I'm planning a move (Colorado->Virginia) at the end of June and have several bonsai trees that I need to transport across the country with me. What considerations should be made in this transport to be sure the trees have the best opportunity to remain healthy and thriving?

I have Procumbens Nana, Green Maple, Fukien Tea, Schefflera, Doug Fir, Siberian Elm and Ponderosa Pine.

Is a moving truck or trailer going to be too hot for them? Would watering them heavily and bagging them before the drive be a good idea? What else should I be thinking of?

  • Do you have pictures? – black thumb May 16 '19 at 1:06
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    @blackthumb I've got some small 6-8" stuff, I have three that are significantly larger, the elm being the largest currently is probably 4'x4'x3'. – flickerfly May 16 '19 at 14:20

I've had to move my indoor plants cross country during the winter. That is almost easier to do than in the summer. There is also the problem with hot days and cold cold nights. This adventure sounds about a five day trip?

This is what I learned to use for transporting plants in the winter as well as the heat of summer. Newspaper is your best friend. I assume a closed trailer, yes? The best of course would be an atmosphere regulated trailer but I've not seen those available thorough Uhaul,yet.

Heat over 90 will start cooking your plants. Temperature drops more than 5 degrees below what your Bonsai are used to and that could set them back or kill them. I am guessing your bonsai are both indoor and out door in Colorado. Or just indoor?

You will want a good 'fan' that can run off the battery or be plugged in at night at a rest stop or KOA. There are lots of areas you will be driving through that will have 100 degree F plus daytime and 20 below freezing (32 degrees) or 12 degrees F. It may have been common knowledge to everyone else but 12 degrees F doesn't mean as much as saying 20 below freezing.

This is what I would do. Bonsai aren't 'replaceable' and they are also very very fragile and have exacting needs. Soak your plants of course. Put them in a big plastic bucket when filled with water and dump the entire pot until it stops bubbling. Shake gently and allow to dry.

Spray your plants including the top of the soil, the branches, the undersides and topsides of the leaves. This leaf shine stuff actually puts a layer of protection against extreme temperature changes, stress of moving, etc. Spray both sides of the leaf. Neem mixed appropriately in the right amount makes a leaf shine. But don't use Neem if you can help it. Only use if you are unable to find 'Leaf Shine' made just for a little raincoat on the leaves. This is not about insects at all.

Leaf shine stuff slows transpiration, reduces stress.

Using dampened newspapers, crumpled, loosely making a 'bed' for your plants to ride upon. Think of newspaper NESTS. Tie up the loose ends loosely above the plant like an Easter basket. Leave lots and lots of air above the plant and below the newspaper. Think of air bubble packaging. Crumple the newspaper around and below the plants. Tie so that you can release those ties most of the trip, tie the tops when in freezing weather. Cover the group with light covers of newspaper or even Reemay, cut to the perfect size for your grouping. Only for freezing temperatures, cover as another light layer of insulation.

Otherwise, open up the newspaper or burlap coverings and have that fan blowing 24/7. Spray to water heavily every single day. Moisten the newspaper and/or burlap lightly when high temperatures. Try to dry out before the night time cold temperatures hit. Just the stress of huge temperature changes, huge to your bonsai, could damage or kill your plants. 5 days is a long time. I'd be thinking about a simple grow light back there as well. To mimic the times of the day your Bonsai had sunlight or whatever light it was used to in Colorado about 5:30 to 9:00.

Sorry this is a huge answer. The more I considered this problem the more I could see that it wasn't that simple. 3 days, 2 nights would be max for no light. Open the trailer doors often during the heat of the days. Close them up at night. Keep the fan going.

Bonsai are different than other plants! All the work and time makes those guys precious and fragile and needy. Now I am ready to drive to AZ from WA state!

You could also use cheapo burlap, comes in rolls in the landscape division of Lowes, Home Depot, etc.

Not only will this mitigate the temperatures it will also protect your plants from being knocked around, it will absorb excess moisture and the wicking of the water out of the newspaper cools the plant, somewhat. You have to have fans blowing 24/7. At least one. That air should blow your hair around when you are in the trailer with your plants.

Get a cheapo sprayer from Lowes or Home Depot. A one gallon hand PUMP sprayer ($11.00) or a 5 gallon plastic pump up the pressure. They both come with wands to direct the spray either for watering or remoistening the newspaper lightly when it is hot. Allowing it to dry before the temperature drops significantly at night.

Are your plants indoor or out of door plants, normally?

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  • I have everything outside now. Colorado seems to have finally warmed back up. Thanks for all the thoughts. I hadn't considered anything like leaf shine. That's interesting. I'm hoping to make the trip in three days. – flickerfly May 16 '19 at 14:18
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    Hey, good luck on your trip and I hope it is an adventure of your life. We live in Oregon. Should have gone to AK as Alaska has better, more predictable weather than south central Oregon! Prepare for night time freezes. Give them some light and air every day. Constant temperatures, consistent moisture will give them the best chance. How cool that you have these plants and KNOW and care how to care for them. Ugh, could you show that you are okay with my answer? Grins! Points. ha ha ha – stormy May 17 '19 at 0:43
  • Just a second...what do you mean all of your plants, your bonsai are out of doors? Were they primarily indoors? It takes acclimation to take an indoor plant out of doors. You didn't take them from their spot in your home to out of doors? Did you? If you did get them out of the sun, please. – stormy May 17 '19 at 0:55
  • Yeah, I acclimated them. Many of them were outdoors all winter or in the garage to hibernate. I had one I brought out of hibernation early for an art show at work and then had under grow lights until the freezing weather dissipated. – flickerfly May 17 '19 at 19:13
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    You are good to go. You warm my little heart! – stormy May 17 '19 at 20:42

I'd like to add a few things in retrospect.

  1. Air moving didn't appear to become a critical issue. It was certain humid, but I was able to let them breath at night.
  2. The smaller pots had the roughest time as they shifted easily and broke or were run over by bigger pots shifting. I wish I'd have secured them down more effectively. I lost a few to this problem.
  3. Typical large bonsai substrate shifts and some pots that weren't as well established actually started to come out of the pots. They would have benefited from some means of securing the substrate. (I'm not talking mallsai glue.) Perhaps plastic wrapping the pot or putting cardboard over it and securing that down would have been a solution. I had a lot of substrate floating around the trailer by the end of my 4 days and have a couple trees sharing pots with collected trees.

This move definitely set the collection back awhile.

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