How To Move Plants (Without Killing Them)

It’s easy enough to move your car and your furniture, but what about your plants? Plants are living organisms that require certain conditions to both survive and thrive. Unfortunately, these conditions usually don’t exist in a moving truck or moving box. So how can you move your plants without killing them? Here’s what you need to know:

Can I Take My Plants With Me When I Move?

You understandably have an attachment to your plants and want to bring them with you when you move. But is that even possible?

With the right strategy, it’s definitely possible for you to take your plants with you when you move — even if it’s a long-distance move all the way across the country.

How Do I Move My Plants?

The proper method of moving your plants depends on whether you’re flying or driving. In any case, we are here to walk you through what you need to do to move your plants by car or plane safely:

If You Are Driving…

The ideal method of moving your plants is simply driving them from point A to point B in your car. Start by placing all of your plants in sturdy cardboard boxes to prevent making a mess in your car. If you have particularly large potted plants, you can buckle them into the backseat.

Throughout your journey, pay close attention to the weather and how it might impact your plants. For example, leaving your plants in a hot car for an extended period could kill them. Alternatively, leaving your plants in a cold car overnight could also cause damage.

If You Are Flying…

Moving your plants gets a bit more complicated if you’re flying on an airplane. The good news is that it’s possible to fly with plants; it just requires more work and planning. TSA rules allow you to fly with plants in either a checked bag or carry-on bag.

However, individual airlines may have their own rules about flying with plants. As a result, it’s always a good idea to verify that you’re allowed to fly with plants with your airline ahead of time.

Another thing you need to keep in mind when flying with plants is the issue of liquid. As you may know, the amount of liquids you’re allowed to carry onto a plane is limited to three-ounce containers within a quart-sized ziplock bag.

This means that you’re not able to use a carry-on bag to transport plants that have roots soaking in a water container. This also means that any soil should be damp but not wet. There’s also the issue of cleanliness, as simply placing your plant in a suitcase or other luggage container will likely result in the soil getting all over the place. To avoid a huge mess, wrap the pot or the entire plant in a plastic bag and secure it either by tying it or applying the tape.

Finally, there’s the issue of size. Smaller plants may fit into a carry-on bag, but larger plants may be put into checked luggage.

Furthermore, all of your luggage is subject to screening and examination by the TSA, so keep this in mind whether you’re checking your plants or carrying them on.

How Can I Ensure My Plants Will Survive the Journey?

  • Pack them safely and securely
  • Take travel length into consideration
  • Make sure to water properly before long trips

Here are some tips to help ensure that your plants will survive the journey from your old home to your new one:

1. Pack Them Safely and Securely

For starters, you should always pack your plants safely and securely. The right method of packing will depend on your method of transport.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your packing by using things like trash bags, cardboard boxes, and crumpled-up newspapers. Your packing doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to protect and preserve your plant.

2. Take Travel Length Into Consideration

You also need to consider travel length when you’re moving your plants. Moving short distances less than 500 miles is more straightforward since you don’t have to worry about bringing them into hotels with you overnight and watering them along the way.

However, longer distances require more creativity and flexibility to ensure that your plants arrive in one piece.

3. Make Sure To Water Properly Before Long Trips

Finally, you need to make sure to water your plants properly before long trips. While it may be possible to water your plants during transit, it may not be easy. There are also alternative methods of watering that are better suited for traveling, like soaking paper towels or newspapers.

Should I Repot My Plant Before Moving?

Another thing you need to consider before you move your plants is repotting. In some cases, repotting your plant before moving might make sense, but it might not be necessary in other cases.

For example, say that you’re flying to your new home and are taking your large potted plant with you. If the plant is in a heavy ceramic pot, it’s going to be more risky and expensive to transport since it could potentially break your suitcase or force you to pay overweight luggage fees.

In this case, repotting ahead of time might make sense.

Is Repotting a Bad Idea?

Repotting isn’t a bad idea so long as you go about it correctly. First of all, you shouldn’t repot the plant the night before your big move. Instead, you should repot it into a lightweight plastic pot a few weeks before you plan on moving it so that it has plenty of time to adjust to its new surroundings.

Second of all, you should use the right soil when you’re repotting your plant. Use a quality and nutritious type of soil that will provide your plant with the nourishment it needs to stay healthy and alive during the moving process.

Finally, once you have your new pot and your soil, you need to plant it properly to give it the best chance. Start by filling the base of the new pot with soil. From there, place the plant in the pot and position it to be straight.

Next, add more soil around the plant, making sure to pat it down along the way. Make sure to leave some space at the top of the pot so that you can properly water the plant without any spillage.

How Long Does It Take for Plants To Acclimate to a New Location?

