How to Move Houseplants Without Stressing Them Out

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There’s a somewhat pervasive rumour in the house plant community that plants don’t like to be moved around the house.

(If anyone’s interested, I’m more than happy to write an article about moving house with plants, but this one is more about moving plants around your home.)

Plants have no issue with being moved, UNLESS they’re being moved somewhere that doesn’t suit them.

It makes sense though!

I mean, if you moved me from a small house in a market town in North Yorkshire to someone's basement under the sea I wouldn't be best pleased. 

Or, in the case of a plant, if you moved me from a sunny windowsill in the living room to a dark bookcase in the spare room I would NOT be happy, despite how aesthetically pleasing I look.

In general, as long as you’re moving your plant somewhere with either better, or the same, conditions as before, they should be fine.

That being said there are things you need to take into consideration, especially at certain stages of their life.

rubber plant near window and bookcase

Leave them alone if they have buds/peduncles

Aroids such as peace lilies are less easily spooked and liable to drop their flowers, but BOY are hoya ready to drop their bloom should someone look at them the wrong way. See also Christmas Cactus or Hoya.

Once the blooms are out, you’re probably fine, but the second you see anything that resembles a bud or a peduncle, you need to leave them where they are.

It doesn’t seem to matter if you move them to a ‘better’ spot. If you need to move them, accept that your buds will likely be toast.

Acclimate them carefully

This is for those of you that bought a snake plant five years ago and left in your basement under a pile of coats, safe in the knowledge that it’s a low-light house plant that thrives on neglect.

When you found out that that is NOT true, you decided to give ol' snakey the life he deserves and want to put him in your brightest window.

He’ll love it, and he will recover in time BUT he will also burn to crisp if you do this.

Instead you need to gradually move him into brighter and brighter light over time.

I’d do three separate stages of brightness, and leave him for about a week in each of these spots.

To be honest, snake plants aren't the best example of this, because they're fairly resilient to, er, everything, BUT rest assured most other plants would burn to a crisp if you upped their light dramatically one day.

Make sure they’re somewhere that suits them

The main issue I see when people are moving plants around is that they’re moving them from an optimal spot to a suboptimal one.

Like…of course they’re gonna complain. Who wouldn’t?

And also, there's not really a lot you can do to improve the situation, unless you want to buy some grow lights and stuff. 

I'd be tempted to just...move it back, and get a plant that suits that spot better.

(If you’re not sure when plant will go in a particular spot, Aglaonema are safe bet in a lot of different environments.

Wait until they’re between leaves

Plants aren’t as fussy about moving when they’re pushing out a new leaf as they are when they’re pushing out a new bloom BUT it’s still not a great time to be moving the plant.

There is a slight risk that the plant will throw a hissy fit and your leaf will be malformed, but the biggest risk come from the move itself.

New leaves are really delicate, and if it falls or gets knocked then you could do it permanent damage.

Obvs if you need to move the plant at this particular time then go ahead – the actual plant will likely be just fine – but be very careful

large plants in window

Try not to move them in winter

Unless you’re moving them to a spot that you know will be better for them.

Winter time for plants is stressful enough anyway, without you moving them around.

Not only do you risk stressing them out and causing them to go into shock BUT you also risk moving any pests around your house.

I have a little October routine where I try to make sure all my plants are clean and healthy, and then I work out where's best for them to spend winter. 

By getting them all acclimated before the really cold weather comes, you're easing them into the season.

Clean their leaves

This is a follow on from the last one but make sure you check your plant thoroughly and spray down the leaves with something like castile soap before moving your plant to its new spot.

Even if you don’t see any pests, make sure it’s clean and dust free. Not only will this reduce the risk of it transferring pests to your other plants, but it also optimises the leaf for photosynthesis, which should help it settle into it’s new home quicker.

Leave them to settle in (no repotting!)

Loads of things stress plants out:

  • repotting
  • pests
  • moving
  • cold weather
  • hot weather
  • etc etc etc

Basically anything other than the status quo.

To reduce the overall volume of stress happening to your plant in one go, I recommend only stressing it out with one thing at a time. 

Don't repot when it has pests. 

Don't move it in a heatwave.

If it needs repotting, repot it, let it recover*, and then move it.

Some plants find everything extremely stressful, so may droop or just generally look sad when you move them around your home.

Sometimes it’s because the new environment doesn’t suit them, so make sure you’re moving them somewhere similar or better.

If you’re confident that there’s nothing wrong with where you put your plant, and it’s just having a strop, then leave it to settle in.

*I usually declare the recovery period over when a new leaf is born. If it can grow a leaf it can handle moving from the bathroom to the kitchen.

fiddle leaf fig, palm, and schefflera in office

Final thoughts

I move my plants all the time in summer. I don’t even really think about it.

I’m usually confident that they’re going somewhere they’ll like, and if they don’t like it, I can move them back.

As long as you’re vaguely aware of the conditions your plant likes, it’ll be fine.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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