Transplant Tales: The Ultimate Guide on How to Move Plants

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Plants do so much more than simply spruce up a space. Our potted pals eradicate harmful toxins from the air, improve our overall moods, and even boost our concentration.

And as any plant parent will tell you, that leafy friendship is a two-way street. Whether you’re an urban cacti collector or you own a home overflowing with ferns, you’ve invested tons of time, energy, and love into your greenery. So naturally, if you’re planning a move, you’ll want to figure out how to move your plants with you. (A “transplant,” if you will.)

Prepping those living, breathing photosynthesizers for a move requires so much more than just plopping them in a box. As with precious antiques or our fluffy feline friends, the act of moving a plant entails delicate handling and attention to detail. Here’s everything you need to know about safely moving plants.

Before You Learn How to Move Plants, Make Sure Your New Home Allows Them 

Crossing state lines for your move? Don’t uproot everything just yet. First, you’ll need to ensure your plants are actually cleared to accompany you across the border.

For example, let’s consider California: the Golden State is known for being particularly strict at border inspections for plant materials. The CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) strongly discourages bringing citrus plants, pine trees, and fruit or nut trees in from out of state. You can only bring those miniature Meyer lemon and fig trees with you if they’ve been thoroughly quarantined. Additionally, all houseplants entering the state must have been grown completely indoors.  

Wherever you’re relocating to, check that you’re following the stipulations set by your new state’s Department of Agriculture. And if you plan on bringing fruit trees, double-check the areas along your driving route, too. Some regions won’t even allow certain plants to pass through their borders due to quarantines or potential pest problems.

Prep Your Plants in Advance of Your Move

In the weeks leading up to your relocation, give your plants a thorough pruning. This is especially important if you’re moving in late spring or summer, which is a time of rapid plant growth in most regions.

Always use sharp scissors or pruning shears, since leaving jagged edges on plants may cause them to develop disease. Follow these tips from Martha Stewart to properly tend to both the outside and inside parts of the plant.

One week before your move, remove any dust or weeds from your plants. The House Plants Expert recommends first dusting your plants with a dry cloth. Then, gently clean them with water and a clean sponge (for larger, hairless leaves) or a soft brush (if the leaves are hairy).

This is also a good time to do a thorough insect inspection, to make sure you’re not transmitting any pests to your new home. Summer Rayne Oakes from Homestead Brooklyn shows how to identify and eliminate the most common household plant pests.

Be Mindful When You Pack Your Plants for Moving   

Packing your plants for moving isn’t a difficult task, but it is a gentle one that requires time and patience.

Start by transferring each plant into a plastic pot. This will make them lighter to lift – a definite bonus if you have a long move, and need to take your plants inside overnight with you. It will also prevent breakage or damage to ceramic planters, which are fragile items and should be wrapped accordingly when moving plants.

New to repotting, or need a refresher? Before you begin, have some fresh potting mix, a watering can, pruning scissors, and an appropriately-sized (plastic) planter handy. Here’s a simple, 10-step guide from The Sill on how to repot almost any houseplant.

When it’s time to load up your car or moving truck, check that the vehicle is set to a comfortable temperature. The exact range depends on the plant variety, though the majority of plants do well between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wait until everything else is packed, then place your plants in the moving vehicle last. This way, they’ll also be the first items unloaded.

Factor in any Potential Weather Extremities When Moving Plants

While there’s no limit on when you can move plants, there is a recommended window: late fall to early spring. That’s generally the dormant period for plants, when they’re likelier to survive exposure to less-than-ideal conditions.

But if that time frame isn’t possible, not to worry. A few extra precautions will keep your plants happy during the move.

It might help to think of your plant as a person. Just like humans, plants can only withstand so much exposure to either end of extreme weather conditions.

So if you’re moving in the cold, keep your plants warm and dry. Give them their final watering a couple days before the move, and don’t risk exposing plants to the outside chill. After you’ve repotted (using the steps from #3), wrap the entire plant in newspaper. Additionally, Lowe’s recommends adding a layer of cardboard or newspaper on the floor of the vehicle for extra insulation when moving plants.

On the flip side, if you’re relocating plants during the summer, your biggest concern will be overheating. Check in on the soil throughout the move to ensure plants aren’t thirsty. And if you’re driving, don’t leave your plants parked in the heat for longer than an hour – or at least crack the window, to let in fresh air.

And if you’re making overnight stops during your move, don’t leave your potted pals behind! Bring your plants inside with you whenever possible to help them escape the extreme temperatures.

If It’s Not Possible to Move Your Plants, Consider Donating Them

Moving internationally? No matter how well you’ve mastered the delicate art of moving with plants, it’s probably not feasible to take your philodendrons abroad with you.

If moving with plants turns out to be impossible, you could always “leaf” them with a green-thumbed friend. Or consider donating them to a local school, shelter, or organization in need.

Whether you’re looking to transfer the entire contents of your greenhouse or simply transport some tulips, Dolly is here to help. We’ll connect you with local pickup truck drivers who know how precious your plants are, and will make sure they’re handled carefully – with plenty of room to bloom during their move. Book your Dolly today.

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