Just because you can quickly acclimate to your new home doesn’t mean that your plants will be able to do the same. Instead, acclimation really depends on the type of plant, ideal environment, and new environment. For example, a tropical plant coming from a warm and sunny location like Florida might take a while to acclimate to a colder and darker climate like Washington state.

So if you repotted your plant while moving it, you should not immediately move it to another pot before first letting it acclimate to its new environment. Instead, give your plant about a week or two to adjust to your new home before you replant it into a more permanent pot or planter.

Can I Ship My Plants Safely?

While shipping your plants may not be ideal, sometimes it’s necessary. Use this step-by-step guide to help ensure that your plant is shipped safely:

  1. Research potential shipping companies, ensuring they offer to ship for plants, and check shipping rates for the best option.
  2. Remove the plant from its pot and shake off any excess soil without removing it completely from the plant's roots.
  3. Wrap the plant's roots with moist paper towels to provide them with the hydration they need during transit.
  4. Place a plastic bag over the roots and the paper towels to contain the moisture and preserve the box.
  5. Choose a sturdy and strong box for your plant so that it’s protected throughout the shipping process.
  6. Pack the plant inside the box, adding fillers like newspaper, air pillows, or foam to provide it with an extra layer of protection and insulation.
  7. Seal the box thoroughly with packing tape and label the box with “LIVE PLANT” and “PERISHABLE” to promote the safe shipping of the package.
  8. Check the weather in both the origin and the destination before shipping the plant to help ensure that it’s not exposed to extreme temperatures along the way that could harm it.
  9. Choose a fast shipping time to minimize handling and prevent the plant from going without water for an extended period.
  10. Select a delivery time frame that works for you to receive the plant as soon as possible and get it back in its pot.

Do All States Allow Me To Bring Plants?

In most cases, you’re able to bring your plants with you if you’re moving to another state. However, there are some notable exceptions to this rule. States like California, Florida, and Hawaii have stricter rules about which plants can be transported into the state.

California

In California, you’re able to transport “house plants” into the state so long as they were grown in your home, are not for resale, are pest-free, and are potted in sterile, packaged, and commercial potting mix. All citrus plants in California are prohibited. Pine, oak, fruit, and nut trees are strongly discouraged due to a high risk of introducing serious pests or diseases that could harm agriculture and the environment.

Florida

In Florida, it is unlawful to move into the state any and all kinds of citrus trees or parts of citrus trees without first receiving a special permit from the division director. Additionally, homeowner plants being transported into the state must be accompanied by a certificate of inspection.

If no certificate of inspection is available, the homeowner must provide the Department of Agriculture with the location where the plants will be located for a follow-up inspection.

Hawaii

Hawaii tends to have the most strict regulations to protect local species and the environment. According to Hawaii’s Plant Industry Division, all plants require inspection upon entry to the state to ensure that all plants are free of insects and diseases.

Additionally, all parcels coming into the state containing plants must be clearly labeled with “Plant Materials” or “Agricultural Commodities.” Furthermore, these shipments must contain an invoice or packing manifest with the contents and quantities.

In Hawaii, the following items may require permits, certificates of origin, and holding in a quarantine facility:

  • Grass family items including sugarcane, bamboo, and grass
  • Bromeliad family including pineapple, bromeliads, and tillandsia
  • Coffee plants, plant parts, and used coffee bags
  • Cruciferous vegetables including turnips, rutabagas, radishes, and horseradishes
  • Orchid family plants and parts
  • Banana plants and parts
  • Passion fruit plants and parts
  • Pine plants and parts
  • Coconut plants, seed nuts, and green parts are prohibited
  • Palm plants from the mainland U.S. are prohibited

How Do I Prevent Pests From Traveling With Me?

As you can see, many of these regulations are designed to prevent the spread of pests. So how can you prevent the spread of pests even without set regulations? Here are some tips:

  • Avoid overwatering your plants, as doing so can provide a breeding ground for fungus and bugs
  • Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests, especially during the winter
  • Quarantine any new plants from existing plants to prevent pests from spreading from plant to plant
  • Keep your plants clean by washing them with water occasionally and cleaning up any fallen leaves from the top of the soil
  • Take care of your plants by giving them enough light, water, soil, and fertilizer

The Bottom Line

Now that you’ve figured out how to move your plants, it’s time to focus on other aspects of moving like booking a moving truck and securing transport for your car. Carvaygo’s goal is to make moving easy, so check out some of our other moving guides for a smooth and straightforward process.

Sources:
Plants | Transportation Security Administration
How to Ship Plants | The Spruce
How to Protect Your Houseplants from Pests | Plant Perfect

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