How to Move Your Houseplants Long Distances

Moving houseplants long distances

Ah, we’re already starting to dream of summer here.

Summer, the season when you can almost hear the whoosh of leases being ended, the rattle of cardboard boxes, and the jingle of moving van keys in your pocket.

For any houseplant lover with nary a permanent residence, the thought of moving the precious green cargo sends chills and cold sweat down the spine. Whether the move happens to be across town, across the state or across the country.

I now have fond memories of riding in the passenger seat of a U-haul, separated from my husband by a loosely secured spider plant that threatened to tumble at every tight on-ramp. Somehow, the story of our move didn’t have the bells and whistles of a beloved memory-in-the-making when we were in the thick of it, with boxes upon boxes of houseplants precariously stacked on top of a mishmash of furniture in the back of the van.

We’re young and haven’t really set down roots, so beyond a few family heirlooms whose only consequential value was emotional, the most prized possessions we had were our houseplants.

Yes, the blender can break. And who cares about the cheap glass vases and the yard sale knick knacks we had accumulated. As long as the plants make it out of that van and into our new apartment alive, anything else we needed was a mattress. (And a bottle of wine, but we were inclined to count that as plant-based anyway.)

None of the plants snapped, tumbled or was in any way traumatized by this move. And since I’m now wiser on the topic of how to move houseplants, here are a few tips to make your move smooth too.

1. Water your houseplants the day before the move.

You probably have a million other things on your mind come moving day, and it’s safe to say watering your plants won’t be one of them. That’s why you should water them the day before. You can even water them two days before if you’re in a more humid zone.

If you’re thinking about watering the plants the night before, consider allowing them enough time to drain. You don’t want mud rolling around the moving van.

2. Use protective cardboard boxes.

The best way to transport your houseplants is to place the flower pots in protective cardboard boxes. Lids open, of course.

Make sure you pack the pots together tightly. The round planters won’t fill the boxes snuggly, so place some towels, rags, or crumpled up newspapers or paper bags in between the pots so they don’t rattle. In a pinch, a few cereal boxes will do.

3. Allow plants some breathing room.

I’ve seen a lot of advice about putting plastic bags on top of the soil, with the plant poking through it, to keep the soil contained in case it spills. I don’t think that’s necessary – if you water the plant thoroughly, then the soil won’t be too crumbly. Also, the plant soil likes to breath, and plastic bags are not exactly meant to allow this.

I was moving about 30 plants, so carefully placing a plastic bag on so many planters would have added a significant amount of time to the preparation and an extra stress on my moving to-do list. Not to mention the amount of plastic trash this extra precaution would have generated. It’s not like you can reuse a plastic bag with a big hole in the middle.

I was prepared to deal with the dirt spill consequences – we had to sweep the moving van anyway, but luckily there were none. With plants packed snuggly in the cardboard boxes, everyone behaved. But if you really want to give this trick a try, use newspapers or paper bags instead of plastic. Paper is porous and it will allow the soil and the roots to breathe.

4. Have the plants be the last ones in the van and the first ones out.

This sounds obvious, of course you wouldn’t trap your beloved plants behind other pieces of furniture. But make sure you don’t leave them in the transitional spaces either. Don’t leave houseplants on the curb or on the sidewalk exposed to the elements while you’re loading other things.

As you unload the moving van, remove the planters first. If you have enough space in your new home, move the houseplants out of the way of the moving flow – placing them in a corner usually does the trick. Just make sure the corner does get some light because you might not get to tending to the plants until the hectic moving tasks are over.

5. Keep the foliage away from the van.

As much as possible, don’t let the leaves touch the sides of the moving van. A lot of moving vans aren’t insulated, so the metal part gets cold in the winter and hot to the touch in the summer. If it feels like that to the touch to you, then your plant won’t like it either.

One thing you shouldn’t do before you move your houseplants.

A slightly convoluted piece of advice that I read before moving, and I’m happy to report that I’ve skipped with zero consequences, is repotting the houseplants in nursery pots. (if they’re not in nursery pots already, obviously.)

First, that’s a time drain when you’re preparing for a move.

Second, repotting always stresses the plant and they need time to adjust afterwards. Why would I stress the plant before subjecting it to another major environment change?

Third, pottery is pretty sturdy. Both simple terracotta and glazed pottery can handle the normal bumps in a move. And if it breaks, it breaks. But chances are it only breaks if you drop it on a hard surface.

Save your time and don’t repot all of your houseplants before a big move.

Have you ever attempted to move houseplants? How did it go? Share with us on Instagram.

Photo by Eddie Garcia on Unsplash.

How to move your houseplants

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