Packing and moving by car is hard. Packing and moving by car when some of your belongings are awfully sensitive about their surroundings is even harder. But unless you’re planning on uprooting yourself but leaving your plants behind, you’re going to have to figure out a way to transport plants in a car that gets them from point A to point B as safely and efficiently as possible.
I’ve moved quite a few times since that car trip with my orchid, and I’ve moved a lot of plants, too. And here’s what I’ve learned about transporting our green and leafy friends by car.
You can’t transport plants in a car without a strategy. Because unlike errant lamp shades and leftover packing supplies, just tossing them in the back seat last minute isn’t quite going to cut it.
Begin by taking inventory of the plants that you’ll be taking along with you. Depending on the type of car you’re using to move, there’s a chance that you’re going to be a little restricted in what you can take along. There is also a possibility that some of your plants especially some outdoor plants as well as tall indoor plants won’t be able to make the trip. Figure out exactly what plants you can reasonably bring with you, and then you can get into the specifics of moving them.
Moving to another state? Look at the laws
If you’re embarking on an interstate move, you may face some restrictions on what plants you can bring, particularly if you’re moving to a state with certain local plant bans or pest control efforts. To see if you’re up against any plant restrictions, check out the National Plant Board and click on the details for the state that you’re moving to.
Find a new home for the plants you can’t bring
It’s a bummer to have to leave plants behind, but it doesn’t mean that you have to leave them to wither and die. See if you have any friends or family members who would be willing to provide a new home for the healthy and happy plants that can’t make the trip. You can also call up local retirement or nursing homes, hospitals, or community gardens to see if they’re interested, or list them for free on a site like Craigslist or Freecycle. Or head to Plant Swap, a new online community dedicated solely to re-homing plants.
Get your plants ready to move
The healthier your plants are pre-move, the better off they’ll be during transport. Water them sufficiently in the days leading up to your move, feed them if applicable, and trim off any dead leaves and branches. This will help ensure that they have the maximum amount of energy and that, that energy is going to the right places.
If you’re planning to uproot and move outdoor plants, head to our guide to what you need to know to do it right.
Gather your supplies
Boxes are the best way to transport plants in a car since you don’t want dirt spilling everywhere. Small plants can be boxed together, but medium and larger plants should be boxed alone. Note that you only need the base of the plant to fit in the box they won’t be sealed in.
In addition to boxes, you’ll also want to make sure you have some extra packing peanuts or paper to fill in the gaps around each pot so that they don’t shift around. If you’re packing multiple small plants in one box, make sure to put this padding between each individual pot lest they don’t knock into one another and chip.
Load ‘em up
Your plants should be the last thing that you pack in your car. Make sure that they have access to some sunlight (no packing plants in the trunk, though if it’s a plant that prefers low light or indirect light, position them so they’re not getting hit straight on by the sun). Also make sure that nothing is stacked on top of them, and that they’re completely upright without fear of imminently tipping over.
A good tip: If you’re moving plants in the summer, water them on moving day, being sure not to over water since you don’t want any moisture to escape the planter and get into the box. If you’re moving plants in the winter though, you’ll want the soil to be dry for the trip, so stop watering them a few days before you head out moisture plus a shock of cold air are not a good mix for your plant’s roots.
Be mindful during transport
When you transport plants in a car, you can’t just set them and forget them. Keep an eye on your plants, and make some adjustments if they’re starting to look sad or are getting too much or too little sunlight. Try to keep the temperature as comfortable as possible without putting your heat or air conditioning on full blast. If it’s particularly cold out, wrap the exposed parts of your plant in a light sheet or some newspaper for an added layer of protection from the elements.
If your move is going to take multiple days and you’ll be making some overnight stops, always take your plants inside with you wherever you stay. It’s a bit of extra work, but since they’re loaded on top it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Arriving at your new home
Take your plants out of the car right away when you arrive at your destination. And while you certainly have a long to do list already, get your outdoor plants re-planted as soon as you possibly can. If you’re not exactly sure where you want them yet, dig a temporary trench outside to house them until you can figure it out (though again: the sooner you can get them permanently situated, the better). Get the trench nice and wet before putting your plants in there think mud, not dirt and then place them in. Fill the trench halfway with soil, water again, fill them with soil up to the top, and water one last time. Top 30 cities in the United States by population over 1 million
For your indoor plants, just get them in a place they can rest while you unpack. Remember to be mindful of their sunlight preferences, and if they’re due to be watered, do that before getting distracted with all of your other move-in tasks.
Can you ship plants?
Yes. If you don’t want to transport plants in a car, or if you just can’t fit all of them in there, you can ship them by priority mail. Here’s some advice on how to do it. Interstate laws apply to shipped plants too though, so don’t ship any plants that you wouldn’t be allowed to bring in by car.