How do I move my plants cross-country?
May 17, 2011 10:47 AM   Subscribe

How do I move my plants cross-country?

Moving from NYC to Bay area: I have aloes and a ZZ plant which I love and don't want to give away as one person advised me to do. They're gorgeous and lush. Can I transplant them into plastic containers, box them up and have them survive in the dark for 5 days? Or should I pare them down and fed-ex them somehow? Are there plant moving services?

posted by scazza to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you had heirloom orchids or something I wouldn't be giving this advice, but your plants are hard to kill like Steven Seagal. They'll probably survive just fine in the dark for five days.
posted by box at 10:54 AM on May 17, 2011

I don't know about services, but when I used a shipping container to move a few years ago, most of my plants (ficus, philodendron, succulents) survived. I overwatered slightly before I packed them, and packed then in around table legs.
posted by freshwater at 10:54 AM on May 17, 2011

Response by poster: Yay. freshwater did you box them up? Or you mean you left the leaves expanded in the container and just braced the pot? I'm thinking of finding some wardrobe boxes or something like so the leaves are protected.
posted by scazza at 10:59 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

They should be fine for 5 days. Just reintroduce them to light gradually after you unpack them. Don't just throw them into the sun for 12 hours, or they might get sunburned - do a couple of hours the first day, or find an area with diffused light. Increase it a little every day.

If by chance you're going to be driving your car there, I have moved my plants cross country in my car multiple times with no problem. Just brace the pots so they don't shift around much.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:08 AM on May 17, 2011

I think you're going to get stopped at the point of entry. California's pretty picky about fruit and plants that you can bring into the state. To be honest, you can probably buy bigger and better for less here.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:14 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: MexicanYenta, they'd be in a shipping container as we fly.

To be honest, you can probably buy bigger and better for less here.
Ideefixe, good point and I'll keep that in mind. I have had these plants since 2002 and love them. I'd also rather save the money. As for getting stopped, what do you mean by "picky"? They're just common indoor houseplants, nothing exotic.
posted by scazza at 11:30 AM on May 17, 2011

+1 for giving them away and buying new plants in California. Once you factor in the planning and the extra shipping costs, it will probably save you time, effort, and money.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:37 AM on May 17, 2011

California has inspections for plants at borders because of all the agriculture in state.
posted by oneear at 11:38 AM on May 17, 2011

Response by poster: It's no extra shipping costs. It would cost more to buy new plants. I also don't have time for it with all I have to do already. And again, I love them. This question is about how to move them because I do not want to give them away.

oneear, I understand why, I'm asking if normal common houseplants often get barred from the state. There are inspections yes, but what comes of them? I would like more info on what gets forbidden.
posted by scazza at 11:42 AM on May 17, 2011

Best answer: How does CDFA define the category "house plants"?
House plants must meet ALL the requirements below:
grown in your home
not for resale
pest free
potted in sterile, packaged, commercial potting mix
ornamental plant (usually tropical and subtropical)
Q. What house plants should I NOT bring with me to California?
All citrus plants are prohibited; in addition, private owners of pine, oak, fruit and nut trees are strongly discouraged from moving these into California unless all provisions of the applicable federal and state quarantines can be satisfied. These plants present a high‐risk of introducing serious pests or diseases that could harm many different California agricultural industries and the environment.
Q. What basic guidelines can I use to help me evaluate if my house plants are suitable for entry into California?
House plants must have been grown in an indoor setting only, such as in a home or enclosed greenhouse, and planted in sterile, packaged, commercial potting mix. They should not have been grown or maintained outdoors, even during the warmer times of the year, or planted in soil taken from outdoor or backyard sources.
Q. Can my house plants be rejected if they show signs of even common insect, snail or disease problems?
Yes, California's border inspection officers may reject and confiscate any such plant material. House plants must be free of surface pests and appear healthy with no visible signs of disease.
Q. What do I need to do so that the inspection procedure at the California border station goes smoothly?
• Commercial Movers: must be instructed to put the declaration "house plants" at the top of the shipment inventory. The plants should be stored near the van doors to facilitate ease of inspection at the California border station.
• Private Individuals: must declare their plants to the border inspector(s) and have them easily accessible for inspection. Keep in mind that all agricultural materials (including house plants, fresh fruits and vegetables) are subject to inspection at the border station.
Q. What state authority applies to the movement of house plants into California?
The California Food and Agricultural Code provides the authority for the rejection of plant material found infested or suspected of harboring pests when transiting from one state to another. Border station inspectors can reject and destroy any plant material believed to present a risk of pest or disease introduction into California.
Q. What local, government contact can provide me with additional information on the California and federal plant quarantine regulations that affect whether I am allowed to move my house plants into California?
The Department of Agriculture in your current state should maintain a summary of the regulations affecting the movement of plant material into California. They should also be able to advise you if treatment or inspection options are available for certifying plant material for entry into California when a state and/or federal quarantine apply.
Contact Pest Exclusion for Questions: (916) 654‐0312
posted by Ideefixe at 12:16 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I grew up on a flower farm in Oregon and have some first-hand experience with shipping plants (both as an individual as well as commercial) into California.

1. You shouldn't have any problems shipping the plants to California, commercial plant material (including ZZ Plants and Aloes) are often shipped in boxes over a week or so. Water well, pack carefully and they should be fine.

2. Shipping plants into California is going to be your biggest hassle, but as long as you have healthy, pest-free plants, you should be okay. As Ideefixe has noted already, California is pretty stringent about moving plant matter into the state. They take it very seriously. When you pack, make sure the plants are absolutely and completely free of pests. If they aren't–even if it's only a single aphid–don't even bother. If they find anything, it's not only your houseplants that get impounded, they can impound the whole container if it's bad. Replant them in new, sterile potting soil, a few weeks before you move. Water well, and pack it last so they can pull out the plants without digging through anything else. Include a typed note with the plants to tell the inspectors that they are purely house plants (after all, you won't be with the truck driver).
posted by thebestsophist at 1:18 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

My relationship with my plants was very sentimental, so I preferred slightly wilty to new.

I had ample space in my container, so I left them unboxed. I would at least leave the top open -- moving trucks and shipping containers get hot, and you shouldn't restrict the airflow any more than you have to.

Prepare for some serious pruning when you get there.
posted by freshwater at 4:25 PM on May 17, 2011

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