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How do you move house plants from one state to another?

January 12th, 2018 - 8:06 AM

How to move house plants

Unlike other household goods that you can wrap with Bubble Wrap® and place in a box, house plants are living, breathing things and need special care. On top of that, each state has unique regulations and certification requirements, so shipping them from one state to another requires a little prep work. Determine if you should or can take your plants with you when you move, and explore options for transporting them. 

how to ship plants

Should you take house plants to another state?

We understand that house plants can hold special meaning. Maybe you received an orchid at your grandmother’s funeral or a rose bush for an anniversary. Or maybe you’ve put a lot of time and effort into growing a Boston fern. But whether you should (or can) take them when you move to another state depends on two things: the laws and the growing conditions. If after research you’ve determined that it’s not possible to take your house plant with you, consider leaving it with a friend or neighbor or donating it to a nursing home.

Check state laws for transporting plants

Most states allow you to import plants placed in sterilized potting soil, but some states have strict guidelines. For example, California doesn’t permit citrus plants into the state since there’s potential to create a pest infestation that could harm several agricultural industries and the environment. California also highly discourages pine, oak, fruit and nut trees unless federal and state quarantines have been met (read all California house plant regulations). If you’re moving to Hawaii, you’ll need to declare all agricultural items (including plants), and the Department of Agriculture will inspect them upon arrival into the state. While many plants are allowed, unless you’ve made prior arrangements with the Department of Agriculture, there are several common plants not allowed into Hawaii, including orchids and palms. Here’s the full list of plants prohibited from moving into Hawaii.

Before moving, check the laws for each state, so you don’t unknowingly violate regulations.

Check the climate and growing conditions

Whether or not plants are allowed into a state isn’t the only concern when it comes to moving. Also, take into consideration that not all vegetation thrives in every environment. While plants kept indoors can be very hearty, they can still be affected by extremely dry or moist conditions. Consider the climate, available light and the frequency of rainfall at your new home, and use a resource like the plant hardiness zone map to determine if they’ll thrive in the area.

How to ship plants

It’s not ideal to ship living items in a moving truck due to lack of airflow, water and sunlight (in fact, they’re on the Do Not Ship list for many companies, including U-Pack®). There are several other options for getting them to a new home, including packing them into your personal vehicle. Here’s how to prepare and ship them.

Gather supplies

1.       A sturdy moving box for each pot (small boxes are best so it doesn’t move around)

2.       Plastic pots to replace clay pots during transit

3.       Sterilized potting soil

4.       Packing paper or newspaper

5.       Bubble Wrap®

6.       Plastic bags and ties

7.       Flea collars

8.       Paper towels (for cuttings)

Prepare the plant

  • Move the plants into plastic containers. Re-pot them into plastic containers a few weeks before the move with fresh, sterile soil. Then you can pack empty clay pots the same as you would any fragile item (in Bubble Wrap®, and placed securely in a moving box).
  • Inspect for bugs. Place a flea collar on the base of each plastic pot to draw out any pests. If your state requires a certified inspection, call a local agricultural department to schedule an appointment with an authorized examiner. Once they’ve cleared everything, you’ll receive the required forms — keep them with you in case you need to show them at state borders. If you aren’t transporting the plants, just make sure the certificate is inside the box.
  • Water. Water the plants two or three days before moving. The soil should be moist, but not too wet. Most can go 7-10 days without water, but it’s important to make sure the roots stay damp during shipment.

Pack the plant

Proper packing will ensure they arrive healthy and intact. There are two options: taking the whole thing or taking just a cutting. Either way, be sure to pack them last and unpack them first, so they stay healthy.

Packing a potted plant

1.       Place a plastic bag over the pot and tie it at the base to keep the soil contained.

2.       Tape the bottom of the box well, then place the plant inside.

3.       Fill in extra space with packing paper or newspaper, so it’s secure but can also breathe.

4.       Poke holes in the box to allow for air flow. A few holes on each side will be adequate.

5.       Label the box “Live Plant” and “Fragile.”

Taking a cutting

If a plant is too big to move, like shrubbery or bushes, taking a cutting makes it easy to bring it to a new home. Here’s how:

1.       In the morning, take a sharp, clean cut on an area of the flower or bush you want to take. Select healthy growth that’s 3-6 inches long.

2.       To take the cutting with you, keep the end moist by wrapping it in wet paper towels. Secure the paper towels with rubber bands or ties and keep the cutting in a plastic stem holder (like what a bouquet comes in). Most local florists will sell them to you very cheap.

3.       If you need to pack the cutting, plant it in a plastic pot. Remove any lower leaves and place the cutting in moist potting soil. Loosely wrap it in plastic to keep it humid and encourage growth. Place the potted cutting in a box, following the directions above.

Shipping plants

There are three main options for getting plants from one state to another:

Take them with you

Taking plants with you is usually the fastest way to get them to the destination, and also lets you provide care like sunlight and water during the trip. Expose them to air flow by keeping them in the cabin of the vehicle (rather than being trapped in the truck). Keep them in the cabin of the vehicle, so they’re exposed to airflow (instead of being trapped in the trunk). If you stop at hotels along the way, bring them inside, so they are not affected by extreme temperatures.

Air transport

If you’re flying, you can normally take house plants on the plane. They have to comply with TSA rules — so they can’t carry too much water or exceed carry-on size limits. Because of this, cuttings may be best suited for air transport. Check with the airline to determine specific requirements.

Use a parcel service

You can send plants through the USPS, UPS and FedEx, as long as you comply with each company’s guidelines. Contact your local shipping office for restrictions or guidelines, as they vary by shipper. When packing plants for shipment, you’ll want to take extra measures to secure them, as they can’t guarantee the package will stay upright. Protect the plants from extreme temperatures, depending on the time of year and the places it will travel through. For example, insulate the package if it will travel through extreme cold. Choose the fastest shipping method possible, and try to avoid shipping plants over weekends or holidays.

Additional resources for moving live plants

If you have questions about shipping plants, leave us a comment below. While U-Pack isn’t able to transport plants, we specialize in moving household goods long-distance and can provide an affordable moving option. Get a free moving quote online to check prices.

For additional information about plant shipping, check out these resources:

What you need to know about moving and gypsy moths

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

National Gardening Association

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