How to Pack Houseplants for a Move

Keep your plants safe and healthy during transit with these tips

Piled cardboard boxes with a potted plant in the foreground

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Whether you are moving across the state or across the city, properly packing your houseplants for a move is an important part of the process. Moving can be stressful enough and the last thing you need is your plants dying 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 trip is. 

If you are using a moving company is that most movers will not move your houseplants. At first, this may seem like an inconvenience, but in reality, it is best that you take care of your plants during the move personally to ensure their well-being. It is generally not a good idea to just stick your plants in the back of a moving truck and hope for the best, so even if your movers do offer to move your houseplants, it is a good idea to take it on 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 one of the first items to be unpacked once you reach your new place.

Prepare Your Plants for the Move

If you are moving out of state, contact your 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 to prevent the spread of harmful pests and diseases.

Repot in Plastic Pots

Three weeks before your move date you should transplant all of your plants out of breakable clay planters and pots into plastic potting containers. This will not only ensure that your clay pots don’t get 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 check them over for pests and disease. The last thing you will 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 insecticide as a preventative will bring you peace of mind during your move.

Prune Your Plants

About a week before your move give all of your houseplants a good pruning. 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. However, 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 that you can pack your houseplants for a move, and the method you choose will likely depend on the type of plant you have. Do you mainly have small succulents and cacti? Then boxes and bubble wrap will likely work for you. In contrast, if you have tropical houseplants with large, bushy foliage - you may need to ensure that you use some extra tools to protect the leaves during transport.

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

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 may damage nearby plants if they come into contact with them. Utilize old sheets or bubble wrap to cushion your plants and hold them in place in the boxes.

Tip

If possible, leave the lids of the boxes open to help your plants access 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 air to get through.

Put Hanging Baskets on Backseat Handles

Another useful way to pack your houseplants for a move is to utilize 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 macrame hangers to hang plants that are planted in regular containers. Rather than buy hangers you can also easily make your own makeshift hangers from string or yarn for the move.

Plants that have long vines should have the vines gently wrapped up and placed in the top of the pot during transport. This will ensure that the vines are not accidentally ripped or snagged in the car door during the move. As long as this is done carefully there should be no harm done to the plant!

Stand Tall Plants in the Backseat

Your largest plants may not fit in boxes or in planters 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 if necessary. It is a good idea to put a plastic bag around the base of the planter or put a drip tray under your plant to protect your car from residual dirt or water runoff.

Before you start driving, just 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 planter to keep it 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 in ensuring they are protected during your trip, there are a couple of other things you will need to keep in mind during transport to ensure your plants arrive at their destination safely.

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. For those who have a short drive to their new home, this likely won’t be a problem. Just ensure that your car or van is at a stable temperature before you put your plants inside. That means blast that heat or AC!

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 you should make sure that all of your plants are properly secured in the vehicle. This may mean utilizing 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, just ensure that they are secure enough to withstand twists and turns during the trip.

Don't Leave Plants In the Car Overnight

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

Acclimating Your Plants

Once you reach your new place, your houseplants should be one of the first things that are unpacked. Carefully remove them from their packaging and find a good spot in your home for them, and then try not to fuss over them too much. Remember 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. Once 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 are helping your houseplants acclimate to their new home.