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Traveling with Houseplants: How to Turn a Plant into the Perfect Souvenir

Many people who love to cultivate houseplants eventually run into the problem of too many plants and too little space. Different times of year bring new successes and challenges in managing house and plant décor. During springtime, there are beautiful, healthy plants of endless variety in local shops. As summer rolls along, new growth can swell the total size of a houseplant, threatening to crowd out nearby plants. During the fall and winter, you’re more likely to be gifted new plants that you need to find space for.

One of the best times to propagate a houseplant is when an out-of-town friend or family member is visiting. You have plenty of chances to give houseplants to your local network of friends, family, and neighbors. If you’re the one traveling with houseplants, you can also do a houseplant trade with this type of family member or long-distance friendship. Especially if you’re trying to make room for new plants, then you can pack and bring some of your full-size houseplants as gifts. In return, you might bring home a cutting to start a new, smaller plant from your friend’s collection.

Best Travel Experiences and Souvenirs for 2020

Houseplants make for great gifts in general, but this year, it can make more sense than ever to turn your houseplants into free gifts and a free source of entertainment. With new distancing rules, there are fewer social events to attend. Houseplant propagation makes for a great at-home crafts project, whether it’s just for your inner circle or whether you want to set up a larger area to maintain distancing. Of course, you can also go to a local gardening shop and buy houseplants. Too many people shy away from these ideas because they think houseplants are too much trouble to travel with. In truth, it’s usually not that hard. By knowing a few tips and tricks, you can create a new houseplant and bring it home.

Tips and Tricks for Packing and Traveling with Houseplants

  • Some houseplant enthusiasts will tell you that the best way to travel with a houseplant is the bare-root approach in which you first knock and wash off the soil. With this approach, you want the roots to be dry. Once you get the houseplant to its destination and repot the plant, it’s time for a generous amount of water to promote new root growth.
  • Other people tell you this approach is unnecessary if you’re not already repotting the plant. You can simply cover the soil and wrap the pot easily enough to prevent the soil from making a mess of things. With this approach, you do want to water the houseplant before packing, but not all at once or to excess. Give the plant a little time to drain before packing. You don’t want to trap water-logged soil near the roots or make the packing material water-logged from runoff.
  • Looking for a souvenir on a road trip and found a plant that the landscape won’t miss? So long as you can get the plant out of the ground, you don’t need a lot of fancy packing materials or even a lot of pre-planning. Stop at a grocery store for a 2-liter of soda or a gallon of milk, and you have a ready-made container for transporting the plant back home.
  • Some plants and cut flowers should be planted in soil or growing medium as soon as possible, but for many houseplants like the jade, you should wait a couple days for the cutting to dry out and better prepare to grow new roots. Even if you run out of time for a crafts project, you can quickly create and pack a plant cutting which you can pot when you get back home. This is also a popular approach when flying with a houseplant.
  • You should try to keep up with best houseplant care practices in the week or so before travel. This includes trimming back and removing any dead growth from the pot. Here is a nifty guide we found for traveling with houseplants on short-distance vs. long-distance trips.

Pay Attention but Be Patient with New Houseplants

Know that houseplants frequently show signs of distress when being repotted or even just when being moved to a new location. Most times, the plant will quickly rebound after adjusting to its new environment.

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Online Plant Delivery vs Local Gardening Stores

Those looking for houseplants often have two basic questions in mind: What type of houseplants should I get and where is the best place to get them? We can help you choose different types of houseplants, but we can also provide tips and guidance about where to find your houseplants. One choice you’ll need to make is whether to go out shopping for your plants at local gardening stores vs online plant delivery where you get the plants delivered directly to your home.

Houseplant Selection vs. Inspection

Online, you can find practically any houseplant variety out there. They may not all be available from the same vendor, and they may not all be available at the same time of year. Yet, if you know the houseplant you want, a simple search will usually find online plant delivery for that type of plant. True, some plants travel better than others both in terms of physical damage and recovering from shipping stress.

At a local plant shop, you may not have an endless selection, but you can closely inspect each plant for health and visual appeal. If you’ve got a tricky spot in your home and an eye for design, for example, you may want to pick out a plant with specific foliage and growth pattern. With their featured displays and plant arrangements, local nurseries and gardening stores can help brainstorm and solve these types of home decorating challenges.

Like many e-commerce platforms, online plant delivery services find ways to offer new kinds of customer service and quality assurance. Beyond the convenience and cost comparison of online shopping, these online vendors are more likely to offer plant insurance or even free replacement plants. It’s easier to find reviews from verified customers and how their plants have performed.

