A quick guide for moving houseplants

Moving guides - December 14, 2018

There are a thousand and one things to do when moving, like preparing your children and your pets… but what about your plants? Moving houseplants can be surprisingly tricky! It’s not something you want to leave for last minute, especially because there might be state laws involved. After all, you’ve worked hard to make sure your plant friends are as happy and healthy as can be, you don’t want to damage them in the move! And, if it turns out that you can’t take them with you due to federal law, you’ll want to know well in advance so you can find them a good home. So, you have to include your plants in your planning. They’ll need special care – all the jostling and shaking can prove fatal for them otherwise! But, if you follow instructions well, there shouldn’t be any problems at all.

Small succulents. Moving houseplants is easy if they're this size!
How difficult moving houseplants is depends on their size. Moving a small succulent is different than moving a huge rhododendron!

How short is your move?

The longer your move, the more you need to do about it. If you’re just moving locally to another neighborhood, you won’t have to do a lot at all. Just put your plants in proper boxes and cushion their pots with crumpled newspapers and you’re golden. Of course, proper boxes means boxes that are a good fit – you don’t want your plants sliding around! And, if they’re large plants, you might want to wrap them in tissue paper to make sure the branches don’t break. Or, put them in a cone of craft paper. Then, take them in your vehicle to your new house. But if your move requires a lot of travel, it won’t be as simple as that. But if you care enough for your houseplants to keep them watered, you shouldn’t have too many problems.

A cute pink houseplant in a small pot.
No matter if you’re moving long distance or locally, though, you should move your houseplants by car and not by truck.

You need to check with the authorities when moving houseplants

Are you traveling long distance? Your plants might be prohibited materials. It sounds silly in theory – but it really isn’t. After all, moving houseplants across state lines can be dangerous if they’re infected with parasites! That way, you can accidentally infest the plants in your new state. The state guidelines are there for a reason. They have to protect the food crops in their states! Of course, moving a small potted plant is different than, say, moving a rosebush you plan to replant outside. To be safe, you really should check with the United States Department of Agriculture guidelines. You might have to quarantine your plants.

Of course, if you’re moving really long-distance, you might not be able to bring your plants at all. Plants qualify as perishables under federal law. And perishables aren’t allowed – you won’t be able to bring a freezer full of frozen meat either. They’re not allowed on moving vans if said moving vans have a journey longer than¬†150 miles. Make sure to check in advance! Put getting information on your moving checklist so you don’t forget. Otherwise, you might incur a very hefty fine, and no one wants that.

A small aloe vera plant in a stylish black bowl.
If moving houseplants proves to be too much of a hassle, consider taking cuttings instead.

Moving houseplants without damaging them

Houseplants are very delicate. You have to stagger your preparations, so you don’t overwhelm them. They’re not used to excitement! You’ll need the proper supplies and a lot of time, effort, and love. So, if you have a house full of houseplants, and you’re moving long distance… you might want to decide which you’ll keep and which you’ll give away. It can be a very difficult decision, so of course, you can keep all of them, but that’s still a lot of work!

  • You’ll have to switch their soil for sterile soil! That way you aren’t bringing any insect hitchhikers with you on your move.
  • You will have to report your houseplants in plastic pots that won’t break. When moving houseplants, the last thing you want to happen is for their clay pots to smash!
  • If your plans are big, pruning them is a good idea. Plus, it will actually make your plants healthier! Make sure you know how to do that.
  • Make sure to treat them for parasites and pests! You shouldn’t move insect-infested houseplants, so make sure to do this in advance – that way, the pesticide has time to work. Of course, you can’t bring the pesticides with you when you move, as they’re on the forbidden to move list, so only buy what you’ll use up.
  • Water your plants before moving them, but make sure not to over-water them. You don’t want them to freeze or rot, right?
  • You’ll have to pack them either on the day of the move or the evening before. You should unpack them as quickly as you can- that way you minimize damage when moving houseplants.
  • Make sure to punch air-holes in their boxes! You don’t want your plants to suffocate.
  • Label your plants, including which side is up.

Unpack your plants quickly!

Of course, there’s a lot to do when you first enter your new place. No one is expecting you to frantically unpack houseplants while the movers are bustling around you with boxes. But, you shouldn’t keep them packed up for any longer than you need to. Plants break easily, so just cut them out of the box instead of trying to salvage the cardboard. Avoid ferrying them around the house for the first few days – just let them acclimatize first. Of course, you’ll have to water them too. You might discover some of your plants are wilting, or their leaves are falling off. This is completely fine, and is their response to shock after moving houseplants. It’s temporary, so they should bounce back. It’s only a cause of concern if they don’t.

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