Eight Tips for Safely Transporting Your Houseplants During a Move
Moving? You're forgetting one important housemate: the plants. Temperature and light fluctuations, not to mention the jostling, are intolerable to most of them—even the hardiest varieties. For that reason, many houseplants end up on the curb or in the "for sale" section of Craigslist for another loving plant parent to adopt.
But it is often possible to bring along even your largest plants during a move. (You've worked hard to keep them alive this long, after all.) To start, it's recommended that you prep your plants a week or so ahead of the big move. That means pruning dead leaves, ridding the soil and stems of any pests or weeds, and, for your sake, repotting them in a plastic (read: much lighter weight) container that isn't likely to break in transit. This goes for trips you and your plant will be making together. Those being shipped—a convenient, albeit risky, alternative—will need extra special care.
Just as important as ensuring your plants make it to their new home intact: Seeing to it that they continue to thrive when they get there. In the same way that plants need to ease into a new setting when you relocate them from an outdoor setting to an indoor one, those that have endured the stresses—and, for many, the shock—of a move will need some time to adjust.
Read on for our expert tips on how to move your plants safely—including a handy trick using an old gym class tool—and what to do to help them get settled in.
Check with Authorities
If you're traveling long distance, contact the state's department of agriculture as there may be restrictions. "Some states won't allow you to move 'dangerous' plants in so they can protect their crops like potatoes in Idaho, citrus in California, etc.," explains Kyle Tiller, Field Training and Development Specialist of moving company Two Men and a Truck. "A lot of states will regulate your efforts, but it is easier to get a plant that solely stays potted inside the home into a state, rather than ones that are replanted outside." Check the USDA's Plant Protection and Quarantine Program for federal regulations as well.
Tend to Them Before the Move
Start by refreshing the soil: "Before moving, you should replace the old soil with fresh, sterile soil so there aren't any bugs (hopefully) crossing the state lines or infesting your car while it's being transported," Tiller says. If your state requires a certified inspection, call your local agricultural department to schedule an appointment with an authorized examiner. They will provide you with the required forms to present at state borders if required. Two or three days before moving, water the plants well (the soil should be moist, but not sopping wet). It's important to keep the roots damp while en route.
Pack Them Properly
Protect plants from heat, cold, sunlight (which is intensified by car windows), and wind by wrapping them in cones of kraft paper. Ivan Martinez, plant expert at New York-based Tula Plants & Design, calls this technique "sleeving": "Take a piece of craft paper—you'll want the width to be about the same as the height of the plant—and wrap the paper to make a cone shape, slightly wider at the top. Tape or staple to keep the shape. Then, slip in the plant with its pot from the top of the cone so all the plant leaves and stems get pushed upwards." For more delicate plants, such as cacti and succulents, he suggests placing them in a box and cushioning the empty space with bubble wrap or towels.
Store Safely En Route
Place plants in the car alongside you, never the trunk. Tiller's suggestion? "We recommend on the floor in the back seat where it's a little tighter and less of a chance for it to tip." And if the trunk is your last-ditch option? "Be sure there are plenty of items packed around it to keep it from falling over."
Tend to Them During the Move
In warm weather, stop periodically in shaded areas and crack a window to let in fresh air. And in colder weather, maintain a comfortable temperature in the car. Avoid exposing plants to harsh winds and direct sunlight. If you stop at hotels along the way, bring them inside, so they are not affected by extreme temperatures. "Just be sure you don't crush any leaves or branches," Tiller warns, "or that anything will fall on top of it."
Use a Dolly
Here's an idea we lifted from P.E. class: The scooters you once slid around on can now save your back at home. Keep a heavy potted tree on top, and roll it with ease whenever you need to vacuum behind it, shift it to a sunny new spot as the seasons change, or move it to a new home with ease. Bonus: This scooter's non-marking rubber casters don't scuff up gymnasium floors—or your hardwoods.
Champion Sports wood scooter board, 16", $37, amazon.com
Tend to Them After the Move
When you reach your destination, make tending to plants a priority—unwrap and water as soon as possible. Post move, give them a few weeks to recover from the shock of relocation. Some of them may lose their leaves or wilt, but note that it is normally only a temporarily defensive reaction that should pass after you settle in.
Take a Cutting
And if one plant is too big or cumbersome to move? Snip off a cutting. You can do this with hydrangeas, begonias, succulents—each one calls for a different method. To take one, use a sharp knife to trim off a healthy growth, removing any excess leaves. Mid-move, keep the cutting moist by wrapping it in damp paper towels secured with a rubber band, and in a zip-lock bag. Once the cuttings root, it can be gently replanted in its new home.