Relocating? Who says you can't take some of your favorite plants with you?

Posted: Friday, September 05, 2003

NEW MARKET, Va. (AP) You're on the road again, traveling to where career calls you or moving into that long-sought dream house. Whatever your reason for relocating, it's a stressful exercise for you and very definitely for your fragile plants.

Time of year and distance covered are important considerations when moving plants. So, too, are mode of transportation and packaging.

People moving during the dark of winter in Kotzebue, Alaska, for example, 26 miles above the Arctic Circle, have been known to use the old hot-air balloon trick for protecting their plants.

They cover them with a large garbage bag, inflate it partially with warm blasts from a hair dryer and then seal the bottom for the short but bitter-cold trip across town.

''It would look like we were on our way to an over-the-hill birthday party a truck bed full of inflated black garbage bags,'' says Martha Stewart, a University of Alaska lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and a former Kotzebue resident.

Searing summer heat is another obstacle to overcome when moving some of your choice greenery. Keeping plants moist is Rule No. 1. Water them well before loading.

Double up by wrapping the plant tops in sphagnum moss soaked overnight. Or consider covering them loosely with wetted newspaper.

If you're taking any shrubs, ferns or tree saplings, package them with large root- or soil balls. That makes them weightier, but will boost the odds your plants will survive their new environment.

Pruning your plants a few weeks before moving makes for less bulky packages.

If you can't take the entire plant, then take a cutting. Wrap the cuttings in wet paper towels before placing them in unsealed plastic bags and placing them in a cushioned, cardboard box.

Inspect your plants carefully well before moving day. Check for aphids, spider mites, mold, cracked pots or tired soil. To be on the safe side, dust with a pest control powder before covering them foliage, pot and all with plastic bags. That should kill any unwelcome hitchhikers.

Above all, be liberal with your discard policies. Give your healthy plants to friends or group homes. Or introduce them with their histories and special needs to their new owners.

Can uprooting some of your favorite foundation plants sour a house deal? What if you dig up that little fruit tree you bought last year? Or if you take a few treasured iris bulbs originally from your mother's flower bed? Perhaps a few of those shrub roses your husband planted years ago out front?

''As long as everybody agrees, (home) buyer and seller, there's no reason why you can't do it,'' says Nadine DeLuccia, a sales associate with Shenandoah Valley Realty, a United Country affiliate in Mount Jackson, Va. ''That's not usually a sticking point between parties. But it doesn't mean you should vacate all the landscaping.''

There are several ways to legally accommodate relocating plants during a real estate transaction, DeLuccia says.

One is specifying what won't be remaining with the property when you list your house for sale. Another is spelling it out on the sales contract, she says.

''I had a seller recently who wanted to take along some hostas,'' DeLuccia says. ''The buyer said 'no problem,' so she was able to bring something special from the old house with her.''

Become well grounded in such esoterica as agricultural restrictions. Many areas, notably the fruit and vegetable producing states of Florida, Arizona and California, rigidly limit what plants can be imported in efforts to prevent any new insect pests or diseases.

Call ahead for specifics. Try a county extension agent or the nearest U.S. Department of Agriculture office in your destination state.

It also may be forbidden to carry plants on commercial flights. Check with your favorite airline to determine what you can bring aboard with you and if the plants need any kind of documentation, like a gypsy moth inspection certificate.

You also should factor in climatic changes, or differences in hardiness zones between your old and new locations.

That little flowering dogwood tree that did so well during its first summer in your Georgia back yard (USDA Zone 8) could become one sick puppy after exposure to a northern Minnesota winter (Zone 3).

Take soil samples from your new yard. You can't expect your transplanted varieties to thrive unless you can provide them with the conditions they require.

Study the microclimate at your new home. How does the air flow? Is your yard protected from strong gusts? Where and how well does the water drain? Does the soil tend to clay or sand? Think about what you'll need to amend the soil.

Unpack your plants or cuttings as soon as you arrive. But remember that they've been without direct sun or fresh air for a number of days. Expose them gradually to the elements when setting them out again.

With a little thought and some tender loving care, your plants soon will be made to feel at home again.

EDITOR'S NOTE Dean Fosdick retired in May 2001 after 23 years with The Associated Press, 15 of those as Alaska bureau chief. He has covered the Exxon Valdez oil spill, volcanoes, galloping glaciers and harvesting Alaska-grown 100-pound-plus cabbages. He can be reached at: deanfosdick(at)

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For more about gardening on the move, try some realtors or moving companies:; or the National Gardening Association:

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