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How to Move House Plants Across the Country

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Moving your houseplants across the country is challenging. Most houseplants find a cross-country move traumatic, and some will not recover. The best bet for most houseplants is to give them as gifts to friends, neighbors, and relatives before the move. However, if you just can't bear to part with your grandmother's 40-year-old begonia or an even older bonsai juniper, there are ways to raise the chances of your plant surviving the trip to your new home. But there is some preparation to do beforehand as part of your cross country moving to-do list.

1. Understand the Restrictions

If you know something about seed catalogs, you might have noticed that companies won't ship plants to certain states. For example, California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida don't accept shipments of citrus plants from out-of-state. Other states have similar restrictions. If you are attached to any fruit, nut, oak or pine tree in your yard and want to bring it to your new place, you might have to place it in quarantine. California restricts the import of plants to those that are:

  • Strictly houseplants
  • Free of pests
  • Ornamentals
  • Not to be resold
  • Grown in sterile commercial potting mix - the soil in the pot cannot come from your yard

If this list seems strict, it's for a good reason. States are concerned with protecting their agriculture and natural resources. Introducing new plants from other areas may also introduce disease, plant pests, and weeds. If you are moving to a new state, call its Department of Agriculture first to make sure that the plants you want to bring with you are allowed.

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2. Find a Mover

Most long distance moving companies do not take houseplants. Even those that do may keep your plants for days in the inhospitable climate of the van or the moving truck. These vehicles are not climate-controlled and could expose your plants to fatal temperature fluctuations. The best way to transport your favorite plants across country is to put them in your car. First, they have to be properly packed.

3. Know How to Pack Plants

A few days before the move, make sure the plants are well-watered. On moving day, you want the soil to be moist, but not soaking wet.

Stake leggy or tall plants to add support, and pack sphagnum moss around them to keep the soil contained. If the plant is oversized, you can put plastic over the top of the pot and secure it with string. This plastic allows you to lay the pot on its side without soil spilling out.

Wrap all plants in cones made from Kraft or butcher paper to protect them from the intensified heat, cold and sunlight that accompany a trip by car. Then, put them in boxes. Keep the lids on but crumple up paper and stuff around the pots to keep them from sliding. Set the boxes on the seats, so they get air and sunlight. Do not put plants in the trunk of your car even if you have room. Finally, never allow your house plants to get too hot or too cold.

When you finally arrive at your new place, tend to your plants first. Unwrap them and water them right away.

By following these steps, you can take your favorite house plants with you to your new home, even if it's hundreds of miles away.