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The Ultimate Guide to Transplanting in Your Garden

Transplanting in your garden is another way of getting something planted or moved to the right place. There are two ways to transplant; buy plants and transplant them or move plants from one place to another in your garden.
In spring, garden shops are stocked with annual flowers (pansies, petunias,), vegetable plants (tomatoes, lettuce), perennials (hostas, daylilies), and shrubs (hydrangeas, roses). Unlike seeds (which have to sprout) or cuttings (which may have to develop roots), transplants already have healthy root systems. These plants should not grow to maturity in the pots in which you buy them. You should move them either to the garden or into a larger pot.

Spring is also a great time to move plants already growing in your garden. You may be reorganizing a flower bed or making a new bed — transplanting now gives them a long season to grow and flourish.

General Steps for Transplanting

Whether you’re rearranging the garden or starting with plants from a garden shop, the basic steps of transplanting are the same.

  1. Remove the plant from its pot.
  2. Inspect the roots. If roots completely cover the soil, tease them gently apart. If they are concentrated too heavily at the bottom of the pot, loosen them thoroughly.
  3. Place the plant in a prepared hole. The plant should sit at soil level, or a little higher, if your soil is loose or sandy.
  4. Firm the soil around the plant with your hands.
  5. Water well. Watering will encourage the plant’s roots to grow into the soil. It also helps the plant settle firmly into its spot. Gilmour’s Thumb Control Watering Nozzle is ideal for gently, but thoroughly, watering transplants. Simply adjust the flow with your thumb.

Transplanting annual flowers

Annual flowers are a snap to transplant. When the weather is warm, small plants, like annual petunias, impatiens, or marigolds, are eager to grow. Annual flowers are often sold in plastic four- or six- packs. Give each plant space and they’ll begin to grow. The best time of year to transplant annual flowers is in spring after the last frost date in your area. The best time of day is early, before it gets hot. Once your garden hole or pot is ready, take the little plants out of the cell pack, loosen the roots gently and place them in their new home. Firm the soil around the plants and then water gently using the “garden” or “flower” setting on a watering nozzle. Although annual flowers only last one season, you’ll be able to enjoy their beauty soon after they are transplanted.

Transplanting vegetables

Lettuce and greens can be transplanted in early spring, when the days are still cool, as they won’t be harmed by a light frost. For other vegetables, wait until you are comfortable out in the garden in short sleeves. Then you can set out plants such as tomato, pepper and cucumber.

The best time to transplant lettuce and greens is in the morning or on a cloudy day. This protects the plants from direct sun while they make the quick transition from pot to the soil.

Remember to water well before transplanting. Once watered, take the veggies out of the cell packs and arrange them in the garden, firming the soil around each plant. Finish by watering with a Thumb Control Watering nozzle, using a gentle spray to soak the soil. Adjust the flow of water with your thumb to avoid damaging these tender plants with a blast of water.

Transplanting perennials

Spring is also a good time to transplant perennial plants like daylilies. Best time of day to transplant is early in the morning, late in the afternoon or on a cloudy day. This will allow the plants to settle in out of direct sunlight.

The first step when transplanting daylilies from one spot to another is watering your plant well. The soil should be slightly moist, but not soggy. Next dig up your daylily and divide it. Take the division and place it in a prepared spot elsewhere in your garden such as new flower bed. Then firm the soil around it. Finish by watering again to help the transplant settle in. If you arrange a flower bed with several plants, water with a garden sprinkler. To help preserve moisture in the soil and discourage weeds, spread a 1-2 inch layer of compost or mulch around your plants.

Transplanting rose bushes

Transplant rose bushes just as you would perennials. Spring is a great time, but roses can be transplanted as soon as you can dig a hole in the ground.

Before transplanting, water the soil around your rose bush with the “garden” setting on your watering nozzle. The soil should be moist, but not soggy. Begin digging for the roots by working with a garden spade out from the main stem of the plant. Moving the plant with a good root ball is important.

