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Sometimes one of the toughest decisions to make when you are moving is what to do with your house plants.  Among your choices might be giving them to friends as remembrances; donating them to a local hospital, nursing home or library; or offering them at a garage sale.  However, if your plants have become too much a part of your family to leave behind, you'll find this booklet a valuable guide to preparing them for the journey.  It covers environmental factors, available modes of transportation and necessary preparations, and includes a list of state plant regulations. 

You can depend on Rossiter Relocation Services for knowledge and experience in helping you prepare for the move. We will be happy to assist you by answering your questions and working closely with you to make your relocation as effortless as possible. 

United Van lines assumes no responsibility for changes in federal or state house plant inspection and certification regulations.  Before moving, it is advisable to contact your destination state's Department of Agriculture for the most current information.



Pre- Planning Is Key

As with the rest of your household goods, moving house plants to a new home involves pre-planning.  Whether you have only a few house plants or dozens, there are decisions to make:

  • Whether to move them yourself or rely on the moving company.

  • Whether to take every plant, only favorites or just cuttings for starting new plants.

  • When to arrange for any necessary state inspections.

  • When and how to start preparing plants for the move.

Finally, you must realize it's possible that not all house plants will withstand a move in spite of every precaution.  Delicate and water-loving plants such as the coleus and Boston fern might not survive relocation.  There's no one to blame - it's simply the nature of the plant.



Modes of Transportation


By moving your house plants in the family car, you'll have much more control over environmental conditions than if they are moved by any other method.  Benefits include:

  • Some control over car temperature.

  • No problems with light or ventilation.

  • The ability to water plants as needed.

  • Being able to load plants at the last minute and unload them immediately upon arrival at your destination.

House plants moved by you should suffer a minimal amount of damage.

NOTE:  Avoid carrying plants in the car trunk, which can become very hot in the summer and cold during winter.


United Van Lines Service

According to federal regulations that govern moving, we can transport perishable plants on a van under the following conditions:

  • The shipment is transported not more than 150 miles and/or delivery is accomplished within 24 hours from loading time.

  • No storage is required.

  • No preliminary or en route servicing, watering or other preservative method is required of the carrier.

Be sure to discuss moving house plants with us.  We can help you select the best way to transport them to your new home.


Air Freight

Airlines accept house plants as air freight.  It's your responsibility to see that the plants are carefully packaged, labeled, accompanied by any necessary inspection (phyto-sanitary) certificates, delivered to the air terminal on time and picked up at destination.  Freight charges are payable in advance.

Normally, plants shipped by air receive no special handling and might be subjected to temperature extremes and other uncontrollable conditions.  It's advisable to think twice before using this form of transportation.  If you decide to ship via air, contact local nurseries for suggestions on packing.



Federal and State Regulations

People planning to move house plants from one state to another should be aware of federal and state regulations.  The following information applies only to individuals who are moving decorative house plants as part of their household goods.

Regulations governing commercial shipments, and all plants and shrubs maintained outdoors, are more stringent.  If you are planning to move outdoor or commercial plants - including trees and shrubs - be sure to contact your destination state's Department of Agriculture about regulations well in advance of your move.


Plant Quarantines

Federal and/or state plant quarantines restrict the movement of plants that might harbor destructive pests.  Before these plants legally can be moved from a quarantined area, they must be cleared by a federal or state plant protection official. 

Destructive pests now under federal or state quarantine include the gypsy moth, imported fire ant, Japanese beetle, golden or burrowing nematode, citrus canker and Caribbean fruit fly.  Among other plant pests are the brown garden snail, European corn borer, grub worm, mealybug, scale insect, spider mite, sweet potato weevil and whitefly.


State Regulations

Seven states require that all house plants be inspected and certified "pest free" before they are moved to these destinations.  Although most states do not require certification, plants are expected to be free of all insects and diseases. 

Indoor plants should be in a commercial plant mix - not soil or sand taken from the outdoors.  If your house plants are potted in outdoor soil or if they have been placed outside for any length of time, the plants should be repotted with a commercial type of soil.  However, all plants entering Hawaii and Arizona must be free of soil, sand and earth - as well as insects and diseases. 

In some states, certain plant species are prohibited or might require special certification stating a specific pest is not present in the plant. 

Some states, such as California, mandate that any plant material must be declared and inspected at the border. House plants can be declared by writing on the inventory list the number of plants included in your shipment.   Boxes containing plants should be marked "LOAD LAST" for easy access at an agricultural inspection station.

When traveling to your destination, most states permit the through transit of uncertified, healthy house plants as long as the plants remain in the vehicle and are not "aired" at any stops.

Whether or not a state requires certification, please remember that much time can be saved if plants are accompanied by a state-of-origin inspection certificate, in the event of any border or random inspection.



