How to Move House Plants

At Movers North America we understand that your plants are important to you and that you may wish to take some of them along with you on your move.

First of all you will need to decide which plants will be making the move with you. There may be some outdoor plants that you wish to transplant and you may also have some sentimental favourite indoor plants that you will need to prepare in order to make a successful transition.

Depending on where you are moving to you should check with Department of Agriculture/Department of Natural Resources to make sure that there are no restrictions on the species of plant that you are bringing with you. In some cases there are concerns about importing non-native species, disease or pests to a region. As a plant lover it behooves you to do your homework and make sure that the plants you are moving will be welcome in their new environment.

Plants are living things and therefore perishable. In order to ensure that your plants survive the move you will need to take special steps.

As a special note of courtesy please make sure that the next homeowners are aware and give their consent to your removal of any outdoor plants that are part of the landscape. Many a new homeowner has been sorely disappointed when the beautiful garden that they expect is nothing but a torn up patch of denuded land.

Outdoor Plants

Outdoor plants that you may consider moving would be perennials, shrubs, bulbs, rhizomes and possibly roses. That splendid Oak tree in the back yard is not moveable and possibly not even replaceable in a lifetime, however many of your favourite plants can make the move with you. When considering moving a plant, think about the suitability factor. Will the plant(s) in question be suitable and can it survive in its new home. A plant that was thriving in Alabama may not be suitable for life in Wyoming just as a Rhododendron from Vancouver will certainly not survive a winter in Winnipeg.

Three methods for moving a plant will be discussed here. Transplantation, propagation from seed and propagation from a cutting.

Transplanting will require a lot of effort and is recommended for shrubs, rhododendrons and roses. It is much easier is to move a favourite plant by gathering seed and sowing those seeds at your new home. Propagating a new plant from the cutting of an old friend is also an easy way to ‘move’ a beloved plant. Here are some easy guidelines for you to follow.

To transplant you will need to:

  1. prune back up to 1/3 of the branches/foliage of the plant
  2. remove the plant by digging it out of its present location
  3. try to get a large root ball and take care not to damage the roots nearest to the plant
  4. neatly prune back root ball to a manageable mass that will fit into your transplant container
  5. place plant into a large prepared container (plastic garbage bags are ideal/plastic pots are better than clay pots as they are less breakable)
  6. add soil around the root ball and water thouroughly
  7. seal the pot with plastic to keep in moisture and soil (air is the enemy to exposed roots)
  8. keep plant in a shady, cool location until moving day
  9. keep root ball moist

Transplanting is useful for moving shrubs, roses, rhizome type plants such as daylily, Lily-of-the-Valley, iris, peony, dahlia, strawberries and ornamental grasses. Will also work for phlox, sweet William and sedum to name a few.

On the other end of the move it is best to, if possible, plant the rootball in its new and permanent home immediately. If this is not possible, a technique known as ‘heeling in’ will give the plant a temporary place to live until an appropriate time for planting or until a final site is ready.

To create a temporary home you will need to set up a nursery area. The area that you should choose should ideally be on the north side of your house or in the shade of some trees. You want to offer protection to your plants from the drying and withering effects of wind and sun. Dig a trench large enough to accommodate all of your plants. The trench should be deep enough and wide enough so that plants can be slightly deeper than the depth at which they formerly grew. Soak this trench with water. Put your plants in the trench and proceed to cover the root ball(s) with a moist mixture of soil, peat moss and/or wood shavings. The goal here is to increase the water retention capability of the soil for the benefit of the roots. Be sure that you water this temporary home regularly but do not feed your plants. It is OK for your plants to over-winter and freeze in this location, but come the spring it should be a priority to find permanent homes for your plants.

To propagate from seed:

An easy way to move a plant is to carry seed from the parent plant and sow that seed at your new home. Your ability to do this will depend on whether you can obtain seed from the parent plant at a time that works for your move. If you have a mighty Oak tree at your current home you may wish to collect acorns and propagate a new tree for your new home. You can also collect seeds from your perennial garden and start a new garden quite easily. Keep your seeds in envelopes and label with the name of the species, colour, and height information as well as the year in which the seed was collected. This information will be helpful as you plan your new flowerbed.

To propagate from a cutting:

You can make this process as complex as you wish, but since you are moving and already have lots on your plate this method can also be as simple as cutting a branch or pinching off a shoot of your favourite plant from forsythia or lilac to geranium or jade and placing it into a zip lock bag along with a wet paper towel. The damp, warm condition inside the unsealed bag will encourage the cutting to sprout roots. When the roots appear you can put the cutting into a soil-less planting medium and soon you will be on your way to establishing a new plant. Generally speaking herbaceous and softwood cuttings are easier to establish than cuttings from semi or hardwood species.

Indoor Plants

Considering the perishable nature of plants many movers will not accept the responsibility of transporting them. Since plants can take up a lot of space and you will likely move them yourself, you will need to decide which plants will be making the move. Consider giving away plants that will not be making the move to friends or to community institutions like schools, libraries, churches or senior’s homes. Your old friend may be a welcome addition to someone else’s life. You may even consider leaving a lovely houseplant as a welcome gift for the people moving into your old home.

For those plants that will be making the move, you will need to begin preparations at least two weeks prior to your move. Start by pruning your plants to a manageable moving size and transplanting them into non-breakable pots. This is also a good time to make sure that any pests will not be making the move by treating the plants and the soil appropriately.

On moving day you should move your plants last…and unpack them first. Use appropriately sized boxes that will support the weight of the plant and protect the foliage while still permitting airflow. Stabilize your plants with damp newspaper. During the drive consider keeping conditions favourable; not too cold and not too hot in order to protect the health of your plants. Another factor to consider is wind. Many plants cannot tolerate draughts, so the back of a pick-up truck is not ideal for moving them unless you offer protection.

With some TLC during the moving process and at your new home your houseplants should recover from the shock of the move, begin to thrive and add beauty to your new environment.

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