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plant care travel

Traveling with Plants: 4 Steps for Safe (and Easy!) Transport

Going to college nearly 300 miles away from home means a lot of back and forth for breaks and vacations. Along with packing clothes and the essentials, I have to pack my plants. Luckily, I have a car, which makes travelling with them easy. However, it has taken me about 2 years to create and perfect a system that works for me. Whether you’re visiting family for a month and don’t want to leave your beloved plants with a sitter or moving to a new city, these tips for travelling with plants will help you keep them healthy for the journey!

 

Note: This guide is based off of my own experience, mainly transporting by car. Nevertheless, you can easily adapt these tips and tricks for any way you travel!

Pre-Departure

The two weeks pre-departure is crucial to ensure that both you and your plants are prepped for travel. Environmental fluctuations can cause your plant to stress out, which can lead to a variety of common plant problems, including stunted or halted growth and leaf drop. A stressed, weaker plant is also more susceptible to pest infestations.

So, this is the time to give them some extra TLC:

  • Start by pruning – remove any dropped or damaged leaves
    • If you have a trailing variety with long vines, consider trimming stems to make traveling a bit easier
  • Gently dust foliage with a dampened cloth
  • Repot to allow ample time to readjust to their new container
  • Be sure to time waterings so that the soil will be moist – but not wet – for travel
    • The combination of a stressed plant, wet soil, and a cool, dark environment do not mix – these are perfect conditions for root rot to develop
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Freshly repotted plants ready for travel

Packing

When traveling by car:

  • For smaller plants, place them into an open box with plenty of padding – think newspaper or dish cloths
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: I strap the box in the seat with the seat buckle for extra protection
    • The padding and extra restraint ensure that they do not budge in case I have to come to a sudden stop
  • For larger plants that will not fit into an open box, place them on the floor of the car
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: I move my car seats or place padding around larger containers on the floor to ensure that it will not move during travel
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Traveling with my plants – stuffed animals make great padding!

If you have to ship them to your new location:

  • Remove them from soil and gently shake off the excess dirt
    • Do not wash the roots
  • Wrap the roots in a few layers of moist paper towels and place into a plastic bag
  • Make sure you choose a sturdy box and label it accordingly!

That being said, you can bring a plant with you onto the plane:

  • Option 1: wrap the container in a garbage bag, popping a few holes to ensure it can breathe
    • The garbage bag keeps the soil from making a mess
    • This option is useful for larger varieties that cannot be stored in a box
  • Option 2: remove the plant from soil, wash off any excess dirt from the roots, and tie a plastic bag around the still moist roots
    • Many plants can survive hours – some up to days – like this
  • Wrap any delicate foliage in newspaper and tape to secure
  • Once you reach your final destination, unwrap and place in soil
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Lithops preparing to travel

However, the final decision is up to TSA agents and the airlines. Be sure to research your destination and airline ahead of time. Some locations ban certain varieties or do not allow foreign species. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has information on what can be brought into the U.S. Other countries have similar traveler information lists. 

During Travel

When traveling by car:

  • Keep in mind the temperature and sun exposure

If the trip will take less than a day, your plants should be fine.

However, when transporting with multiple stops, traveling becomes trickier:

  • Foliage can be scorched by the sun, so make sure to park your car in the shade at rest stops
  • The AC sucks moisture from the air
    • To combat this, place a tray of wet pebbles under the containers
    • You can also lightly mist leaves with water if the leaves are looking dry

On Arrival

So, you’ve finally reached your destination. Do not let your plants sit in your car or a box for too long – unpacking them should be one of the first things you do. No matter how long your journey was, they will still need time to adjust to their new environment.

  • Place them in partial direct or indirect sunlight (depending on the need of the plant) for about 2 to 5 days
  • During this time, keep a close eye on them, and ask yourself:
    • Do they need to be watered?
    • Do they need to be pruned?
    • Do they need to be treated for a pest infestation or disease?

After this period, you can now put your plants in their more permanent homes. The initial shock of moving should have passed, but some may still show signs of distress. After 3 weeks, all persisting problems from travel should pass. If not, contact me, and I can help nurse your plant back to health!

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