House plants are the best. They make your indoor air more breathable, release microscopic bits of water, turn your shabby place into your happy place, and so much more. When it comes to moving, however, they’re a different kind of animal plant. They need prep work, planning, patience, and lots of love. Here’s what you should know before moving with plants.

Know the Law

Before we dive into the fun stuff, this point is crucial. Most states allow you to move your plants if they’re in sterilized potting soil, but some states have strict guidelines. The U.S. Department of Agriculture sometimes requires inspections of plant materials due to pest controls and local bans on particular plant species. Certain states like California have additional special plant protections as well. This is important in maintaining the ecological health of certain sensitive areas and to avoid the ill effects of invasive species, so make sure to check the local and state laws of where you’ll be moving — the plants already there will thank you.

moving with plants

Check Climate and Growing Conditions

Climate and growing conditions are two of those considerations new residents only think about after they’ve moved, often to their disappointment. Before relocating, research to see if your current plants will thrive in their new environment. Everything from average temperature and humidity to rainfall and elevation is useful climate information for your plant buddies. Even many indoor species can be affected by extremely dry or moist conditions. Check out the Plant Hardiness Zone Map before moving with your plants to see which plants are most likely to thrive in what locations.

Moving Companies and Plants Often Don’t Mix

Most moving companies won’t move plants. There’s a high risk they’ll be damaged, and because of the state laws mentioned above, many decline to shoulder the liability. If you do hire a moving company to transport your plants, make sure to double check that they’ll actually move them.

Shipping Is a Great Alternative

Shipping your plants is a viable option, but know that what happens to your plants during their journey is out of your control. USPS, UPS, and FedEx all offer shipping, and here’s how you can prep your plants to reduce the risk of damage while in transit.

  1. Remove plants from their pots.
  2. Haircut time! Give the roots and dead leaves a good trim.
  3. Wrap the roots in a wet paper towel. Then wrap again with plastic. Fasten it with tape or a rubber band for extra protection.
  4. Secure the plant in a box using ample newspaper and bubble cushioning roll so it won’t shift in transit.
  5. Pro tip: Add weight to the bottom of your box to help it stay upright.
  6. Add “Fragile,” “Live Plant,” and “This End Up” stickers to your box.
  7. Wish your flora-friend good luck on the journey ahead.
A woman pruning a plant in her garden

If You Can, Move Your Plants Yourself

We’ve established that both shipping plants and having them professionally moved are risky endeavors. It may come as no surprise then that your best bet to ensure their safety is actually…you! This is an especially smart option if you’re moving locally.

You are your plant’s best friend, and here are the supplies you’ll need to do it right.

  • Plastic pots
  • Sterilized potting soil
  • Packing paper or newspaper
  • Bubble cushioning roll
  • Plastic bags
  • Paper towels

First, you’ll want to prep your plants a few weeks before your move. Prune them of any dead leaves, branches, dust, or weeds. Do this again one week before you move as well. After that, wrap the soil up in wet paper towels and secure it with moving wrap. Then, repot.

Ditch the heavy ceramic pots if you can and transfer your plants into plastic versions using fresh and fertile soil.

If your plants need to be inspected by a local agricultural department, make sure to schedule an appointment with an authorized official before your leaving.

Your plants will be thirsty! Water them a few days before your move. Make sure the soil is moist, not wet. Most plants can go up to a week or more without water, but it’s important that the roots stay damp during the moving process.

A moving box labeled, "FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE."

Pack Your Plant Like a Pro

Pack your plant in roughly the same way you would if you were shipping it. Use a well-taped, sturdy box. Consider covering the tops of your plant with a plastic bag for extra protection.

Fill the extra space in the box with packing paper and newspaper. Leave space to let it breathe. If you tape the top of the box, poke holes in it to allow for airflow. Once again, label the plant, “Fragile, “Live Plant,” “This Side Up,” for that quick little reminder that this box needs special care. 

If you’re staying at hotels or motels while moving, try bringing your plants inside at night. This will help them stay healthy and stable. They also like late-night movies and room service, too, we hear.

You Did It!

You’ve successfully moved your beloved botanical family and they love you for it. Now that your journey is over, be sure to continue caring for your plants until they’ve adjusted to their new environment. Pretty soon they’ll start tying that room, porch, and garden together just like they always had.

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