The tenets of how to move are obvious: Place household items in boxes and engulf fragile pieces like art frames and dishes in bubble wrap or some of that newfangled biodegradable packing paper. But packing plants is another story. Plants are living organisms, and the excessive movement of bouncing around in a truck, the lack of humidity, or changes in light can impact the flora when you transport it. Perhaps for these reasons, many houseplants wind up on Craigslist or are gifted to friends.
Leaving your best housemates, however, can be heartbreaking—especially those cute little succulents you propagated. No need to abandon your plant babies. Before you transport your houseplants, take a peek at the trial and error methods shared on YouTube in this plant-moving tutorial by Becca De La Plants. Hint: Stackable plastic crates (or airy banana boxes that you can get from your grocer) are excellent containers for shorter plants. Then, read on about how experts outline three different moving scenarios that cater to your green offspring.
How to prepare plants for moving a short distance
You might be tempted to package indoor and outdoor plants together. Don’t. Even if your move is just shuttling across town, take extra precautions against pests, says Jason White, founder and CEO of All About Gardening in Williamson County, Tennessee. “Instead, package indoor plants separately from outdoor plants to avoid bugs crossing from one pot to another,” he says.
To prep your plants for a short move, you’ll need:
Step 1: Look for bugs
According to White, start by carefully inspecting each outdoor plant pot with a magnifying glass to check for pests like mealybugs and spider mites, especially along the plant’s soil. Optional: De-bug your plants with neem oil. A simple way to do this is to spritz both sides of each leaf with the spray in the morning. Allow the oil to dry on its own for at least 24 hours before transporting the plant.
Step 2: Protect the pots
Assess your pots and planters. “Don’t travel with pots that are prone to cracking,” White warns. Two to three weeks prior to a move, repot the plants in shatterproof containers like plastic nursery pots, he says. If you don’t have time to repot, wrap each planter in bubble wrap or place cardboard between pots to keep them from knocking. Wine dividers work well.
Step 3: Trim dry leaves and water
Cut back dead or dying leaves with the scissors or shears, says Melody Estes, landscape design gardening supervisor at The Project Girl in Greenville, Maine. You may water the plants the morning of your move or before they are placed in boxes, but ensure the soil isn’t too wet. This can lead to root rot, and you don’t want the plants sitting in standing water for too long, as the movement from the car can make the muddy water spill.
Step 4: Find a snug spot for delicate plants
Make sure your delicate houseplants are placed in an area on their own. For example, if a planter is small enough and your car’s cup holder can fit it, consider placing the delicate plant there. Otherwise, find a box snug enough to avoid wiggle room. Use your judgement, however; some plants, such as Burro’s tail or other succulents, are not worth transporting because they are highly sensitive to movement and their leaves might fall off, White advises. Other varieties are shallow-rooted, which also makes them too fragile for relocation.
Step 5: Use open boxes
For all other houseplants, make sure to place them inside open boxes (meaning without lids) large enough to encase the plant’s pot. Larger plants may stick out the open top of the boxes, and like the delicate houseplants, these plants shouldn’t have much or any wiggle room. When necessary, line the space between the pot and the cardboard box with packing paper, filling and cushioning as much of the space as possible.
How to avoid plant or planter damage
Switching to plastic nursery pots is a great way to keep your plants and pots safe. But there are other options. James Mayo, of Exubia, a biophilic design agency in London, explains that how you choose to place your plants together is important. “Plants with hard, rubbery leaves like the snake plant or succulents will not tangle or intertwine with other plants because they are so rigid,” he says. Therefore, pair these plants with ones prone to tangling such as palms, dracaenas, and ferns. Meanwhile, Carol Lang, seasoned leader of Carol Lang Interiors, a full-service design firm based in Fair Haven, New Jersey, says there’s one way to practically guarantee pots won’t crack: Separate pots from plants.