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Transporting Plants in Your Car

When it comes to transporting plants, you might wish you lived in the pages of a Science Fiction novel. Wouldn’t it be nice for our houseplants to instantaneously teleport to their new location? Sadly, you have to do things the hard way. What are some tips on successfully transporting plants in your car?

Transporting Plants During Short Car Rides

Everyone loves taking a trip to the nursery. Plus, houseplants are becoming readily available at grocery stores! How can you safely transport your new plant (or plants) home?

Vehicle Environment

Strive to keep your vehicle at a comfortable temperature. If it’s too hot for a chocolate bar, it’s too hot for your plants. Place your new plants in an area where they can benefit from the car’s heating or A/C during transport, which means you should avoid isolating them in the trunk.

For short trips, there is no need to be overly concerned about lighting and ventilation. If your trip is going to take a few hours, keep your plant out of the scorching sunlight and out of the direct path of heating and air vents.

Never leave your plant in the vehicle while you run another errand; you should take it with you or leave a responsible person in the car to maintain a healthy environment.

Grocery Bags

Paper, plastic, and reusable grocery bags are all great tools you can use to minimize the mess in your car when transporting plants.

  • Paper bag: Roll the top down to be level with your plant’s pot. Sit your plant inside. If it’s a large bag, cluster small plants together to keep them stable. For large plants, place them in the center of the bag, and crumple extra bags to use as “stuffing” around the pot’s base.

  • Plastic bag: Place your plant’s pot in the plastic bag, tying its edges near the lip of the container. Don’t cover the soil’s surface.

  • Reusable bags: Shapes and sizes of reusable grocery bags vary, so use your imagination. For large bags, cluster small plants together. For smaller bags, use them to store individual plants.

Cardboard Boxes

Utilizing boxes is one of the best methods to provide rigid stability against the bumpiest roads (or busiest city traffic).

For small plants, cluster several together in one box. For added security, use a box designed for wine bottles! The convenient cubbies will keep your plants separated and upright.

Larger plants should get their own box. Make sure to stabilize them by adding extra “stuffing” around the pot’s base (such as disposable grocery bags).

Transporting Plants in Your Car on Moving Day

A quick jaunt in the car is one thing, but a 24-28 hour move? That’s more daunting! How can you prepare for the big day?

Evaluating Your Plant Collection

If you have an extensive plant collection, it may be time to face a harsh reality: you may have to leave some plants behind. Why?

  • Only so many plants will fit in your vehicle. Do they have to be in the car? The short answer: yes. Your plants need a temperature-controlled environment. Do not place plants in an isolated trunk or the back of a moving truck. You also need to consider the size of your vehicle when it comes to extra-large plants.

  • Plants come with you on overnight stays. Do you have to stop at a hotel before you reach your destination? Leaving your plants in your car overnight is a bad idea, which means they’re bunking with you!

  • Your new home may have different lighting. Are you leaving your sunroom behind? Take a fair and honest evaluation of your new place; it may be time to say goodbye to some sun-loving plants if you are in a shadier location.

  • Finicky or unhealthy plants likely won’t survive. Do you have a plant diva that almost dies on you every other week? Or a plant infested with pests? Staying “in one piece” during the move isn’t the only challenge; plants also must be strong enough to withstand environmental stress and transplant shock (which can last weeks).

Are you wondering what to do with plants that didn’t make the cut? As long as your plants are healthy, there are plenty of noble causes: you can donate them to a hospital, nursing home, or public office. Beloved houseplants also make meaningful parting gifts you could give to family or friends you’re leaving behind. And, if you’re interested in making some money on massive showstoppers, you could list your plants for sale on online marketplaces.

Tips for Moving Day

Whether you’re preparing for your future move or you’re loading the car for transport today, here are a few suggestions to help your plant companions make the trip:

When to Water

For a summertime move, water dry plants the night before you embark. Why? They’ll likely be thirsty before you arrive at your destination, and watering them en route will be a hassle. In the winter months, water 2-3 days before you leave. Wet roots will intensify any cold conditions your plant encounters.

Acclimating to Lower Light

If you have some plants soaking up the sun in your current home, now is the time to wean them off to lower light levels. A month before you leave, place these plants a few feet further away from their usual light source. For sensitive plants, this minor adjustment will help them cope with lower levels of light during your trip.


Cardboard boxes are the best option for long-distance trips. Select sturdy, thick boxes, reinforcing them with tape and extra cardboard if necessary. Pack plants snuggly in the boxes, adding additional packing material between breakable pots (such as paper, towels, or packing peanuts). Large plants should be placed on the floorboards of your vehicle. Smaller plants can rest easily on your back seat, secured with the seatbelt.


You should unload your plants as soon as you reach your destination. In your new home, cluster them in a temporary location that receives moderate levels of light. Now’s the time to water any thirsty plants since you’ll likely become preoccupied with unpacking.

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