We’ve been in St. Louis for just over a week and I’m happy to say that all of my plants I brought with me are still alive! Yay! Seriously, moving plants and dogs across the country is not easy and I’m beyond happy that we pulled it off without any sickness or plant fatality. I assumed my succulents would survive since they are so hearty but I was pretty sure I’d lose either my Gerbera Daisies or one of my herbs. Fortunately, they all made it and are sitting in our hotel window soaking up the sun right now.
Disclaimer: There are regulations regarding moving plants across state lines which I’m going to be discussing throughout this post because you do need to make sure you’re legally transporting your plants!
I wasn’t able to bring all of my plants with me on this move (we moved to St. Louis, MO) because most states regulate the import of plants, including personal houseplants and herbs. This is done to protect the natural ecosystem of their state and prevent the spread of disease and pests that could create a lot of trouble. If you’re moving to a state that relies on agriculture and crops for revenue (Idaho, Georgia, California, Ohio, etc.) the regulations can be more intense. The last thing these states want is to lose potato or citrus crops because some unsuspecting new resident brought in plant disease through their houseplants.
A few of the more common regulations that govern moving plants are:
- Allowing only plants grown and kept indoors
- Requiring all potted plants to have fresh potting soil
- Subjecting plants to inspection
- Subjecting plants to quarantine
I left all of my outdoor plants behind and I didn’t bring any food-bearing plants (tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, etc.). Food-bearing plants can be grown in Missouri but I was concerned about the possibility of bringing unseen pests from West Virginia to Missouri. I also didn’t bring any plants that were mostly grown outdoors and only brought inside during the cold months.
If you’re going to be moving plants and herbs across state lines or cross country you should:
Check USDA regulations
The USDA website was my first stop for regulations regarding importing plants or animals to a new state. They have a lot of information related to necessary permits, endangered plants, importing fruits and vegetables, importing seeds, and any quarantine screenings you may be subject to upon entering the state. It’s exhaustive research but it’s far better to know what you’re coming into then face fines and trouble after arriving. You can also contact their plant import department at 301-851-2046 or toll-free at 877-770-5990.
Check your new Regional Plant Board
There are 4 regional plant boards that make up the National Plant Board of the USA. They have a lot of information about plants in the USA, natural eco-systems, regulations facing the import/export of plant life, invasive species, and any regulations you might face about moving plants across state lines. You can find your regional plant board here then I recommend giving them a call to discuss your options.
Contact the Department of Agriculture for your new state
For even more information, you can contact the Department of Agriculture in the state you are moving to. In our case, I called the Department of Agriculture for the state of Missouri to determine if I could bring my plants with me without facing quarantine. I had a little trouble finding information on their website but a quick phone call helped me determine what I could (and couldn’t) bring with me on our move.
As general rules, don’t expect to move anything that was planted and grown outside, anything considered “exotic” or anything particularly native to a specific area. You’re going to be most likely to be allowed to import indoor houseplants and common herbs.
If you are moving plants, make sure you know the state guidelines regarding their import. You should expect to change the soil to something fresh and sterile and they are likely to be inspected by an official once you arrive at the border because you have to declare them. You’ll also have to make sure you have room in your own vehicle for them as most professional movers won’t move plants. I packed ours in a plastic tote (secured with padding so they couldn’t jostle around) and kept them in the backseat of our car so they could get sunlight during the move.
Transporting your plants in your own car is absolutely my top recommendation for moving them. You can use a plastic tote like I did, a simple cardboard box, or any open container that they’ll fit in. Pack them in tightly and fill the open space with packing peanuts, towels, or other packaging so the plants don’t shift around. If the weather is exceptionally hot or cold, don’t leave the plants in the car for extended periods of time or overnight so check with your hotel about bringing them in with you for the evening.
If you have plants that don’t meet the criteria of your new state don’t try to sneak them in. You could face heavy fines if you’re caught importing them and it’s not worth it. I know how much time, sweat, and tears (yes, tears) we pour into our beloved plant life but you don’t want to risk the trouble you’d be facing. If you can’t bring your plants with you, I recommend giving them to a plant-loving friend or family member.
I know it sounds like a lot of work and trouble to move plants but you definitely want to do your research before risking it. You could face hefty fines if you try to bring in banned plants or plant that have pests or diseases. Even if you think it’s under control, state officials could disagree. If you’re in doubt about any of your plants, give them away and start over once you get settled in your new place.