How to Move Homes With Your Houseplants In Tow (& Keep Them Healthy)
Moving soon? We’ve got you covered on the safest and easiest ways to get your houseplants from one place to the next. Short or long distance travel with plants can be tricky but we’ll guide you through any hurdles that may arise.
Like the 30-million people who changed addresses in 2020, many wonder what to do with their newfound obsession, houseplants. Do you move with them, and if so, how? Plans for moving will differ a bit based on how many plants you have– we’ve personally moved homes with about 50 plants, but know of friends moving with upwards of 400 plants! And if you’ve only got a handful, then it shouldn’t be an arduous task at all.
First, you’ll want to look into any laws or regulations for moving with plants. This is something that most people don’t think about, and it can be a grey area as each state can have different rules. If you’re traveling in-state, then you’re good to go. But if moving beyond state lines, you need to be cautious. The state-specific Department of Agriculture can lead you in the right direction– and keep in mind that if your truck gets stopped or goes through inspection, be prepared to vouch for your plants and show documentation since plants could get confiscated.
For the most part, if you’re moving solely with indoor plants and plan to keep them indoors when they arrive at their new home, then you’re likely ok. Some plants (like citrus) are strictly regulated though, so do a quick check first. The main issue with transporting plants is the potential spread of pests or pathogens. Certain plant issues may be rare or nonexistent in parts of the country, and protecting the environment from potential harm is key!
Moving Companies Are Likely Out of the Question
The risk of spreading plant disease can lead to destruction of species and ecosystems– this is one of the reasons that moving companies typically do not handle plants. The other reason is the liability of transporting living, fragile beings, and moving companies do not want to assume responsibility for dead or damaged plants. Between temperature extremes, inevitable delays, lack of light, and shifting items, plants just aren’t cut out for that kind of road-life. So that means moving indoor plants falls on you. But how do you package the plants and keep them safe in transit whether it’s 10 miles down the road or 1000 miles down the coast?
Step 1– Relax, You’ve Got This
Ok, we know the feeling that sets in before traveling with plants. It’s a lot– from planning the process, then prepping the plants, to the actual action transporting the plants. But it doesn’t have to be so stressful, especially if you know what you’re doing. So before feeling overwhelmed and like this is too daunting of a task to move with plants… remember that plants are transported daily!
Think about the fact that most garden center plants get there from semi-trucks. About 90% of US houseplants originate from Florida and California, and therefore need to rack up thousands of miles on the road to arrive all across the country. So luckily, we have substantial evidence that traveling with lots of plants can be done feasibly! Let’s examine and take from what wholesale nurseries do to keep plants arriving to retailers happy and healthy.
Step 2– Choose Your Mode of Plant Transportation
Let the planning commence! You’ll want to start considering options for how to physically get your plants to the next destination. If it’s just a few plants, they could travel in the car with you. Or if it’s a few hundred, renting a moving van or even truck (to drive yourself) is ideal. Then start thinking of how you can organize the plants. Unless there are racks with securing belts, you won’t be able to stack plants, so keep space in mind.
Step 3– Lighting Requirements
When choosing your mode of transportation for your indoor plants, consider the natural light they’ll be exposed to. Plants can typically handle darkness for 5 days– so if they’re in the back of a moving truck, then they’ll be ok for a few days. However, the majority of houseplants don’t handle direct sunlight well (which can result in burned leaves). So if the plants are in your car, check the lighting to make sure they won’t be exposed to harsh sun rays during the ride. This doesn’t necessarily mean to rule out the car if it has lots of windows and sun shining in. There are always alternatives– for instance, you can cover side windows with sheer shades (or whatever you have!)-- just as long as it’s still safe and you can see and drive comfortably. Or you can cover the plants with a lightweight sheet.
Step 4– Temperature Control
Since most houseplants are considered tropical (due to their origins & needs), you’ll need to maintain a warm environment. Specifically, indoor plants require temperatures between 60-85°F– any lower or higher and you run the risk of foliage and/or root damage. So this is another factor to keep in mind when choosing how to transport your plants.
