How to Deal With Transplant Shock

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Let’s talk about one of the more frustrating parts of propagating and transplanting: the dreaded transplant shock.

The name makes it sound worse than it actually is, but transplant shock is still something to watch out for whenever you are moving your plants from one container to another. After the move, it’s common for growth to slow down and your plants to wilt.

Because we’re all starting seeds and transplanting throughout the year, let’s look at how we can avoid or at least mitigate transplant shock.​

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Transplant at the Right Time

When you decide to transplant is as important as how you transplant.

If your plants have overgrown their current containers or propagation trays, their roots will be well-established and you’ve waited too long. Your roots may be damaged during the transplant because they’ve developed too much.

If you don’t wait until at least some roots are poking out of your starter plugs or container, then you haven’t given them enough time to develop and there is no point in transplanting to a larger pot or system.

You’ll know it’s the right time to transplant when you have to water your plants every single day. When this happens, their root systems are well-developed and taking in a lot of water and nutrition — so give them a new home.​

Use The Right Containers

If you’re moving from one pot to another, don’t skip too many sizes. Instead, transplant into a container that is slightly larger than the one you’re transplanting from. ​

Use Good Transplanting Technique​

You can avoid stressing out your plants if you use care when transplanting. You may not be able to completely eliminate transplant stress, but by transplanting correctly you will mitigate as much stress as possible. Here’s how to do it.

Turn your container upside down. Tap or squeeze the roots and soil out of the container gently, working fast to make sure that the roots aren’t exposed for long.

Have your new containers prepped and ready to go. They should be filled with your favorite growing media already and the media should be leveled, loose, and at the same temperature as the media in the pots you’re transplanting from.

Make sure your growing media is properly prepared. If you’re not growing in soil, you need to make sure that your growing media has pH adjusted nutrient solution at the optimal temperature of 66-68 degrees Fahrenheit. Be careful to calibrate this properly and don’t go overboard on your nutrients — the roots of young plants are very sensitive to high nutrient levels, particularly nitrogen.

Wet your soil or growing media. Pour in your water or nutrient solution until you see it pouring out o the bottom of your pot. After you’re done, make a big hole in the  middle of your container. Ensure that it’s big enough to cover the root ball completely. Depending on what you’re transplanting, you may need to transplant a bit of the stem as well to encourage further root development (tomatoes are a great example of this).

Place your plants into the holes you have dug. Carefully place your plants into the root holes you dug out. Take care not to damage your roots. After they’re placed, fill with soil or growing media and gently compress. Water them in well, because one of the biggest reasons for transplant shock is a lack of watering.

Replace any soil or media that has washed away.  Because you are watering aggressively, you may have washed away some soil or growing media. Simply replace it to cover up any roots that are laid bare.

Make sure your lighting and environment are set up for transplants. If you are using indoor lighting, turn them off for at least half a day to a full day. Your transplants need darkness, or at the very least partial shade. This is because they need time to settle into their new environment, and blasting them with light will encourage them to grow rather than to set their roots and adjust to their new containers. After a couple of days you can return to your normal lighting routine and they’ll be ready to grow vigorously.

Pro Tip: If you are growing in a net pot or coco pot, you can just transplant those straight into your larger container so you don’t disturb your roots at all.

Helpful Transplanting Additives

There are a lot of helpful additives you can use when transplanting to mitigate transplant shock, boost root production, or help your plants in other ways.

Mycorrhizal Fungi

Root Naturally Endo Mycorrhizae - 4 Oz
  • Granular
  • 4 oz = 27 Teaspoons = 9 Tablespoons
  • Packaged in easy scoop white jar
  • 4 Species Endo-Mycorrhizae (Glomus intraradices, G. mosseae,...
  • 60,000 Propagules/lb

This beneficial fungi will help your roots take in water and nutrition as they develop. Sprinkle Mycorrhizal fungi in the holes before you transplant, so when you place the root ball in your new container, the roots will have direct contact with it. Do this as soon as possible to give the fungi time to develop!

CocoTek Grow

If you are growing with coconut coir, you may want to consider CocoTek Grow. It’s a nutrient solution that is formulated for use with coconut coir.

Floralicious Grow

General Hydroponics Floralicious Grow for Gardening, 1 Quart
  • Enhances metabolic activities and nutrient assimilation that...
  • Builds the foundation of root and leaf mass needed for...
  • Made from a highly concentrated blend of bioactive...

Floralicious Grow is an amazing nutrient additive that helps prevent transplant shock. It contains kelp extract, b vitamins, and amino acids, all of which help a plant when it is being moved to a new container. We have already talked about the many benefits of liquid kelp fertilizer — this is just an additional way to use it. You can add just a teaspoon per gallon, or 1 1/4 mL per Liter and you’ll be just fine.

Floralicious Plus

General Hydroponics Floralicious Plus for Gardening, 16-Ounce
  • Floralicious Plus is a super concentrated blend of bioactive...
  • With high concentrations of vitamins, complex sugars, amino...
  • Floralicious Plus also encourages beneficial microbial...
  • Not sold in IL
  • Not sold in IL

If Floralicious Grow isn’t enough for you, you can get Floralicious Plus, which is jus ta more concentrated version of the former product. Another side benefit of using Plus is that it can be used throughout the entire life cycle of your plant.


There you are – a full guide on how to both prevent and mitigate transplant shock in your garden. Let me know if you have a method or technique that I didn’t mention in this article below!

Image credit: barnoid


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:


Kevin Espiritu
Founder

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