Woman moving a plant into her new home

How to Move With Plants: Your Complete Guide

Plants are personal, and knowing how to move with plants lets you hold onto them longer. Whether they grow in your house, apartment, balcony, or garden, you might not want to abandon them when you find a new space to move to. That, in turn, brings up a question that you probably haven’t considered before planning your move:

How, exactly, can you complete your move with your plants?

The answer, as you might expect, depends entirely on your situation. Generally speaking, moving with plants is absolutely possible, but a wide range of variables will matter. The size and number of plants are just as important as the distance you’re moving and whether you’re crossing state lines. Also, of course, you have to make sure that you package and transport your plants the right way.

Fortunately, you’re not on your own. Consider this your comprehensive guide on how to move with plants, ensuring that your new space will be just as cozy and comfortable as your old place was.

Can You Take Your Plants With You When You Move?

Yes, you can take your plants with you when you move. But that answer is not true universally. There are four scenarios in which you might not be able to move with your plants:

1. You have too many plants to take.

As the saying goes, every move is only as big as the moving van you’re renting. If not everything fits, you will probably want to prioritize your furniture over your plants.

2. You’re moving across state or country lines.

As we’ll discuss later in this guide, it’s crucial to be aware of any potential restrictions you might encounter when crossing state lines.

3. Your plants are too old to adjust.

As plants mature, especially to and beyond ten years, they might not take to new soil as easily. You can still try, but they might not survive the move.

4. Your successors may want the plants to stay.

If, for example, you sell your home with an established garden, the home buyers may expect that garden to remain in place. Always check to make sure, especially for exterior plants.

If you cannot move your plants, consider taking a cutting or giving them away to someone willing to take care of them. Next, let’s get into some of the more detailed nuances of how to move with plants.

Moving With Small Plants vs. Large Plants

The first important detail to remember is that the strategy for how to move with plants changes depending on whether you’re moving with small plants or large plants.

Small plants, like those from an indoor herb garden, are generally easier to move. You’ll need to make sure they stay in their standard pot or container and that the container has enough buffer to avoid breaking or ripping. Bubble wrap around the pot can work well, but make sure you leave the plant itself unwrapped. The closer attention you can pay to them during the drive, the better.

Large plants will most likely need to be at least partially uprooted and replanted once they arrive at their new home. You can mitigate the damage by taping some cardboard over the pot and wrapping it in newspaper. If they are too large to take whole, you can take a cutting of the plant and then plant a new version in your new space.

How Should You Transport Your Plants?

Generally speaking, it makes the most sense to keep your plants close to you during the move. That means storing them in your car or moving vehicle, so you can take care of them at any stop if necessary. With that said, there are two alternatives to consider:

  • You can mail plants with the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx. This is generally not recommended because it takes too long, even with the fastest methods, so your plant may wilt or die. This USPS guide on mailing plants can help if you do need to go this route.
  • You can take plants on an airplane with you in either your carry-on or checked luggage. Check with both the TSA and your airline on specific guidelines, such as how your plants need to be marked and whether they will fit in the overhead bin.

How to Take Your Plants on a Long-Distance Move

Generally speaking, short moves with plants are relatively easy. You can take them in the passenger seat of your car and even strap them into a seatbelt. Long-distance moves, however, are more complicated because you need to make sure your plants stay safe for a long time. A few considerations for how to move with plants across a large distance can help:

Water your plants well.

Chances are you won’t be able to take care of them much during the move, so a good watering the day before the move is crucial.

Pack your moving vehicle strategically.

The planting pots should be tightly packed to avoid shifting, while the tops should be free and without anything nearby that can smash into them. It also helps to pack your plants last, so you can unpack them first when arriving at your destination.

Manage the light exposure.

Continuous, direct sunlight is bad, but most plants will want at least some light when you’re moving for multiple days. If necessary, give them a few minutes in the sun about once a day, so they can recharge during stops.

Manage the temperature.

When plants stay in a hot van overnight, they might not make the trip. If you’re moving for more than a day, consider taking the plants into your overnight stay location with you instead.

Crossing State Lines With Your House or Garden Plants

When you move to a different state, you might run into issues with that state’s regulations being different from your current home. Rules about soil, plant type, and pest-free certifications will all affect your strategy of how to move with plants.

We won’t go into the nuances of every single state in this guide, largely because others already have. Check out the National Plant Board’s website, which lists the rules and regulations for every U.S. state when it comes to what you can and cannot do. It helps to not only check the state to which you travel but any state you pass through.

Moving to a different country gets even more nuanced. The best option here is to do a web search for “moving with plants to [country],” which usually shows that country’s regulations on a governmental agency’s website. Here’s Germany’s customs website as an example.

How to Prepare Your Plants for Moving

It’s time to get specific. One month before your move, start preparing your plants by replanting them into plastic pots or containers that are less likely to break. This is also the perfect time to do any pruning. Remove old or wilted leaves and branches.

Repeat the pruning two weeks before you move, just to make sure the only energy intake for the plant will be for healthy branches and leaves. One week before you move, check your plants for any potential parasites, ensuring that you don’t bring an infection to the new home with you.

The day before you move, give your plants a good watering. Don’t overdo it, though; soil that is too wet can actually be harmful. Instead, make sure that the soil is nice and moist for the move.

How to Pack Your Plants During the Move

Mover protecting her plant pots with thick paper

Make sure you pack your plants as late as possible before the move to minimize the time they will be out of their natural habitat. You can wrap the pot and soil in bubble wrap, but be sure to leave the plant itself uncovered. Alternatively, consider placing small plants into a plastic bag and sealing it with a rubber band at the stem.

If you need to protect the plant itself, use moist paper (newspaper tends to work well) that is still breathable.

If you are just moving cuttings or bulbs, place them in a paper bag. Cuttings will need moisture around them, which you can do by inserting them into a saturated piece of foam or even a potato. They will need to be planted as soon as your move is complete.

Pro tip for how to move with plants:

Don’t water the plants on the day you move to avoid oversaturation.

How to Resituate Your Plants in Your New Home

Finally, let’s talk about the last piece of moving your plants: what to do when you arrive. Keep a few things in mind to ensure that all that effort to take them with you on your move was worth it:

  • Unwrap and unload your plants as soon as you can. The sooner they get away from your other moving materials, the less likely they will be damaged.
  • Place your plants in the same environment they were in before the move. That might be a garden or a pot the same size you used in your old home.
  • Find a spot for your plants, and avoid moving them. The less they move around, the more likely they will be to acclimatize themselves to their new environment.
  • Water your plants normally. Avoid adding too much water just because they haven’t had any in a while.

By following these tips about how to move with plants, you’ll have maximized your chances of bringing your plants with you on your next move. Planning and attention are the most important pieces in making sure that your plants survive the move as healthy and happy as you.

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