Moving your plants done right

The time has come. You’ve done all the research. You’ve planned your move to be the least stressful it can. Now all that remains is for you to pack up your whole life and move it somewhere else.  Apart from moving things like books and clothes, you wouldn’t leave behind your plants. You’ve spent so much time nurturing them. After all, they are living things too. So how do you pack them? How do you ship them? Where should you best put them in your new home? Even though moving your plants does seem easy at first glance, if you get into it, it turns out to be quite nuanced. So does this mean a new round of research for you, before you can get to packing your green friends? Not really. You just kick back, relax and read through this article, because we’ve done the work for you! 

Things to consider before moving your plants:

The new environment

Before moving its best to research the environment of the area you’re moving to. You don’t want to go through the trouble of moving your plant only to have it wither away in a few weeks. So take the time to find out what kind of conditions your plants can survive and thrive in. There’s also the lighting conditions in your new home to take into account.  Another thing to keep in mind is where you will put them in your new home. Think about your current arrangement and how your plants will fit with the space you’re moving to. Going through all the trouble to move your plants only to be forced to throw them away won’t make the transitioning process any easier for you.  Just be reasonable and take only the plants you know you can fit into your new home.

Potted or rooted plants?

Preparing your plants for moving requires different steps depending on if you’re moving a plant that is in a pot or digging one out of the soil and moving it. If you’re moving a plant that is in a pot, it’s a good idea to re-pot it in a new, plastic pot. Especially if they’re in heavy or decorative pots. This way you will reduce the weight you’ll need to move. At the same time you’ll free up the pots you want to take with you, so you can clean them, and properly pack them for the move, minimizing the risk of breakage. This is best done three weeks before moving day, to allow your plant to adjust to its new pot. Just make sure the plastic pots are the same size as the old ones, as moving plants into smaller pots can cause damage.

Several pots with plants on a wooden shelf.
Moving your plants is easier if they’re the potted kind.

Moving a plant that’s planted in soil is a bit trickier. You might want to consult a professional horticulturist before doing it. Either way, do this well ahead of the move. Dig up the plant and try to keep the root base intact. Wrap the roots in a cloth and keep them moist. Don’t overdo it though as keeping the cloth wet can lead to the roots rotting away. Try to move the plant as little as you can, and keep it in a shaded area. Alternatively, you can make the process of moving your plants easier by moving some cuttings. Not only will this make moving your larger plants much easier, but it will also leave the plant itself in the soil it is used to, keeping it for the next person to move into your old home.


A smart thing to do before moving your plants is to prune them. This includes more than just removing dead leaves.  Pruning your large plants will make it easier to pack them. It will also help them grow stronger and lusher once the move is done.  You can do the same with your smaller plants, just don’t prune ferns and cacti. do the pruning about two weeks prior to the move, to let the plant recover.

Gardening tools on a table
Prune your plants to ease packing and help them grow bushier after the move.

Checking for parasites

This step might sound tedious, but don’t skip it. If your place had a pest infestation, moving is a great way to deal with it. Check your plants a week prior to the move for pests, and eliminate them if you find any. Not only will this keep your plant from becoming a new home for the pests, tucked in the packaging while to move is being done, it will also make sure your plants get a clean slate after the move!

Packing your plants

To properly pack your plants, you can use your standard boxes. Just make sure they’re big enough to house your plant comfortably. Then, secure the plant inside the box with newspapers or bubble-wrap.  Also, make sure you punch holes in the box to allow your plant to breathe. Label the boxes, mark which side is up and write down what part of your new home the plant is intended for. This will make it easier to unpack once you get there.

Legal issues

The greatest obstacle to moving your plants will not be packing them. Nor will it be safely shipping them or where you will place them in your new home. The greatest obstacle, if you’re moving interstate or international, is the legal requirements. Some states have strict regulations about what plants you can move across state borders. These are designed to protect the local eco-system, but this reason won’t make having them confiscated any easier. The legal requirements are even more strict when moving from abroad into the US. There are plants you cannot bring into the United States. For others, you might have to obtain the Asian gypsy moth inspection certificate before moving. This insect, If left unchecked it can wreak havoc on the environment of an area as it feeds on tree leaves. It also spreads rather quickly, making it one of the most destructive insects.

Dead trees at a lake side. checking for dangerous parasites when moving your plants is required by the law to prevent scenarios such as these.
Deforestation is a serious threat to the environment

Therefore it is understandable that the US government is spending a lot of time and resources to eradicate this pest from North America. This includes proclaiming parts of the US quarantined areas and requiring people to have a certificate when moving from quarantined to non-infested areas (such as Florida). Failing to abide by the legal procedure in this matter carries with it a fine for both you and your moving company. So do your research ahead. Contact the USDA State Plant Health Director of the state you’re moving to see if you can take your plants with you. And if you can’t take your plants with you, your best bet is to find a friend you can leave them with. That way you’ll at least know they’re in good hands.

Doing it right

Now that you’ve armed yourself with all this info, you’re prepared to start moving your plants. Sure, it will take effort, and planning, but that goes for most parts of the moving process. However just think about how much better your new home will be when you unpack. It is like bringing a living piece of your old place with you! That will surely keep you from getting homesick.

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