SUNDAY GARDENING: Getting Houseplants Home Safely

Contributed By Martha Plousos
Plowing Through Life

When transporting plants, there are actually two types of weather conditions that can severely injure newly-purchased plants as you relocate them to your home – the harsh, freezing temperatures of the colder months and the sweltering, intense heat of the warmer ones. As soon as your new plant is out of the sanctuary of the store, precautions have to be taken to make sure that it gets through the trip home intact – if you want a plant that lasts longer than the ride to your house.

Below are some useful tips that will minimize the potential harm caused by the two unsympathetic extremities – hot and cold – and help get your houseplants home safely.


Ways to protect new plants against the cold:

  • Wrap the plant completely before taking it outside. Insist on paper wrapping at the cash register, which is a much better insulator than plastic.
  • Put the entire, insulated package (paper-wrapped plant) in a bag. Double-bag if it’s very cold or windy.
  • If paper wrapping is not available and you have to buy the plant, bundle it up with a few plastic bags. The padding from plastic bags is not as shielding as paper but it’s better than nothing.
  • Inflate the outermost bag by blowing into it, and then tie it shut tightly to trap in the warm air.
  • In sub-zero weather, warm up your vehicle before you put your plant inside.
  • If you set your plant on a cold floor or chilled seat, put a layer of insulation such as newspaper, cardboard or bag underneath the pot.
  • If the ride home is a long one, open up the tightly-sealed bag a little for ventilation.
  • Avoid transporting your new plant in the trunk of your car; it’s generally too cold in there.
  • Position the plant carefully so the foliage does not touch the windows; the cold of the glass can burn the leaves.
  • Make sure that the plant is also secure in its spot. You don’t want it to topple over during a sharp turn, which will break leaves or stems and scatter soil all over your car!
  • If you buy a very big plant, consider making alternative plans if your car is too small to accommodate it. Don’t leave part of the plant sticking out the window like you would with a piece of wood from the hardware store.
  • Don’t put a plant in the open-top rear cargo area of a pickup truck no matter how well-wrapped and insulated it is.
  • Always make your plant purchase your last stop of the day so you don’t leave it sitting in a cold car while you take care of other business.
  • If you are taking a plant home by foot or public transportation instead of by car, you run a huge risk of killing it when the weather is freezing. Consider taking a cab, getting a ride from a friend or shopping on a milder day.
  • When you finally arrive home, leave your plant in its wrapping (make sure to open it slightly for ventilation) for about 15 minutes. This will allow your plant to gradually adjust to the room temperature of your home.

Some of the tips above may seem a little extreme but even a few seconds of exposure to sub-zero weather can cause severe damage to a ‘tropical’ plant. Don’t take it for granted that everything is fine just because your new plant does not react immediately to the exposure of cold weather. While some plants will show signs of cold injury quickly, others may not show any signs for several weeks after purchase. So why chance it?

In my opinion, it’s always better to shop for plants when the weather is more agreeable no matter how you are traveling, be it on foot or by car. Houseplants are available all year and picking them up on milder days will give you a better chance at taking them home alive and well.

But if you just have to have that plant, make sure you bundle it up! Brrrr, it’s a cold world out there!

When It’s Hot, Hot, Hot!

Although many people will be quite vigilant with their new plants in the winter, most won’t pay attention to the summer months. It’s easy to put little thought to transporting newly-purchased houseplants during the sunny and warm season when you’re so comfortable. If you’re comfortable, your plant should be comfortable too, no? Not quite. The summer time can be just as deadly because of this lack of vigilance. That’s when people are more reckless.

In the summer time, the temperature inside a car parked in the sun can be fatal, producing enough heat to do in the toughest plant very quickly. But because it’s warm outside, it’s assumed that the new plant is not in any danger of damage. Houseplants are left in a sealed vehicle while the buyer runs errands or attends to other business, sometimes for extended periods. Be just as wary in the summer as you are in the winter. If you leave your new flora in your car’s sizzling temperatures, chances are you’ll come back to a cooked plant!

Transporting Plants Safely in Hot Weather

  • Select plants that have been recently watered (the soil should be moist). If the plant is dehydrated, it will be unable to deal with the heat.
  • If you are determined to pick up a specific plant but the soil is too dry, ask that it be watered thoroughly before you purchase it. A reputable greenhouse and reasonable store owner will accommodate this valid request.
  • Shade the plant from the rays of the sun in your car. Sunlight shining through the glass can burn the foliage. Place the plant on the floor of the car or cover it to keep it from baking.
  • Never place your new plant in the trunk of your car; the intense heat can kill it.
  • Don’t leave your plant in a parked car while you tend to other business; the temperature will rise to lethal levels and cause devastating results.
  • High winds can be extremely harmful. Don’t place a large plant in the back of a pickup truck, standing up, where it’ll be beaten by the blustery weather. Lay it down on its side, cover it to protect it from the sun and secure it to keep it from being tossed around during the drive home.
  • Like above, do not allow large plants to stick out your window to avoid wind damage.
  • Just as you would in cold weather, consider making alternative plans if your car cannot accommodate a large plant instead of letting foliage stick out the window.
  • It’s just as important in the summer to make your plant purchases your last stop of the day so you don’t leave your new houseplants sitting in an overheated car.

Whether you are taking a new plant home during the coldest or hottest days of the year, putting in that extra effort will make the transition for your plant easier. How you transfer your plant from store to home is very important during the two toughest periods of the year.

Give your new plant the chance to get home safely with you. They’ll reward you with vigorous growth if they’re given the chance at a healthy start.

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