In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
December, 2010
Regional Report

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3652

Protect gift plants during transport to prolong their beauty.

Avoid Chilling Gift Plants During Travel

I like to receive plants as gifts as do many others. At this time of year, I'm amazed to see so many shoppers carrying living plants from the store to their cars without any protection. If your groceries are sacked, doesn't it make sense to bag your plant purchase? If you purchase or carry gift plants during cold weather, be prepared to protect them to avoid chilling or freezing.

Florists generally wrap plants well for transport, but plants that are sold by many mass merchants are not always so well protected. Therefore, it's up to you to provide protection.

Many tropical plants, which include most all our indoor flowering and foliage plants, are subject to chilling injury as temperatures drop to 50 degrees F. or lower. Damage will not show up immediately, but within a few days symptoms including excessive leaf drop, leaf discoloration and browning of the leaf margins may develop. Weeping figs are especially vulnerable to cold temperatures. Chilled plants develop leaf yellowing followed by extreme leaf drop. As temperatures drop even lower and are more prolonged, the amount of damage increases.

If your plans are to transport living plants long distances, don't treat them as luggage. On a long trip in cold weather be sure the plants are kept warm by placing them in a heated portion of the vehicle. Treat them like a passenger or pet. If you stop for the night, plants cannot be left in the car when temperatures drop to near freezing or below.

So, how much protective wrapping is needed? The amount or thickness of wrapping depends on the length of time the plant is being moved through or exposed to cold or freezing temperatures. For short distances, such as from the store to a warm car, simply slip the plant into a paper or plastic bag, making sure the top is closed before going outside. The warmth trapped inside the bag and insulation of the paper will provide adequate short-term protection.

For large plants, including succulents and cacti, a few thicknesses of newspaper will provide protection and insulation. Form a fairly tight cylinder and close it at the top and bottom with a stapler, string or tape. I don't recommend thin sheets of plastic, as they don't have good insulation characteristics when compared to paper or cloth.
Closed cardboard boxes are great protection when transporting groups of plants. Wads of newspaper can be pushed between pots to keep them from shifting during transport. With smaller plants, I like to use a camping cooler or ice chest for transport. It allows me to leave them in the truck for longer periods with less chance of damage to the plants inside.


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