When you move from one state to another, there’s obviously lots of extra planning to consider: securing a new job, finding a new house, getting the kids lined up for a new school, and of course, arranging for movers to load up your belongings and deliver them across state lines. You may think you’ve thought of everything when it comes to the big move, but many homeowners – even some avid gardeners – have been surprised when the movers arrive and explain that without the proper documentation, they won’t be able to take their favorite plants along with them.


Houseplants like this Spathiphyllum usually have few restrictions moving from state to state since they’ve been in a more controlled environment (inside the house).

Photo Credit: Daniel Overcash


Plants that are dug from the ground and potted in soil for a state-to-state move are subject to more restrictions than bareroot plants.

Photo Credit: Daniel Overcash

“What’s the big deal?” you may wonder.

Believe it or not, some states are free of pests and diseases that plague other states. Each state’s Department of Agriculture establishes guidelines to protect their native plants, as well as their gardeners’ cultivated ones. You don’t want to be the culprit who introduces an invasive plant or harmful pest to your new state, do you?

Moving plants from state to state isn’t terribly difficult, but it does require a bit of planning for you to get that necessary stamp of approval.

The first step is to check the laws and regulations of the National Plant Board to determine the exact requirements each state has set forth for moving plants into their territory. Some states have few restrictions, while others are so tightly regulated, it may just be easier to leave the plants behind and start new when you arrive.

If the state you’re moving to requires an inspection of your plants before it allows them to cross state lines, contact your current state’s Department of Agriculture and arrange for a plant inspector to visit your home and examine the plants you’d like to transport. Before the official arrives, make sure that all the plant material in your collection is pest-free and not illegal to take into the new state. (Generally, illegal plants are those that are known to be invasive in a particular state.) After the official determines everything is clean and clear, he or she will issue you a State Phytosanitary Certificate.

Some states can actually quarantine other states for having pests that can be easily moved into their region. For example, Virginia doesn’t allow any plants from Florida to come into its state without treatment for fire ants because at this time Virginia doesn’t have fire ants, and Florida’s infested with them. The quarantine is Virginia’s primary defense for keeping the pest out.

Many avid gardeners may have a special species that they’ve nurtured from plant infancy and would certainly like to “pack” for a big move. But with the possibility of spreading a pest or disease that’s not native to your new home, it’s best to identify and abide by state and local requirements. If you simply can’t take that favorite plant of yours with you, give it to a gardening friend or neighbor who can enjoy it as much as you did. (And you can always come back to visit.)