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By Tovah Martin

Do you brake for garden centers? Do you make u-turns for nurseries? When you’re on vacation, do you mark the map for botanical gardens? Of course you do! But do you push the pause button before making purchases at garden centers or picking up plants at gift shops when you are on the road? Don’t think twice, it’s alright. Buy up a storm, but take precautions to keep your plants alive.

You Can Do This

Traveling can bring you temptingly close to some incredible mom & pop nurseries with heirloom houseplants that you’ve never encountered in the mainstream. By all means, pick up that wonderful begonia that you remember from your grandmother’s house. But be prepared beforehand. Come to grips with the fact that you’re a plant shopaholic and fit up the car accordingly. That way, the plants will get home safe and sound. And remember: All these suggestions work for perennial plants as well. The good news is that once you’re ready to add plant shopping to your road trips, vacations will take on a whole new spin with souvenirs that grow on you.

Be Prepared

  • Always keep bottled water in the car and have a watering can handy.
  • Have large plastic bags on hand to spread out as liners to keep your seats clean.
  • Travel with a couple of water-holding trays – enamel trays are perfect or you can pick up a kitty litter pan in a pinch.

  • Pack aboard newspaper to wedge between plants. Or better still, throw in some towels to fit between plants for stability.

  • Bring plant stakes and twine or twist ties to support wobbly stems and flower stalks. You want your babies to get home with all their bells and whistles intact.






Getting Your Plants Safely Home

  • The first suggestion might be something to think about in the future: Buy a light-colored car. Dark cars heat up quickly.
  • Never put plants in the trunk, even if the weather is cloudy.
  • Park in the shade. Then check the car periodically to make sure it’s still in the shade.
  • Always ventilate your car when you take lunch or rest breaks. You’ve been warned about how quickly an unventilated car heats up in connection with pet and child safety, plants are equally vulnerable.
  • Never keep plants in the car overnight. Dawn can be sparkling and zap your plants while you’re in sleep-in vacation mode. Or, nighttime temperatures can dip dangerously low. Use those garbage bags to bring your plants into a hotel (store them in the bathtub or sink) without making a mess. Note that the thin plastic coverings that nurseries throw over plants in the winter might get them safely between the car and your front door, but they do not protect them from prolonged cold weather.
  • Never mix plants and pets together. A bored pet can take a nibble of a newbie plant it never normally touches. And trampling is also an issue. Set up those partitions!
  • Pack plants so they don’t topple. Wedging works: use objects like suitcases and golf bags to keep plants from shifting. When positioning, always consider your line of vision to safely navigate. If a shrub is tall, consider laying it on its side, wedging other cargo beside the pot to keep the pot from rolling.
  • Check your plants periodically to make sure they haven’t been jostled while you navigate the curves on the highway. You don’t want those babies to break while on a trip.
  • If you drive a pick-up or convertible: The answer, my friend, is not blowing in the wind. Pack plants in closed boxes.
  • Give your plants a drink before traveling and check the soil regularly for dryness.
  • If possible, repot a plant into a larger container if the root system is crammed. This is especially helpful and will cut down on watering worries if you plan to be on the road for several days. Bring Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend Organic Potting Soil along or buy a bag when purchasing your plants. It’s a good investment: You’ll be wanting to repot your new plant when you return home anyway. Just an Idea: Consider also checking out local potteries. You can snag some beautiful hand-thrown pots as souvenirs.

So travel safely and bring those botanical buddies back home. Just think about how proud you will be to boast about the houseplants you adopted from a botanical garden shop or an historic garden nursery! With a little planning, they will arrive home in perfect condition.

Written by award winning author, Tovah Martin.  Photos also taken by Tovah Martin.  Find her books and more information on her website:

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