How can I move my plants?

How can I move my plants?

When you are moving, most of the planning and packing is pretty straightforward. The hardest part can be deciding what to get rid of, or whether it’s worth relocating your college textbooks (hint: if you haven’t read them yet, you aren’t going to.)

What is prohibited in a US move?

There are some restricted items that take extra planning to move, and some things you can’t send with movers at all. The exceptions multiply when you are preparing for an international move. You may not be surprised to find that prohibited items include explosives, hazardous and corrosive materials, even paint, and aerosol cans can’t travel inside the moving truck. But plants? Why not, you may wonder?

Moving companies are prohibited from moving houseplants more than 150 miles. This rule fights against the introduction of pests into new areas.  Some companies will take them if the journey is shorter than that, but many will not.  If you want to move your plants, you can bring them in your car, take them on an airplane (sometimes), or send them by US mail or UPS (again, occasionally). Be careful if you are moving between states. Some states, notably California, Arizona, and Florida, regulate what plants can enter their jurisdiction, and from where. Check with the National Plant Board for information specific to your destination state. It is vital to be sure that your plant is allowed before you try to take it or send it.  

If you are moving to Florida, for example, you need a certificate of inspection for any plant you bring to the state, even a common houseplant that you grew at home and transported yourself. Florida prohibits the importation of any citrus tree or shrub, even for personal use. In Arizona, personal houseplants require a certificate of inspection. However, if the imported plant came from a state or region under quarantine for imported fire ants or nematode pests must be received by a nursery, business, or individual with a valid “Quarantine Holding Area.”

How should I send my plant when I move?

The best odds for success in this do-it-yourself plant move scenario are with car transport. If you have this option, keep the plants inside the car’s cabin, not in the trunk. If your journey includes overnight stops, bring the plants inside with you, to avoid exposing them to temperature extremes. In general, try not to attempt this during the summer when the plants are more likely to get overheated or stay out in the sun too long. If you plan to bring a plant on an airplane, check with TSA for size limits, and limit watering before traveling. Consider taking a cutting of a large plant to regenerate at your new home instead—it will go much more easily than an entire shrub.

If you decide the best solution is to ship the plant through US mail or a competitor, be prepared for the box to be turned upside down and sideways. If you can remove the soil and protect the roots with damp burlap or another medium, it will be simpler to transport. Package the plant according to these instructions:

  1. Place a covering over the pot and fasten it at the plant’s bottom to keep the soil (or substitute) in place.
  2. Put the plant into a sturdy box.
  3. Fill the box loosely but securely with packing material. The plant should be firmly in place but not too confined.
  4. Create two or three small holes in the box to facilitate airflow.
  5. Label the box “Live Plant” and “Fragile.”

Smaller, sturdier plants have a better chance of surviving this mode of transport than large, fragile varieties. If you decide not to attempt relocating the plant, make a cutting, and replant it when you can generate a new root system. This approach may be easier than moving the plant itself. Make the cutting on the day of departure, if possible. Cut a stem between 3 and 6 inches long, if possible. Wrap the stem in damp paper or cloth towels and protect it with a bouquet holder or some other plastic. If you can’t carry it with you, pack it into a pot, wrapped loosely in plastic wrap, and then in a box.

Can I ship my houseplants to another country?

If you are moving abroad and want to bring your cherished rose bush or pothos with you, it may not be possible, and even if possible, it won’t be easy. Your first step is to contact the destination country’s consulate or embassy here in the United States. The consulate can give you relevant information about what you can import. An international moving company can also help you with questions about bringing houseplants into your new country. Each country has individual rules determining what it will allow, and like the US, they are trying to avoid inadvertently importing pests and diseases. The EU recently adopted a “Plant Passport” rule to impede sales of plants between countries. Restrictions like that are illustrative of the general reluctance by nations to accept the risks that come with imported agricultural products, including houseplants. If you find out that it is possible, you will need to determine if it is worth it. Moving abroad is inherently tricky and time-consuming. Your plants are unlikely to survive the long journey to another country. Consider also the difference in climate and environment, and you may conclude that a picture and happy memory is a better way to go.

Can I bring plants back to the US?

 The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the entry of plants from other countries to avoid foreign pests that could be harmful to the US environment or bring new plant diseases. The specific prohibitions change and are not always publicized in advance.  Also, endangered plants are protected, and international treaties restrict their movement. Depending on the country of origin, some plants may be brought into the United States without advance permission, provided they are declared, inspected, and found free of pests. However, individual plants may require a foreign phytosanitary certificate (stating that the plant is free of pests and disease) in advance. 

New/additional sources

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