How do I Transport House Plants to California?


The state of California maintains rigid entry requirements for house plants to protect against the spread of plant pests into California. No matter what road you take into California, you'll find an agricultural inspection station at the border to check all plant products. Packing and taking your house plants to California is not difficult, but you need to ensure you're complying with state regulation. Most plants will survive the journey fine, and will perk up afterward with regular water and sunshine.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic containers
  • Garden shears
  • Box
  • Towel
  • Newspaper
  • Ensure that your plants meet the state of California's rigid guidelines. The California Department of Food and Agriculture notes that plants must be grown in sterile soil only (not yard soil), have lived indoors always (no moving plants outdoors for summer) and appear healthy (free of disease and pests). While California rigidly controls fruit and pine trees entering the state, house plants must only meet the above guidelines.

  • Write out a list of all house plants you'll bring. At the border crossing into California, you'll pass an agricultural inspection station. You must declare your plants at this drive-through inspection agent, and a list helps notify the agent quickly of what exactly you've got.

  • Give away or discard plants that do not meet California's entry guidelines.

  • Understand that you'll be transporting the plants yourself. Atlas Van Lines notes that commercial shippers will not accept perishables (this includes plants) for transport over 150 miles (or 24 hours), so you'll likely be driving your plants yourself.

  • Repot all plants into plastic containers for the move three weeks before the move. Select the same size container and lift out the plant, then place it in the new plastic container. This prevents breakage during your trip.

  • Prune overgrown plants two weeks before the move, using garden shears to trim branches back to a lateral intersection. Clipping them back means you're less likely to injury long plant tendrils during a move.

  • Water your plants thoroughly two days before the move.

  • Line a cardboard box with a towel or an old sheet. Place your house plants in the bottom of the box. Crumple newspaper and put it between house plants to prevent them from moving.

  • Put a lid on the box or tape the box shut loosely. Poke air holes in the box so the plants won't suffocate, especially during hot weather.

  • Put plants in your car or moving van. Avoid placing them in the trunk. Place them on a level surface.

  • Drive to California with your plants. Regulate the temperature in the car or van. Run the heat during winter months or crack windows (or use air conditioner) in the summer.

  • Pass through the California agricultural inspection station and present the list of your house plants to the border agent. Retrieve the box holding your house plant and wait for the border agent to review your house plant. The agent will discard unhealthy plants but allow you to bring the rest of the plants into California.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you're driving for several days, bring the box of house plants into your hotel for the night. Open the box to allow the plants to receive light. Water the plants every few days, when the soil feels dry.

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  • Photo Credit OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA image by Pavel Baskakov from
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