Obtaining Certification

If the state to which you are moving requires state-of-origin certification of house plants, state and/or federal pest control officials will provide inspection services, certificates and any necessary treatment.

You must personally arrange for inspection of your house plants by an authorized state Department of Agriculture inspector.

  • Call your state Department of Agriculture and set a mutually agreeable date to have your plants inspected.  Preferably, this should be done three to four weeks - but no less than two - prior to moving day to allow time for inspection and any treatment needed.

  • You might have to take your plants to the nearest office for inspection and possible treatment in fumigation chambers.  Or, the plant inspector merely might "dip" the plants in a protective solution at your home.  Charges for this service vary from state to state.

Whether plants are moved in your car, on a moving van or by some other means of transportation, the inspection certificate must accompany the house plants to your destination.




(domestic shipments only)




Not Required


Of All

House Plants


All Plants

Subject to Inspection

On Arrival


Alabama   x   4
Alaska x      
Arizona x   x 5,6,8,10,12,19
Arkansas x      
California     x 6,10,13
Colorado x      
Connecticut x      
Delaware   x    
Florida   x x 2,5,7,15
Georgia x      
Hawaii     x 6,8
Idaho x      
Illinois x      
Indiana x     14
Iowa x   x  
Kansas x      
Kentucky x      
Louisiana       5,6,15,16,18
Maine   x    
Maryland x      
Massachusetts x      
Michigan x      
Minnesota x      
Mississippi       1,2,9
Missouri x      
Montana x      
Nebraska x     10
Nevada x      
New Hampshire x      
New Jersey x      
New Mexico x     4,17
New York x      
North Carolina       1,4,9
North Dakota x      
Ohio x      
Oklahoma x      
Oregon       1,6
Pennsylvania x      
Rhode Island x      
South Carolina x     2,4
South Dakota x     4
Tennessee   x   2
Texas x   x 3,16
Utah   x    
Vermont x      
Virginia     x 1,2,4,11
Washington   x   6
West Virginia x      
Wisconsin x      
Wyoming x      


1. Preferred rather than required.
2. Brown garden snail certificate required from Arizona, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.
3. Burrowing nematode certificate required from Florida and Louisiana.  Camellia flower blight certificate required from California, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina and Virginia.
4. All plant materials subject to random inspection.
5. No entry of any variety of citrus plants or parts thereof permitted.
6. Certain species prohibited or require special certification.  Contact the Department of Agriculture of this state for detailed regulations.
7. Certificate of nursery inspection acceptable if plants were purchased from nursery within 30 days of moving.
8. All plants must be free of insects, diseases, soil, sand and earth.
9. No certification required unless plants are in untreated soil from outdoors.
10. Plants should be potted in a commercial plant mix.
11. Certification is suggested for house plants in untreated soil from outdoors.
12. List plants with van operator at loading.
13. No citrus except from Arizona.
14. Plants must have been kept indoors for preceding 12 months.
15. No entry of any variety of sugar cane or parts thereof permitted.
16. Brown garden snail certificate required from Arizona and California.
17. All plants from areas with red fire ants should be treated with an insecticide before entering the state.
18. Plants must be free of burrowing nematode.
19. Pest-free citrus from California (20 pounds or less) allowed entry; citrus from other states is prohibited.



General Tips

  • Shock - Unfortunately, some house plants are susceptible to shock when moved (sometimes
    even from one room to another).  The distance moved or time in transit doesn't make the shock greater - it simply will take the plants longer to recover.

  • Temperature - By far, the most critical factor in transporting house plants is temperature. Prolonged exposure to either excessive heat or cold is detrimental to most, with temperatures below 35 degrees or above 95 to 100 degrees for much over an hour fatal to many.  Some plants, such as dieffenbachia, cannot survive below 45 degrees. 

    Plants in cartons that are properly wrapped will stand quite a variation in temperature without being adversely affected.  Cushioning materials will provide some insulation, but cannot be depended on to maintain a steady temperature.  It is inadvisable to transport plants in unheated vehicles when the temperature is approaching the freezing point.

  • Water - Most house plants can withstand up to a week or 10 days without watering and suffer little harm.  Overwatering is one of the major causes of plant failure, since the roots of many rot if they are too wet.

    Plants should be moist when placed in cartons.  Waxed cartons will help keep moisture in, as
    will plastic trash bags of suitable size used as carton liners.  If you plan to use newsprint as a cushioning material, remember that it absorbs moisture and loses its resiliency when wet or damp, whereas bubble wrap and plastic foam do not.

  • Darkness/Light - When other conditions are favorable, house plants can withstand darkness for up to a week without adverse effects.  But plants left in darkness too long "etiolate" - start to sprout abnormal, weak growth that is more susceptible to disease. 

