First, keep in mind there are options to moving with your houseplants — consider giving them to friends, local hospitals or libraries, or sell them at a yard sale. Years of loving care can be invested into to our houseplants’ growth and maintenance, so if you do take them along, here’s some expert advice.
If you move plants yourself, you’ll have more control over environmental conditions than if they are moved by any other method; but for long distances, remember that your parked vehicle can be subject to temperature extremes. Water them thoroughly before leaving, as watering them in your vehicle can become messy, and many plants can survive after even a week with no water.
Ceramic pots full of dirt and plants can be heavy to move and are also easily breakable. To protect both the plant and the expensive pots, transplant the plants into plastic containers just big enough for the size of the plant two to three weeks before moving day.
Shock: Some houseplants are susceptible to shock when moving. The distance moved or time in transit doesn’t make the shock greater — it may simply take the plant longer to recover.
Temperature: This is the most important factor in moving houseplants. Temperatures below 35 degrees F or above 95-100 degrees F for more than one hour can be fatal to many. Plants in cartons that are properly wrapped will withstand quite a variation in temperature.
Light: Plants left in darkness too long “etiolate” or start to show abnormal growth that is more susceptible to disease. When exposing plants to light after a lengthy period in darkness, avoid possible wilting and sun scald by limiting direct sun exposure for the first few days.
For convenience and space saving, you may wish to only take cuttings of your favorite houseplants, if they can be propagated that way. Most cuttings will survive for several days if kept in a plastic bag containing damp vermiculite, peat moss or perlite, or even wrapped in a wet paper towel. Potted plants, however, have a much greater chance of surviving a long trip than do cuttings.
Most professional moving companies will accept plants under special rules that provide that the plants are transported not more than 150 miles and/or delivery is completed within 24 hours from the time of loading; no storage is required; and no en route servicing or watering is required by the mover.
If you are planning to move houseplants to another state, you should be aware of federal and state plant regulations. Plant quarantines may be in effect in certain areas to restrict the movement of plants that may harbor destructive pests. Before these plants can be moved, they must be cleared by the appropriate federal or state plant protection official. Several states require that indoor plants be inspected and certified “pest free” before they can be brought into that state. Other states do not require certification as long as the houseplants are the property of the individual and are not for resale. Still others refuse all entry of specific varieties. Many states permit “thru-transit” of uncertified, healthy houseplants.
In some states, vehicles are stopped at random on the highway, and any plants carried are inspected for pests. Several states stop vehicles at their borders and inspect all houseplants. Much time can be saved if the plants are accompanied by state-of-origin certifications.
You must personally arrange for inspection of your houseplants by an inspector with the state’s agriculture department. Call the department’s county office and schedule an inspection prior to moving. In some cases, you may be able to take your plants to the nearest office for inspection and a possible treatment in a fumigation chamber.