How to Move Your Plants and Pack Up Your Garden

Packing to move can be stressful and require meticulous organization in order to know what you’ll need at your new home, and what’s better off staying behind or being donated to the thrift store. For an invested gardener, or someone attached to the basil they’ve been growing in their kitchen window for a few years, there are special considerations to be made in preparing your plants for the journey ahead. While some plants—indoor or outdoor—are hearty and tough to disturb, others are delicate and very sensitive to even subtle changes in lighting or soil conditions. Knowing ahead of time which will likely survive the trip and which ones are better left for the next homeowner will help save you time and a little flora heartbreak.

Indoor Plants

There are a few basic rules to follow in preparing your fronds for transplant. Find a stable, open-air means of transporting your plants. Get a crate and arrange small house plants so they won’t tip over, and are protected from being smashed or having their leaves torn off. Keep your more delicate plants in a temperature-controlled environment like your car, where they won’t be subjected to unusual highs and lows of temperature, especially if you’re moving long-distance.

Be sure to keep the soil moist, and be careful about over-watering, as this will not only be bad for your plants but it can also create a muddy mess. Make sure all the pots and containers have proper drainage, and that the carrier will prevent any of that drainage from seeping out into the interior of your car. It’s important to be gentle, but most house plants are resilient and accustomed to small, confined spaces in which to grow.

If you’re moving between states or to another country there are some limits about what species of plants you may take with you. Due to pest control laws, some states, such as California, have a strict border enforcement policy. This is their way of protecting the state from any unwanted pests from getting in to their agricultural environment from an outside source. Check the agriculture website for the state you’ll be moving to, and all the states you’ll pass through in between, for more specific information about what’s allowed through the checkpoints, and what must be left behind. If you are moving to a new country, many plants are not allowed through customs, and you may have to give them to a neighbor before you move on.

Outdoor Plants

Transplanting outdoor plants can be more difficult, given their size and scope. If you have a backyard garden, it may be better that you leave most of it behind. If there’s a plant you’re determined to take with you, ensure that you dig out enough soil to support the root ball, and place it in to a plastic pot large enough to safely transport it. Use sterilized soil, which does not contain banned pesticides or foreign organisms and is available in many garden centers, if you’re moving to a more restrictive state. If you’re going to move larger outdoor plants, be sure to uproot them while they’re not actively growing, if at all possible.

Wrap large plants, after you’ve pruned them, in tissue paper or a sheet in order to protect branches and limbs from breaking on the ride. Make sure the plant can still breathe, but is secure enough to transport. Load the plants in to a car or truck just before departure, and when you arrive at your new location, they should be the first things to be unpacked. Small trees, shrubs, and other bushes do best in transport. More fragile plants such as vegetables, flowers and succulents are more delicate.

If you have questions relating to transporting a specific plant, ask your neighborhood gardening center, they may have more information.