    When first exposing plants to light after a lengthy period in darkness, avoid possible wilting and sunscald.  Keep the plants away from direct exposure to the sun until they can be placed in locations comparable to those in which they previously thrived.

  • Cuttings - For convenience and to save space, you might prefer to take cuttings of your favorite house plants if they can be propagated in this way.  Most cuttings will survive for several days if kept in a plastic bag containing damp vermiculite, peat moss or perlite, or even if wrapped in a wet paper towel.  However, potted plants have a much greater chance of surviving a long trip than do cuttings.



A Preparation Checklist

Three to Four Weeks Before Moving

  • Arrange for official inspection and certification of your house plants if this is a requirement of your destination state.  If the soil or plants are infested, thorough treatment for a week to 10 days prior to moving is usually required, with reinspection necessary before a certificate can be issued.  Keep the certificate in a safe place.  It must accompany the plants whether you are moving them yourself or they are being transported on a moving van.

  • If no certification is required, inspect the plants yourself and treat for any plant pests that you might have discovered.  This is a must if your destination state inspect house plants upon their arrival.

  • Decide whether you want to transfer plants from clay to plastic post.  Clay pots are a little more vulnerable to damage than plastic ones, but with careful packing, breakage can be avoided.

  • Compact plants are easier to handle than spreading ones; a little pruning might be in order.  However, excessive pruning of a plant can be harmful.  Don't sacrifice the plant's health for better manageability.

Two Weeks to 10 Days Before Moving

  • Keep your plants a bit on the dry side until shortly before moving.  Remember that plants in plastic pots do not need watering as often as those in clay pots; excess water evaporates through clay pots, but not through plastic ones.

  • Start collecting packing materials:  wood flats (used by growers for shipping strawberries, cherries, etc.), newspapers, plastic trash bags, lightweight cardboard and strong corrugated cardboard cartons.  Cartons waxed on the inside are ideal for moving plants; they are sturdier than those of conventional cardboard and keep in moisture.  Dish packs, available from the moving company at a reasonable cost, are easily adaptable for moving house plants; bubble wrap and plastic foam are excellent cushioning materials.

The Day Before Moving

  • Water plants well and let excess water drain away.  NOTE:  This does not apply to cacti and other plants whose natural habitat is dry; these plants should be packed carefully to allow the free passage of air.

  • Assemble plants and packing materials in a convenient area.

  • Wrap each pot in aluminum foil or polyethylene film so moisture will not seep through and weaken cushioning materials or cartons.  (This step is not necessary if nonabsorbent materials are being used.)

  • Large or tall plants are more easily handled if the branches are bound loosely against the main stem in the direction of growth with a soft band that will not cause injury (such as discarded nylon hose).  Plants with weak stems should be staked and tied in the same way.

  • Make funnel-shaped plant "sleeves" from light-weight cardboard or obtain them from a florist.  Slip each potted plant into one from the top so foliage will be protected.  Fasten one or more around a tall plant.

  • If waxed cartons are not available, line boxes with polyethylene film.  Large-size plastic trash bags work well.  The plastic lining retains moisture while keeping the cardboard carton dry.

  • If at all possible, leave the actual packing until moving day.

Moving Day

  • Carefully pack plants into prepared cartons, cushioning them with crushed newspaper or other shock-absorbing materials so they won't shift.  Try to keep plants of similar size together, and use cartons that are an inch or more higher than the tallest plants.

  • Tall or heavy plants are more easily handled individually.  Set a plant into a carton of suitable size, wedging it securely in place with cushioning materials.  A carton that opens from the side is easiest to use.

  • Hanging planters should be placed at one end or in the center of a long horizontal box or tray filled with suitable cushioning materials.  The trailing foliage then should be laid carefully on top of the cushioning in the remainder of the box.

  • Place terrariums in cartons of suitable size and wedge in place with cushioning materials.  Remove any terrarium ornaments that might shift and pack them separately.

  • If you are moving the plants yourself, it's unnecessary to close the cartons unless they will be stacked on top of one another in the car.  When traveling, park the car in the shade if the weather is hot and in the sun if it's cold.

  • If the moving company is transporting the plants, mark the cartons in big letters:  PLANTS - FRAGILE - THIS SIDE UP.  If the weather is hot, avoid setting the cartons in the sun for any length of time before loading them on the van.  They should be loaded last and unloaded first.

  • Be sure to give the van operator any applicable plant inspection certificates.

At Destination

  • Unpack the plants carefully without delay and check their condition.  You might find it easier to remove plants from cardboard cartons by cutting around the bottom edge of the carton and lifting off the top part.

  • Place plants in locations similar to the ones they occupied in your old home.  Leave them alone except for normal watering.  Fussing with them or moving them from room to room will only delay their recuperation from moving shock.  Remember that plants are as individual as people, so one might take much longer to recover than another.


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