How To Move Long Distances with Plants

updated Nov 9, 2022
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It’s hard enough making any big move, but add in actual living things like pets and plants, and the stress of moving gets even tougher to handle. You might already be thinking about how to keep pets happy during the journey to a new home, but have you considered the well-being of your botanical friends, too?

Here are some great strategies for making sure your plants survive the long trip to a new home and stay happy and healthy along the way.

How to Move Your Plants (Successfully)

  1. Prep your plants. A few weeks ahead of the move, rid your plants of dead leaves and branches and give them a good prune. One week before your move, remove dust, pests and weeds.
  2. Re-pot in plastic. To make moving plants easier on your back, take them out of their heavy pots and planters and give them new homes in lightweight plastic pots a few weeks before your move.
  3. Watch the temperature. If possible, transport plants in a temperature-controlled environment, like your car. If you stop at a motel for the night, bring your plants inside with you (that goes double if it’s an exceptionally warm or cold time of year).
  4. Give them the right amount of water. Cold and wet or hot and dry are bad combinations for plants. Even in an air-conditioned car, it’s tough to keep plants comfortable. If you’re moving in the summer, water plants well on moving day and along your journey. If you’re making a trip in the winter, keep the soil dry by watering them for the last time a few days before the move.
  5. Know the law. If you’re moving to a new country, check with customs to make sure that you can take your plants with you; some countries won’t allow certain species over their borders. Moving across states also requires some preparation; the US Department of Agriculture requires inspections of plant materials crossing some state lines because of pest controls and local bans on growing particular plants.

    California has a reputation of being particularly strict on its botanical visitors, but there are other states that also inspect plants on arrival.
  6. Don’t rely on a moving company. Because of the regulations above, plus the possible liability, many moving companies refuse to transport plants with the rest of your household. And beware: If you pack up your plants and have the movers transport them unknowingly, you might void your contract with them and relinquish any coverage if your other gear is damaged in the move.
  7. Ship them. It’s certainly a risk to their well-being, but you can ship plants ahead of you through the mail. Remove plants from their pots, trim down the roots and wrap the root ball in a wet towel and then plastic. Secure the whole plant in a sturdy new box with an ample amount of newspaper and bubble wrap (seriously—fill every space in the box and lock that thing down). If necessary, add some weight to the bottom of the box to keep it upright, then send it on its way with plenty of “Fragile,” “Live Plant,” and “This End Up” stickers.

And if you can’t move your house plants…

Keep a cutting. If your plants are rooted in the yard or too big to take with you, keep a cutting and try to re-grow your favorite botanicals at your new home.

Give them away. Your plants might be mobile, but if you suspect they won’t survive the move, make arrangements to give our healthy and happy plants to friends and neighbors before you go.