Plants with Pots vs Containers

Some online plant delivery services also sell pots, but few vendors ship the plant and pot together in a condition that’s ready to place. Likewise, many gardening stores offer most of their plants in temporary plastic containers, but many places will also feature at least some plants that are already potted. Are you looking for ready-made houseplant decorations for your home? Some type of boutique plant shop is likely your best bet. Yes, you’ll pay a small premium for this type of arrangement, but if you like the look of houseplants and don’t have time for an indoor gardening project, it’s well worth it. A quick call or visit to the website is often enough to know what type of plants and pot arrangements you can expect to find.

Online Plant Delivery vs Local Gardening Stores: What’s Best for the Environment?

In general, shopping at local gardening stores is better for the environment, but it depends on the growing source and distribution network. It’s not so much the local delivery component that’s bad for the environment, but national distribution with houseplants getting routinely shipped across the country to make sure orders are fulfilled. Getting a plant delivered from a local nursery is better than driving a gas-guzzler all over town looking for a singularly perfect plant.

Many houseplant enthusiasts are concerned about the environment, and some gardening businesses are taking action to support these values. Greenery Unlimited, for example, announced last year that it would suspend nationwide delivery of their houseplants until the company could figure how to reduce the environmental impact of their delivery operations.

Shipping Stress on Houseplants

While shipping houseplants is likely to stress the plant, withered foliage should bounce back so long as the plant is from a reputable source with strong, healthy roots. Of course, it’s up to you to provide favorable growing conditions and good houseplant care. There is likely to be some stress no matter how you get houseplants. When it comes to exact light exposure and humidity level, no two places are exactly the same. If the plant is going from western to eastern sun exposure, there is likely to be signs of distress during the transition—even if the plant is well-suited to eastern light. At the same time, shipping a houseplant to an arid climate from a grower with greenhouses calibrated for tropical climates is going to be more vulnerable to pests and disease than houseplants from local growers.

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Where to Buy Houseplants: Big Box Stores vs Local Nurseries vs Boutique Shops

The best places to buy houseplants use reliable growers and maintain diligent onsite plant care while also offering competitive prices. Unless you can get the truth out of an owner or employee, it may be impossible to know the quality and overall value of a houseplant you see in the store. That said, there are some notable differences in supply chains and business practices from big box stores, local nurseries, and boutique shops that can influence where you buy houseplants.

Buying Houseplants at Big Box Stores

Though snubbed by many plant enthusiasts, big box stores are still among the most common ways to find and buy houseplants. These stores are also the most affordable way to get plants on average. However, there are two big knocks against the plants at big box stores. First, the plants may be from large, national growers that use standardized greenhouse conditions, rather than grow conditions that reflect the local climate. Second, these plants may not receive the same level care and attention from the staff as the plants cultivated at smaller, local nurseries. Signs of distress when taking your plant home are more common from big box stores. Nevertheless, if you have a good setup at home and follow best care practices, many plants can adapt and reestablish themselves.

Buying Houseplants at Local Nurseries

Local plant nurseries tend to offer some of the best overall value for gardening and houseplants. Not all nurseries operate on the same scale, and that can make a big difference in what they offer. The tradeoff is price vs selection. By focusing on just a dozen popular and reliable plant varieties, nurseries can offer beautiful, healthy plants at a price that competes with the big box stores. However, indoor houseplant selection may be limited. As smaller, local growers diversify their selection while maintaining best cultivation practices, they usually need to increase their prices to turn a profit. The shopping experience is often an open greenhouse with long rows of tables for browsing. There may also be some plants fully outside and/or a modest indoor area for specialty plants.

Buying Houseplants at Boutique Gardening Shops

Boutique gardening stores are essentially high-end plant nurseries. You get the same high-quality results from local plant cultivation from gardening experts. You’ll usually find plenty of options for miniature plants in tiny plastic containers, but you’ll also find beautifully arranged and potted plants. Instead of long, orderly rows of houseplants, there is likely to be a thoughtfully designed sales floor that shows off the best houseplant examples. More than shopping for a plant you already know you want, these stores are great spaces to brainstorm new ideas for houseplant décor. The drawback is that the prices at these types of gardening stores may be even higher than other local nurseries.

What about Plant Delivery Services?

For a long time, online plant delivery was a niche market for people who prioritized convenience and selection over price and sustainability. This is still true to some degree, but there are new delivery service models that are working to lower the cost and improve sustainability. Whether directly through big-box stores or online delivery services that partner with local nurseries, many gardening stores are offering both in-store and plant delivery sales options.

Best Houseplant Buy and Care Practices

Where to buy houseplants is an important decision, but don’t overlook the fundamentals of houseplant care. The healthiest, most beautiful plant specimen in the world can wilt to nothing in a matter of weeks if neglected or attacked by pests. In other cases, a houseplant on its last legs may be nursed back to health.