How to Store Potted Plants in Your Unit

By Patrick Galvan,

When moving, sometimes you get caught in an awkward situation. Your old home has already been sold, and the new homeowners want to move in immediately. Your new home, however, still isn’t ready for you to move in. Because of this, you have to turn to self storage, which is a great option for short-term moving issues.

But what about your easily-damaged items, like the potted plants you have around your home? How will they fare in a storage unit where there’s no light, no water, and no tender, loving care?

According to Christina Salwitz of The Personal Garden Coach, “Most houseplants and outdoors plants will tolerate a storage situation with low light for up to 5 days.” That is, of course, depending on the storage conditions and biological characteristics of the plants.

Because of this, it’s wise to look for a self storage facility that can accommodate short-term plant life.

Why Plant Species Matters for Storage

The type of plant you own will determine the care it needs in self storage. That’s because there are certain species that are capable of sustaining themselves longer than others.

“Plants you don’t have to worry about include snake plants, cast iron plants, Chinese evergreens, and pothos,” says Nell Foster of JoyUsGarden. “These plants not only tolerate lower levels of sunlight, but they’re physically slender and therefore can be grouped together [to] take up less storage space. This is especially helpful if you are storing other household items in the same unit.”

Foster explains that some plant species, such as ficus, don’t fare well in storage because they “are much more sensitive to change.” In this case, the sheer stress of changing the plant’s environment could kill it.

Plants normally kept outdoors around your house are a different matter altogether when it comes time for temporary storage. According to the staff at Gardening Know How, larger plants like trees or shrubbery need to be watered, have their roots wrapped in a burlap sack, and placed in a pot for indoor storage. Also, as soon as they’re out of storage, they need to be unwrapped and returned to an outdoor source with ample soil, as potting in a confined space for too long could be detrimental to their health.

Be aware that putting plants of any species in self storage for up to a week or more may result in some minor (but not permanent) physical changes. “Any yellowing of foliage is natural and will either return to green, or those leaves [will] fall and [be] replaced with new ones,” explains Michael Perry of PlantHunter UK.

Whether you have an indoor houseplant or outdoor foliage that you need to store for a short period while moving, it’s a good idea to contact a botanist or local garden to determine if your plants will be able to survive and remain healthy in temporary self storage.

Using Good Containers for Moving and Storing

Moving multiple plants into storage can be tricky, as you don’t want to spill soil or lose moisture from the pot. With the right containers, you can protect your plants during a move in to a storage unit, as well as keep them healthy while in temporary storage.

“Storage containers for moving pots can be nearly anything,” says Salwitz. As an example, she suggests plastic storage bins (without a lid, obviously) to group several potted plants together so they may be transported at once. “Then, when you water them lightly, they have a small reserve to draw from.”

Perry recommends customizing the pots the plants will be stored in with holes for drainage, too. In this case, place a tray beneath the pot so excess water can filter through the soil and land in the tray for disposal later. Remember that too much water can be bad for your plants, so give them just enough to survive without overwatering.

Keeping Your Plants Moist in Storage

Water is perhaps the most important element to consider after the plant species itself because plants stand a better chance of survival in short-term storage if the soil in which they grow is kept moist.

Foster recommends watering the plants two to three days before they enter storage. She also recommends ensuring the foliage remains dry. This is a way of preventing the development of mildew, which can damage the surface of your plants. Furthermore, if mildew starts developing on the leaves of your plant, the particles could filter into the air and spread to other items in your storage unit, such as your furniture and electronics.

Even if your storage facility is equipped with climate control (which we’ll discuss in more depth below), it’s vital to keep your plants moist in storage, especially if you’re using storage during the hotter months of the year. This might mean visiting your storage unit every few days to give your plants a little extra H2O.

To ensure the water stays in containers longer, Foster suggests using newspaper or brown wrapping paper to completely covering the soil in the pot. “This prevents the soil from spilling [and] drying out,” she says.

Protecting Plants with Climate-Controlled Storage

Climate-controlled storage is often used by people who need to store sensitive items, such as antiques, musical instruments, wine collections, and electronics. That’s because the climate control feature allows storage renters to adjust the heating and cooling within their unit to maintain a safe temperature and humidity level for their items.

This is also useful when storing potted plants, as plants should be stored in temperatures around 60-65°F.

“The most important benefit of a climate-controlled storage unit is the continuity in the temperature and humidity,” says Al Gardes, Director of Operatives for Elmwood Self Storage in Harahan, La. “It can be monitored by the facility and adjusted seasonally.”

That’s another advantage of a climate-controlled unit—external climates and seasons can’t affect it. Let’s say your new home is in a different state where the weather is much different from your last state. You can use the climate control feature in your unit to slowly adjust the surrounding temperature and humidity so your plants can get used to the conditions of their new home without an abrupt change that could stress them out.

Even though the right short-term storage conditions for your other belongings might not seem like a big deal, it’s imperative for your plants since storage can negatively affect the health of your plants. This is why it’s important to take care of your plants ahead of storing them and find the right self storage facility to protect them before you move in to your new home.