Question: I am moving in cold weather in about 2 weeks to Wisconsin from Michigan. It’s about a 2 hour drive. How can I best protect my plants during this move?
The last time I moved, it was about 2 miles, and during the winter months. In the end, my houseplants were traumatized. Although they didn’t die, it took them a long time to recover. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. T.D. Michigan heading to Wisconsin.
Answer: T.D. that is a great question! I’ll try to keep this simple and to the point. Here’s how to transport plants.
1 – Think of Temperatures You Like
First, if you are moving plants in winter or cold weather, think of your indoor house plants as a person in terms of temperature. Your tropical plants like temperatures in the 70°-80° degree Fahrenheit range. So when transporting your plants, they would do “best” in a heated area.
Driving 2 hours and probably being loaded and unloaded for a few hours those indoor plants could be become chilled and take some time to recover, which you described briefly in your question.
If at all possible try to transport them in a heated truck and avoid exposing them to direct sunlight during transport. Also, choose a fine day to move plants.
2 – Protection from the Elements
Think of them again as a person – they could use some protection from the elements. Just as you want a sweater or coat with lower temperatures to knock off the chill, your indoor plants could use some protection as well. When moving house plants, nurseries use what are called sleeves, which look like paper tubes the plants slip into.
This gives some protection and allows the plant to bundle up some as the leaves fold up. Think of it as hugging the plant. This will allow you to pack the plants close together where they can “protect” each other.
To fully protect your plants from damage when moving, preparation should start as early as three weeks before transplanting them to their new pots after the move. Repot the houseplants into unbreakable plastic pots of the same size. Avoid frequently moving the plant roots.
For larger plants, prune them while pinching back newer growth two weeks before the day of move. Not only that it will protect your house plants, but this process will also yield healthy and attractive plants.
A week before moving, check for pests such as spider mites, aphids, snails, slugs, and others. Apply insecticides if necessary and make sure to follow instructions on the packaging label. Water your plants with just the right amount two days before the trip to their new home. Over watering may lead to root rot and other diseases.
Before you do all these, double-check whether your plants can cross state borders or not. Some counties won’t allow entry of some species of plants. This will save you from throwing them away if authorities found out and refused your truck to pass through. Ask the state department to get this important info.
3 – Placement in the Truck
Depending on the size of the plants make sure they stay away from the sides and top of the trucks cargo area. Hopefully the shipping area is insulated.
Secure the plants with plastic or bubble wraps. Place the potted plants in boxes with paper so it fits snugly.
If the leaves touch the sides and roof they could become burned from the cold. It is best to keep the plants away from the sides and roof.
4 – Load House Plants Quickly
Let’s think about loading. Indoor houseplants don’t like cold weather and some varieties even with brief exposure can experience damage. When loading the plants move them quickly and all at once.
Load them as fast as possible and limit any exposure to cold or cooler temperatures. This holds true in the unloading part also. Get them into warm temperatures as soon as you can… worry about where they will be placed later.
Refrain from moving the plants until they have been acclimated. Keep them indoors for some time and do not transplant them immediately in your garden. If the houseplant suffered from transplant shock, let it heal for a while before repotting.
Provide a well-drained pot soil and other condition it requires. As much as possible, avoid moving the rootball to prevent trauma. Apply fertilizer as needed.
5 – Expect some Adjustment
Finally, expect some trauma. Your plants will be going to a new home and your houseplants will acclimate to new surroundings and new light levels. Expect some leaf drop and brown leaf tips is all part of moving to a new home.
I hope all this helps… good luck on your move!