Moving indoor plants requires more preparation than you might imagine. First, check with your state's Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Department of Agriculture to see if your plants need any special licenses, inspections, or certifications, such as gypsy moth certification, to be moved.
Two weeks before moving day, prune indoor plants by pinching back newer growth with your thumb and forefinger. The goal is to make plants more compact for the move. Pruning plants has the side effect of making them healthier, so they're more likely to survive the move. Doing this also makes them more attractive, so you'll get the side benefit of them looking pristine in your new home once they make it there.
Water plants two days before the move so they have enough water to survive the move but won't leak in the car. During hot summer days or in very dry climates, water plants the night before the move, but make sure all the water has drained from the pot before packing them up.
On moving day, wrap large houseplants with tissue paper or newspaper in a cone shape to prevent branch breakage. If you've ever seen a bouquet of flowers wrapped from a florist, you'll know exactly how to do this. For hanging plants, gather the foliage gently at the top and, for large plants, secure with soft bands.
Pack plants in boxes only slightly larger than the base of their pot. You can use newspaper, packing peanuts, Styrofoam, socks, dishtowels, or other items to ensure a snug fit.
For breakable ceramic or clay pots, wrap the pot (but not the plant) in bubble wrap before packing. Some experts recommend wrapping the clay pot in wet paper, and then multiple layers of dry paper for protection
Alternatively, you can pack multiple plants of similar sizes in one carton. Just be sure the pots are well-padded with paper or packing materials so they won't break during the move.
Remember, a plant is a living thing. Close the lid loosely and punch air holes in the box. Label the box "Plant — This Side Up" to avoid tossing the plant on its side or accidentally packing it in the moving van instead of the car with you.
As you travel with plants, treat them as you would a pet — minus the bathroom stops, of course. Run the air conditioner or crack a window in your vehicle in warmer weather. Avoid exposing the plant to direct sunlight, which is amplified through the car windows.
You shouldn't have to water your plants on a journey shorter than three days. If plants are in the car longer than three days, however, you'll need to water them and also remove the tissue paper covering to expose them to sunlight for a brief time.
On moving day or the night before, wrap the pot in bubble wrap for protection. If you have a box large enough, place the tree inside. A box of any height will offer added protection for your prized tree. If you don't have a suitable box, you can move your tree without one. Always transport trees in the cabin of your car or moving vehicle. Prop heavier objects or boxes against the pot to ensure the tree won't fall during transport.
As with indoor plants, don't be surprised if tree leaves turn yellow or fall off in the weeks following the move. Prevent shock damage by providing indoor trees with an environment similar to the one you left. Keep indoor trees out of direct sunlight during the move and immediately afterwards.
Compared to other indoor plants, moving a cactus requires very little prep work. Water the cactus, if needed, a week before the move. It should not need any water during the trip.
Wrap the pot in bubble wrap or newspaper for protection, and place the cacti in a box. If you put multiple plants in one box, ensure the pots won't bang together and there is plenty of protection in the form of packing peanuts, foam, or other packing materials. You can leave the lid of the box open, as cacti are very hearty plants. Just make sure you don't place anything on top of the box or that one of the needles won't catch on anyone or anything.
A big, tall cactus can be challenging to move, especially if it won't fit in your car standing up. You can lay the plant flat on a wooden board for the trip and secure it gently with soft bands. Alternatively, you can trim the plant. Each piece will grow into another cactus when re-planted after the trip.
Take care when handling cacti to avoid getting stuck by the prickly thorns. If you can't avoid touching the cactus, make sure to wear gardening gloves or thick rubber gloves.