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

Moving with house plants

A house plant is a living, breathing organism and requires special care — especially when it comes time to move. If you’re moving out of state, you may need to do a little more prep work to not only ensure your plants arrive safely, but to be in compliance with the law, as each state has its own set of regulations and certification requirements for moving with plants. Learn the best practices for transporting plants and how you can take them with you to your new state.

Houseplants sitting in window waiting to be moved from one state to another.


Taking your house plants to a new state

Your plants are a special part of your home. Some might have sentimental value, or maybe you’ve put a lot of work into watching it grow. But whether you should (or legally can) take them with you to your new state depends on two factors: the law and the state’s growing conditions.

Know state guidelines

Some states have specific laws and regulations concerning importing plants. For example, some states only allow entry to plants that have been kept indoors, are potted, or are in a certain kind of soil. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), among other federal agencies, has a set of rules in place to help regulate the shipment of plants. This is a way agencies can help minimize the spread of harmful insects, diseases or other pests that some plants may carry. Before your move, check the laws and regulations in the state you're moving to so you can decide if taking your plant with you is the right choice. If you can take your plant with you into your new state, be sure to check out the state’s specific guidelines so that you import your plant properly.

Know about growing conditions

Whether plants are allowed into a state isn’t the only concern when it comes to moving with them. It’s good to take into consideration that not all vegetation thrives in every environment. While plants kept indoors can be very hardy, they can still be affected by very 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.

If it’s either not allowed or not favorable to take your plant with you, you may consider leaving it with family, a friend or a neighbor, or donate it to a local hospital or nursing home.

Packing plants for a move

Since it’s not ideal to ship living items in a moving truck because of the lack of airflow, water and sunlight, plants are on the Do Not Ship list for many companies, including U-Pack®. But 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.

What you’ll need to pack your plant

  • A sturdy moving box for each pot (small boxes are best so it doesn’t move around)
  • Plastic pots to replace clay pots during transit
  • Sterilized potting soil
  • Packing paper or newspaper
  • Bubble Wrap®
  • Plastic bags and ties
  • Flea collars
  • Paper towels (for cuttings)

Getting ready

  • Re-pot plan in a plastic container. Do this a few weeks before the move with fresh, sterile soil, so your plant has a chance to settle. 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).
  • Check 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 it. Water 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.

Packing your plants

Proper packing will ensure your plants arrive healthy and intact. There are two ways to transport your plant: 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.

How to pack 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.”

Traveling with a cutting plant

If a plant is too big to move, like shrubbery or bushes, taking a cutting (essentially a stem, or roots that will allow the plant to regrow) just 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.

How to move plants

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

Put them in the car 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.

Ship via air

If you’re flying, you can normally take house plants on the plane. Make sure to comply with TSA rules — so the plants 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 your airline to determine specific requirements.

Send through the mail

Shipping is also an option. You may 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 for shipment, we recommend you take extra measures to secure them because 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 them over weekends or holidays.

More help with moving plants

If you have questions about shipping plants or want other packing tips and advice, 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 quote to check prices.