How to Pack Houseplants for a Move

Keep your plants safe during transit with these tips

Piled cardboard boxes with a potted plant in the foreground

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Whether you are relocating across the country, the state, or a town or city, properly packing your houseplants for a move is an important part of the process. Relocating can be stressful enough and the last thing you need is for your plants to die during transit due to improper preparation. Have no fear—packing houseplants for a move isn’t as daunting as it sounds and it can be done successfully no matter how long your journey. 

If you are using a moving company, be aware that most moving companies will not move your houseplants. At first, this might seem like an inconvenience, but in reality, it is best that you personally be responsible for your plants during a move to ensure their well-being. It is generally not a good idea to place your plants in the back of a moving van and hope for the best. So even if your movers do offer to move your houseplants, it is a good idea to move them yourself. 

During the move, you want to expose your houseplants to as little stress as possible throughout the process. That usually means your houseplants are one of the last items to be packed and are one of the first items to be unpacked once you reach your destination.

Prepare Your Plants for the Move

If you are moving out of state, contact the destination's local U.S. Department of Agriculture office to learn about the state’s regulation on importing plants. Certain states, such as California, have strict regulations on importing plants.

Repot into Plastic Pots

Three weeks before your move date, transplant all of your houseplants out of breakable clay planters and pots and into plastic containers. This will not only ensure that your clay pots are not broken during transit, but it will also make your plants lighter and easier to carry and pack in moving boxes.  

Don’t Bring Pests Along for the Ride!

Before you move all of your houseplants to your new home, it is a good idea to thoroughly inspect them. The last thing you want to deal with while you are busy unpacking boxes and settling into your new house is an infestation of mealybugs or spider mites. Even if you don’t find evidence of pests on your plants, applying a dose of insecticidal soap as a precaution will bring you peace of mind during your move.

Prune Your Plants

About a week before your move, prune your plants. Trimming back unruly growth will not only help your plants stay compact and easier to transport, but it will also encourage new growth which will help them to acclimate to their new environment. Avoid pruning ferns, cacti, and succulents—these plants will be happier if they are left alone.

How to Pack Your Houseplants

There are many different ways to pack your houseplants for a move, and the method you choose will likely depend on the type of plant you have. Do you have small succulents and cacti? If that's the case, boxes and bubble wrap will likely work for you. If you have tropical houseplants with large, leafy foliage - the plants might need extra wrapping to protect leaves during transport.

The day before your move is the best time to start packing up your plants. Yes, this will probably feel like it's the last minute, but remember that you want to expose your plants to as little stress as possible. If the plants need to be packed in boxes, it’s best that they are in the boxes for 24 hours or less so that the absence of light doesn't severely affect them.

Utilize Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is your best friend when you are packing your houseplants during a move, especially for prickly cacti and succulents which can damage nearby plants if they come into contact with them. Use old bedsheets, newspaper, brown packing paper, or bubble wrap to cushion your plants and hold them in place in the boxes.

Tip

If possible, leave the box lids open to permit access to airflow and sunlight during the move. However, if you are moving during extreme weather, providing some protection from the elements is a good idea. Either way, punch some holes in the sides of the boxes to allow some airflow.

Suspend Hanging Baskets from Back Seat Grab Handles

Another useful way to pack your houseplants for a move is to use the overhead grab handles in your vehicle to hang plants. You can use hanging planters and baskets to hang your plants, or you can buy macramé hangers to hang plants that are planted in non-hanging containers. Rather than buying plant hangers, you can also make your own hangers from string or yarn.

Gently wrap vining plants and place them in the top of the pot during transport. This will ensure that the vines are not accidentally snapped, ripped or snagged in the car door during the move. If you are careful, no harm will occur.

Stand Tall Plants in the Backseat

Your largest plants might not fit in boxes or hanging from the ceiling of your car, and will likely need to be positioned directly on the floor or seat of the vehicle. Consider folding your seats to create more room in the backseat for your plants. It is a good idea to put a plastic bag around the base of pots or put a drip tray under your plant to protect your car from residual dirt or water.

Before you start driving, ensure that the plants are secure and won't fall over during transit. The best way to do this is to pack other items or plants firmly around the base of the pots to keep them in place.

Wrap Leafy Plants With Wrapping Paper Or Plastic

Another way to safely pack your plants is to utilize wrapping paper or plastic to protect leafy plants from getting pinched or ripped during transport. Think of the way that your florist packages bouquets or your local nursery packages your plants after you purchase them. Bushy plants such as dieffenbachia, dracaena, monsteras, and some philodendrons will benefit from being packaged in this manner.

Wrap the base of the pot tightly with the paper or plastic wrap, taping it into place, and then allow the top of the wrap to fall into a cone shape around the plant's foliage. Use tape to gently pinch and hold the wrap together at the top, being careful to leave lots of space around the leaves

Keep Them Safe During the Move

You have packaged all of your plants and now it is finally time for the big move. While properly packaging your plants is a good first step to ensure they are protected during the move, there are a couple of other things you will need to keep in mind during transport to ensure your plants safely arrive at their destination.

Don't Expose Plants to Extreme Temperatures

Keeping your plants in a temperature-controlled environment while you move is one of the trickiest aspects of moving plants. If you have a short drive to your new home, this likely won’t be a problem. Ensure that your car or van is at a stable temperature before you place your plants inside the vehicle: that means blast the heat or air conditioning!

Keep Them Secure

Your plants are secure in their packaging, but are the pots and boxes secure in your vehicle? No amount of good packaging will save a plant that goes tumbling across the car during a turn or sudden stop, so before leaving, make sure that all of your plants are properly secured in the vehicle. This might mean using other boxes and items that you are moving to support the plants in their position, or even making use of seatbelts to hold larger plants in place. Whatever you do, ensure that they are secure enough to withstand twists and turns during the trip.

Don't Leave Plants In the Car Overnight

If you have a longer drive involving one or more stops along the way, you might find yourself hauling your plants along with you on every step of your journey. If you are staying in a hotel, bringing your plants into the room with you is the best option, if at all possible. to ensure that they are not exposed to the elements overnight.

Acclimating Your Plants

Once you reach your new home, your houseplants should be one of the first things to unpack. Carefully remove the plants from their packaging and find a good spot in your home for them, and then try not to fuss over them too much. Remember that the goal is minimal stress to the plants.

Some plants will be more sensitive to the changes involved in moving than others (we’re looking at you, ferns and calatheas), so don’t be alarmed if some of your plants show some signs of distress after you’ve settled into your new home. With proper care and time, they should make a full recovery. 

Tip

In the first few weeks after the move, allow your plants to acclimate to their new home before making any major changes to their environment. That means no repotting, no moving plants around, no fertilization, and minimal watering during this time. When you feel confident that your plants are happy and healthy, you can begin transplanting them back into their original containers if you wish.

You may also need to be mindful of environmental changes that could impact sensitive plants, especially if you have just made a big move. For example, is the humidity in your new home drastically different from your old home? Did you just move from the Sunshine State to a northern state where cold winters and minimal sunlight throughout the year is the norm? Ensure that you take these factors into account when you acclimate your houseplants to their new home.