There are any number of reasons why a gardener might need to move a large plant indoors, from excessive cold or heat to disease prevention. The protection offered by an indoor environment is unparalleled, whether it is a greenhouse or your own house. Indoors, we have total control over temperature, lighting, and air flow, among other things, creating a safe little bubble around our plants.
First, however, we have to get these plants inside. Large plants, whether they are potted trees and shrubs or large, tropical varieties, are a challenge to move around at the best of times, and downright difficult at the worst of times. Gardeners with physical limitations can find that even medium-sized plants pose a challenge, so how, exactly, should we be moving these giants around?
Choose the Right Pot
If you know ahead of time that your large plant will be spending time both indoors and outdoors, the first thing you can do to make things easier on yourself is to choose the right pot. Heavy materials like ceramic pots are beautiful, but they are also heavier than those made from plastic. Choosing a pot made from a light material like plastic, or even a lightweight metal, can save you a few extra pounds.
Just remember that if you decide to buy a plastic plant pot for your large plant, you definitely want it to be sturdy. The last thing you want to deal with is your pot breaking on you in the middle of a move.
Prepare Your Plant for the Move
Moving a plant indoors protects it from cold, heat, and many pests—unless you bring those pests inside with you. Before you move your plant indoors, inspect it for signs of pests and disease and spray it down with a hose to knock off any opportunistic insects. Depending on the plant and time of year, this might also be a good time to do a little pruning, dead-heading, or other maintenance that will create a mess indoors.
I can’t tell you how many times I have picked up a heavy object, only to realize that I have no place to put it back down. Before you try to lift, carry, or wheel your plant to its new location, make sure that you have a location picked out and that the path to that spot is clear of furniture, toys, and loose children and pets.
Time Your Watering
Large plants are heavy. All of that soil adds up, and it weighs even more when it is wet. If you know you are going to have to move your plant soon, hold off on watering for as long as you can without damaging the plant. This will make it lighter and easier to move than a plant with saturated soil.
Protect Yourself and the Plant
Some plants need protection and support while they are moved, while others may require us to wear protection during handling. If your large plant is trellised, you are going to have to take extra care when moving it to keep that trellis intact. Ask a friend or family member to assist you during this process to make sure the trellis does not catch on any door frames. If your plant does not have a trellis but might benefit with a little extra support during the moving process, consider adding a temporary stake.
Some plants have fragile leaves and branches, or branches that are heavily armed with thorns, spines, or sharp leaves. The last thing you need to worry about as you haul a large plant around is hurting either you or the plant. Burlap sacking, canvas, or a spare sheet can come in very handy. Carefully wrap the foliage of your plant in the cloth to keep it and you safe, and wear a long-sleeved shirt and gloves.
Wrapping your plant is also a great way to reduce its size. We’ve all seen shrubs and trees wrapped in burlap or netting at garden stores. This makes them easier to move around and sell to prospective buyers. It is also a simple way of getting a tree through a narrow doorway. Just be sure you don’t put too much pressure on the branches as you wrap, or you will risk damaging the plant.
Get the Right Equipment
Once you’ve made your plant as light as possible, tied or wrapped up loose, delicate, or dangerous branches, and decided where it is going to go, it is time to start thinking about getting your plant from point A to point B.
Unless you are in really good shape and know you can safely carry a large, heavy, bulky object, you are better off relying on a piece of equipment to help you out. Besides, even if you can lift a tree with ease, lifting a potted tree in the air adds a few feet to its height, making it harder to fit through doors and hallways.
There are several readily available pieces of equipment that can help you move your plant safely. My favorite is a furniture dolly. If you don’t have one lying around, you can usually rent it from a place like U-Haul or borrow one from a friend. Dollies are ideal for the job because you don’t have to lift the plant at all. This keeps it low to the ground and saves your lower back, and you can tilt the dolly to help tall plants fit through doorways.
Garden carts are another great option, especially if they are low to the ground. If the plant is too large for you to lift, ask for help or rent a dolly. Once on the cart, you may have to build a temporary ramp out of scrap wood to get the cart over your doorstep and up any stairs, but it is much easier to push or pull a cart than it is to carry a tree.
If you don’t have access to a dolly or cart, get creative! A skateboard, wagon, or scooter can give you wheels to help with the process, and if you can’t find any of those, you can always place your plant on a small rug and haul it over your floor. However, using a dolly is much easier on your body and is safer for you and the plant.
Let the Plant Settle In
Once your large plant is safely indoors, make sure it has enough light and plenty of air circulation, and if you held off watering, do so now. It may take your plant a few weeks to adjust to its new condition, so don’t be surprised if it does not look as vibrant as usual right away. If your plant still seems droopy after a few weeks, it might be time to troubleshoot.
Do you have any tips for moving large plants inside? Any stories that you think other readers will be interested in? Please share with us in the comments section below.