Once the plant has been dug up, prepare a hole in the new spot. The hole should be a little larger, but no deeper, than the root ball of the plant. Next, set the bush in the soil with the crown of the plant (where the stem and the roots come together) at soil level. Firm the soil and water well. Keep an eye on watering while the rose bush adjusts to its new spot. If the weather is hot, water every few days. Otherwise, water once a week throughout the growing season.

For all your transplants, careful attention to watering will help them weather the transition to their new places in the garden. As the season progresses, your plants will get bigger and better. That’s the benefit of transplanting; your garden looks great right from the start and fills in quickly.


A gardening friend once told me that her plants had been moved so many times they shuddered when they saw her with the spade in her hand. If you are planning to move a plant, winter is the best time of the year to do it because growth has slowed or become dormant, and conditions are mild reducing the stress on the plant caused by the disturbance.

Why transplant?

There are many reasons why plants are transplanted. Some have outgrown their allocated space while others may have been planted in unsuitable conditions (too shaded for example). Often building and construction work puts plants under threat of destruction so the move is done to save them.

Some gardeners decide to move plants when they themselves move. They may have a sentimental attachment to the plant or feel unwilling to leave it for the new owners.

Think before you move

Whatever the reason for the planned transplant, think it through very carefully. Small plants such as perennials and shrubs under a metre high are usually easy to move and relocate well. Larger plants however need to be assessed before the spade comes out.

The larger the plant, the bigger and heavier its root system will be. The root system spreads at least as far as the canopy and may be 30cm or more deep.

For plants more than a metre high, the weight of the root ball, the difficulty of transportation and the size of the hole needed for replanting all need to be considered. The transplant may require assistance to lift and transport.

Also consider whether you can rehouse the plant. If you have a new location picked out it may be practical to undertake the move, but if the uprooted plant needs to be stored, repotted or transported over a long distance, consider carefully whether you can manage the plant before it is rehomed as well as in its new location.

If the desire to transplant is triggered by a complete house move, also consider whether the plant is suited to the new garden (especially if it is a move to a new climate zone). If you are moving interstate also check quarantine restrictions to ensure that it is permitted to move the plant. Tasmania and Western Australia in particular have strict quarantine laws. Some plant families including Myrtaceae are also subject to restrictions. As well, some removalists will not transport plants.

Before undertaking a challenging move, also consider other options including propagating the plant by cutting, division or layering. If the plant is a known cultivar it may still be available to buy.

How to move a plant

If you’ve considered every option and still want to transplant, these steps should ensure success. Arm yourself with the right tools and materials including a sharp spade, a mattock, secateurs, a tarpaulin, rope and plant ties and a wheelbarrow or trolley. If the plant is very large and heavy consider using a mechanical digger or employing the services of a landscape contractor to under take the move.

  1. Plan ahead Preparing the plant for the move can make it easier to re-establish. To do this, use a spade to slice down around the edge of the root system (usually under the drip line at the edge of the plant’s canopy of leaves). This is done to encourage new root growth in preparation for the move. Pruning is usually only necessary to make the plant more compact for the move or to remove broken branches.
  2. Dig and slide When the time for the move arrives, dig down and under the plant’s root system trying to retain as much of the root system as possible. Lift the root ball onto a tarpaulin or into a wheelbarrow. If the root ball is large, lift part of the root system, slide the tarpaulin in and then partially lift the root system pulling it under the rest of the roots. Cut any roots that can’t be dug up or that are broken.
  3. Wrap Unless the plant is going straight into its new home, wrap the root system in the tarpaulin, heavy-duty plastic or hessian to keep it from drying out. Alternatively, put it into a container. Before placing a garden plant into a pot, wash away the soil and replant it using potting mix. If the plant is being transported or has thorny or wayward branches, also wrap the branches to keep them from being damaged (or doing damage).
  4. Replant Dig the new planting hole a little wider and as deep as the root ball so the plant is replanted at the same depth that is was in its original location. Also orient the plant as it was in its original position so the part that was receiving the most sunlight still does. Cover the roots with soil and firm the plant into place ensuring there are no air pockets around the roots. If the plant is tall or exposed to winds, stake it until it has re-established in the new location. Water well using a seaweed solution to reduce plant shock.

