As if moving all your furniture and possessions into a new space wasn’t stressful enough, plant parents have an additional worry: moving their plant children!
By nature, plants grow into the space where they are planted – the fact that we can pick them up and move them (because they are in containers) is a compromise so that we humans can conveniently have them in the places where WE live. But don’t be scared, most plants are tougher than you think – they can handle a move if you keep a few things in mind:
Base Stability/Top Sensitivity
The best approach to safely move plants is to stabilize the pot, keeping it as upright as possible while preventing things from crushing the foliage. A soft bag may work in a pinch but when you have lots of plants to move, I found this amazing tote that I’ve used on many occasions.
The flat base is strong enough to hold a fair number of plants in an upright position – you can add some packing paper or re-use some bubble wrap to fill in the gaps. The upper portion of the tote stays relatively firm so you don’t have the top of the bag flopping over onto the foliage. It also sits nicely in a compact car.
My Philodendron lemon-lime trailed down slightly below the pot. Thankfully, the foliage is quite tough so it was easily packed away into a single tote bag – this is a wide bag I got from my friend @thestalkroom in Hong Kong, but any wide-ish bag will do. Have someone hold the bag open as you lower the pot into the bag. Once the pot is in, you can gently stuff the foliage into the rest of the bag.
Tall Plants (in small cars)
The main reason for keeping plants upright as you move them is to keep the soil from spilling out but for some tall plants, there may only be room for them if they are placed in a slanted position. The best way to accommodate this is to wrap a garbage bag tightly around the entire pot and closing off the top of the bag ABOVE the soil line (maybe around the trunk of the plant if possible). This way, when the plant is tipped to fit into the car, the soil will spill into the bag instead of your car. Another consideration is to not let the plant rest entirely on its foliage – again, reuse some bubble wrap or a towel and wedge it between the car seat and the trunk of the plant – this will relieve some of the pressure from the foliage if it is delicate (e.g. fiddle leaf fig, ficus benjamina).
The “Harsh” Outdoors
If your plants spend most of their time indoors, you’ll need to consider some things if they’ll be outdoors during the move:
• Being outside in direct sun: sun through a glass and sun out in the open are very different, despite how traditional plant care rarely mentions this. Measure the sun through a window and you’ll get 4000-6000 foot-candles but step outside and take the same measurement, you’ll get over 10,000 foot-candles! Avoid letting your plants be in OUTDOOR direct sun if they have lived exclusively indoors – if they must be outside for some reason, cover them. A few minutes won’t hurt them but be wary if they’ll be waiting in the sun for more than an hour or so.
• Inside a hot car: this is exactly the same reasoning for pets and children. Plants will overheat and get permanently damaged if left in a hot car during the summer.
• Winter conditions: if the temperature is near freezing, most tropical foliage plants won’t be too happy. Even a momentary exposure to extreme cold (which happens occasionally in Canada) can cause foliar damage – the tips will turn black. If moving plants in the winter, it’s best to wrap them in a cloth for the (hopefully short) walk to and from the car.
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When moving large plants, you’ll want to require similar steps as you’d with small plants. Wrap your pots in newspaper to avoid scratches. If you’re transporting large plants that don’t fit up front, make certain no other boxes can accidentally slide and crush your plants on the drive over. Try binding sprawling parts along side twine to stay them compact for transit.