plant moving guide

Moving with House Plants

At Holman, we receive numerous inquiries about how to handle plants for a move.  We understand that one of the toughest decisions to make when you are moving is what to do with your house plants.

If you are not attached to your houseplants it is best to give them away to friends, family, a local hospital or charity prior to moving. However, if you cannot bear to part with your plants, there are important factors to take into consideration prior to moving. Pre-planning is essential - you will need to decide how you are moving the plants, which plants you are taking, when to arrange for state inspections and how to prepare them for the trip. It’s important that you know that not all houseplants, especially delicate plants, will make it through a move. No one is to blame – it’s just the nature of the plant. For this reason, most movers, including Holman, will not accept liability for their safe delivery.

Below please all the information you need to know about moving plants.

Moving Options

Moving Plants in Your Car
Moving plants in your own car is ideal because you will have maximum control over the environment conditions including temperature, light and ventilation and watering. Plants that you move in your car will likely arrive in good condition, providing that they are not moved in the trunk (which can be too hot or cold, depending on the seasons).

Moving Plants in the Moving Truck
According to federal moving regulations, we can only move plants under the following condition

Air Freight
Airlines accept house plants as air freight, but it is your responsibility to see that the plants are carefully packaged, labeled and have the appropriate inspection certificates. You will also need to ensure that your plants are delivered and picked up on time at the airport and that there will be additional air freight fees. Plants shipped by air do not receive special handling and may be subject to temperature extremes. If you decide to ship by air, contact your local nursery for advice on how to pack your plant.

Federal and State Regulations
People planning to move their houseplants from one state to another should be aware of federal and state regulations. The following information applies only to individuals who are moving decorative house plants as part of their household goods.

Regulations pertaining to commercial shipments, and outdoor plants and shrubs, are more stringent. If you are planning to move outdoor or commercial plants, including trees and shrubs, contact your destination state’s Department of Agriculture about regulations in advance of your move.

Plant Quarantines
Federal and state plant quarantines restrict movement of plants that might harbor destructive pests. Before these plants can legally be moves from a quarantined area, they must be cleared by a federal or state plant protection official. Examples of pests that are under quarantine include the gypsy moth, fire ants, Japanese beetle, etc. Check your Department of Agriculture for a full list.

State Regulations
Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Tennessee, Utah and Washington require that all houseplants be inspected and certified pest free. The remaining states do not require pest-free certification, although it is expected that they are pest and disease free.

Indoor plants should be moved in commercial plant mix – not soil or sand taken from outside. All plants entering Hawaii and Arizona must be free of soil, sand and earth, as well as insects and disease.

In some states, certain plant species are prohibited or might require special certification stating a specific pest is not present in the plant.

Some states, such as California, mandate that any plant material must be declared and inspected at the border. House plants can be declared by writing on the inventory list the number of plants included in your shipment. Boxes containing plants should be loaded last on the truck for easy access at the agricultural inspection station.

Obtaining Certification
If your destination state requires state-of-origin certification, state or federal pest control officials will provide inspection services, certificates and necessary treatment. You must personally arrange for inspection of your house plants by an authorized state Department of Agriculture inspector.

Arrange to have your plants inspected 3-4 weeks prior to your move. This way, if they need treatment, you will have time before you move.

General Tips

Some plants are susceptible to shock when moves. The distance moved or time in transit doesn’t make the shock greater – it just takes the plants longer to recover.

The most critical factor in moving houseplants is temperature. Prolonged exposure to heat or cold is detrimental to most plants, with temperatures below 35 degrees or higher than 95-100 degrees for more than an hour being fatal.

Most house plants can withstand up to a week or 10 days without watering and suffer little harm. Plants should be moist when placed in cartons. Waxed cartons and plastic bags will keep moisture in.

When other conditions are favorable, house plants can withstand darkness for up to a week without adverse affects. Avoid wilting and sunscald when first exposing plants to light after a lengthy period of darkness by keeping them away from direct exposure to the sun.

For convenience and to save space, you might prefer to take cuttings of your plants if they can be propagated this 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. However, potted plants have a greater chance of success surviving a long move.

Moving house plants requires a great deal of planning and knowledge about the nature of your specific plant. If you do decide to move your house plants, our house plant moving checklist can help you prepare.