packing your plants carefully for transport, you’ll also want to water them at the right time before your move. Although you might assume watering them immediately before departure is the best time, it’s actually best to water them a few days before the move.
Freshly watered plants are heavy to move, they may leak inside your car, and the plant might remain soggy during transport. Wet soil may encourage root rot to develop or the leaves to turn yellow, especially if your move is likely to require four or five days of travel.
Pruning the Plants.
Trimming your plant before you move may be helpful because a smaller plant is easier to transport. However, you may want to avoid cutting the plant immediately before you relocate. While trimming and pruning plants isn’t a stressful experience in and of itself, you may want to trim the plant a few weeks before you move, just to give it a chance to get used to its new haircut.
Cleaning the Plants and Checking for Bugs.
The last thing you want to do is transport bugs to your new location. Not only may the bugs represent an invasive species at your destination, but they might spread to your other plants after you’ve tied them up and wrapped them for transport. Sometimes, the best way to remove bugs is to look at every leaf and stem and remove them by hand.
Will Movers Pack House Plants?
In most cases, movers avoid taking plants because of the inhospitable conditions in the back of a moving truck. Plants may experience extreme heat or freezing temperatures during transport. They’ll often receive zero sunlight during the journey. If your movers do agree to move your plants, they probably won’t guarantee that the plants will make it alive to the destination.
For a long-distance move that may see the plants sitting in the back of a truck for a few days, the journey may prove fatal. For cross-country moves and any journey taking more than two days, you have four choices for keeping your plants alive.
1. Transport the plant in a vehicle with windows.
As long as you prep your plant for transport, most plants should survive a journey in a car, even if it takes a few days to get to your new location. The plant will enjoy your climate-controlled interior, as well as the sunlight through the windows. Try to avoid putting the plants in an unlit truck unless the journey is 24 hours or less.
2. Take a cutting from the plant.
If you have a large plant that won’t survive a long journey in a truck, you may be able to take a cutting and create a new plant at your destination. Wrap the cutting in some wet paper towels, wrap the bundle in aluminum foil or bubble wrap, and try to keep it out of the direct sun during transport.
3. Gift the plant to a friend or family member.
If you own a sensitive plant that doesn’t like moving and might get too stressed on a long journey, you might want to find your plant a new home. If you can’t bear to part with your plant or even gift it to a friend, take a cutting and try making a new plant at your new home.
4. Mail the plants.
It might sound strange, but you can actually use the postal service or other shipping carriers for shipping your plants. If possible, remove the plant from its pot and ship it wrapped in wet paper towels and some bubble wrap. Place it in a big box with some packing peanuts.
Moving a Plant Across the Room
Some plants feel stress at the slightest changes in their environment, whether it’s a cold snap, a few days without bright sun, or a move just a few feet across the room. A Ficus plant, for example, can react poorly to a 10-foot move across the living room, let alone a 3,000-mile move across the country.
Most plants fare just fine when moved around the house, however. Hence, it’s often just a matter of figuring out whether you have a susceptible plant like a Ficus. Most plants react well and thrive in a stable environment, so you may want to think carefully about where to put your plant.
Consider the sunlight and temperature needs of the plant, and choose a spot that offers the plant what it wants. Once you’ve found a table, shelf, or space for the plant, resist moving it constantly. Just let the plant do its thing, and avoid moving it every few days for vacuuming or dusting. Try to clean around the plant without moving it.
A Note on Legality and Moving Plants
Did you know that some states ban some plants from transport? While most houseplants like philodendrons won’t raise any red flags, you may want to explore the regulations that might exist in your new location regarding plants and their transport. If you know your future state won’t accept your plant, you may have time to rehome the plant to a neighbor or friend before you move.
According to an article from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state may confiscate some plants, and it “strongly discourages” the introduction of plants like indoor citrus trees into the state’s ecosystem. Most houseplants are immune from these regulations, but border inspection officers may confiscate or reject a plant if it looks sickly or shows signs of an infestation.
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