If you absolutely have to move during hot or cold weather, try to find a climate controlled moving vehicle. Your best bet for air circulation and control is a cargo van or any attached cabin vehicle. For cold weather movers, the heat from artificial sources (like car heaters) may temporarily dry out the air and therefore, the plants. Tropical plants are fond of humidity, so this dryness could cause some leaf edges to slightly brown (which is a purely cosmetic problem). Plus, if traveling long distances, check the soil daily to ensure it hasn’t dried out faster than normal due to heat (if so, the plant may need extra water).
If you’re in a pinch and don’t have access to a temperature controlled vehicle during winter, wrapping insulation around the plants can protect them from the elements. In this case, group the plants in boxes at the center of the moving truck, and pack other boxes all around (kind of like a barrier).
In the thick of summer, if it's above 85 (without air conditioning), it’s best to just delay the plant transport or move at night when it’s cooler. This is because when it’s hot out, the interior can reach 10-30 degrees higher than the outdoor temperature.
Step 5– Packing the Plant Properly
Nurseries usually transport 1000s of plants in semi-trucks with little to no packaging! They sometimes use a cone-like, paper sleeve that fits snugly around the exterior of the plant– and that’s it. So plants can arrive perfectly intact if they’re packed well.
If you have just a few plants, we recommend wrapping the base to protect the plant from potential soil spillage. We get this isn’t feasible with a ton of plants, and that’s ok because this step isn’t necessary (just an extra precaution). If traveling by car, this wrapping method can also protect the flooring from moisture and dirt damage. Try using recyclable materials or reusing pieces from around the house because moving can really rack up unsettling, unnecessary levels of single-use plastic. So if you have old grocery bags, just slip a plant (in the nursery pot) right in and tie it where the soil meets the stem.
Step 6– Secure the Plant
One of the most important components is securing the plants so that they experience little to zero movement. This is imperative to guarantee a damage-free plant. If the plant can’t move or topple over, then it can’t get hurt.
The best way to get a plant stationary is by packing plants tightly together. We recommend grouping plants together (pots snugly touching) in wide boxes and then packing other boxes all around (ensuring nothing can fall on them). It’s also important here to make sure that the plants are only in their nursery pots and not ceramic pots (which will inevitably break if placed next to one another). If they’re potted in breakable pots, then you’ll need a little extra protection– like boxes for each individual plant with padding around the pot.
Any time you take a turn or hit the gas or breaks, plants have the chance to move. Jolting movement will likely be your biggest obstacle, so the more resistance the plant bases have, the better protected they’ll be.
Step 7– Use Extra Caution
It may go without saying, but be careful as you wrap and move plants. Plants can present hazardous conditions, even as unassuming as they seem! We’ve heard so many accounts of people either poking their eye on the tip of a snake plant leaf or getting pricked by a sharp cactus! During the moving process, you’re often rushed and exhausted which is the perfect recipe for mindless mistakes– so just be cautious while handling plants.
Pre and Post-Move Care
Moving can be stressful on plants– not only the journey, but also the fact that they now have to adapt to a new indoor environment. Reducing stress leading up to the move is imperative. It’s best to not repot, fertilize, or propagate in the 2-4 week period before as well as the 2-4 weeks after moving.
Let the plants adjust naturally on their own once they arrive, just making sure to provide ample light (whatever that particular plant usually needs) and typical amounts of water. Even still, the plant may experience some transit shock which can be normal. To best support the plant through shock, discard any dead or dying leaves as they wilt away and continue to provide basic needs of light/water. It may take weeks or months for the plant to bounce back, but just be patient and allow the plant time to recover.
With that said, don’t let your big move with plants discourage you. Plants travel across the country every single day (with little issue!). By nature, plants may be delicate, but they aren’t weak. And if it’s healthy, mature, with well-established roots, then it will more than likely travel exceptionally. Happy moving!