Ongoing care Continue to water the plant regularly, treating it as you would a new plant, and apply seaweed solution at the rate recommended for a transplant. Check that plant is firm in the soil. Only apply fertiliser when there is evidence of new growth. Cover plants with shadecloth if they are wilting or if sudden hot weather occurs. An anti-transpirant product can be applied to protect the foliage from moisture loss. Most transplanted plants require extra care for at least six to 12 months from transplantation.

Transplanting Poinsettia Plants: Can You Transplant Poinsettias Outside

Transplanting poinsettia plants will ensure they get plenty of root room as they grow and a new source of nutrition. In warm regions, you may also try moving a poinsettia plant outside in a sheltered location. You may not get blooms again, as the plant requires very specialized lighting and treatment, but the notched foliage will still provide outstanding greenery to set off other landscape plants. The secret to healthy plants is knowing how to transplant poinsettias and what continued care they need.

How to Transplant Poinsettias in Containers

Poinsettias are a holiday staple, but once the colorful flower-like bracts are spent, they are just another houseplant. You can try to fool the plant into producing the colorful leaves the next season, but first you have to keep the plant healthy. Some gardeners choose to save the potted plants indoors, especially in cooler regions. Can you transplant poinsettias outside? Absolutely, but there are some special requirements for this Mexican native to keep it thriving and lively.

All container plants need good soil, the right size container and excellent drainage, and poinsettias are no exception. The optimum time for transplanting is late spring to early summer. The University of Minnesota recommends June 15 as your target date.

Choose a container that is 2 to 4 inches larger than the one in which the plant was grown. The soil should be organic, sterile and loose. A purchased blend with peat moss is a good choice. Remove the plant from its pot and loosen the roots gently.

Plant your poinsettia at the same depth it was growing in its previous container. Firm the soil around the roots and water it well. If you are using a saucer under the container, empty any standing water to prevent root rot.

Transplanting Poinsettia Plants Outdoors

Those of us lucky enough to live where there are few to no freezing periods can grow the plant directly outdoors. Can you transplant poinsettias outside in cooler regions? Yes, but make sure you wait until all danger of frost has passed.

Some experts recommend cutting the stems back by half before moving a poinsettia plant, but this isn’t strictly necessary. However, it will encourage new growth which can be pinched to encourage denser plants and more bracts.

Prepare a garden bed in a sunny but protected area, such as the southern wall of your home. Incorporate organic material, like compost, to enrich the garden soil and increase drainage. Dig the hole several inches deep and wider than the root ball. Fill the hole with loose soil to bring it up to the level of the plant’s root ball. Loosen the roots and place the poinsettia in the hole, filling in around the root ball. Water the plant in well.

Additional Tips for Moving Poinsettia Plants

Poinsettias do best in daytime temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 C.) or more and nighttime temperatures of no less than 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 C.). That means northern gardeners will need to move the plant indoors by the end of summer.

The plant will benefit from half strength liquid plant fertilizer applied in early March and every 3 to 4 weeks. Keep the soil moderately moist but never soggy or completely dried out. Touch the surface of the soil to determine if the plant needs water.

To force the colorful bracts, you will need to start in October providing special conditions. Give the plant 14 hours of darkness and 6 to 8 hours of bright light for 8 to 10 weeks. Nighttime temperatures must be 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18-21 C.) for the plant to get tricked into blooming again.

With a little luck and good care, you may be enjoying a holiday with colorful foliage for weeks.

During the winter months, many gardeners entertain themselves by bringing the outdoors inside. Among potted plants, poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are a popular and intriguing variety. They are available in colors ranging from red to white, and combat the dreary conditions outside with the flavor of the tropics.

Did you know? The large “flowers” of the poinsettia plant aren’t flowers at all. They are specialized leaves, called bracts, used to direct pollinating insects to the plant’s tiny flowers.

How can you maintain the stunning coloration of your poinsettia plant? Is it possible to revive the flower once it begins to fade? Consider the following poinsettia care tips to enjoy the beauty of your plant all winter long.

10 Ways to Maintain a Happy, Healthy Poinsettia

1. Know your plant. Understanding the origin and habitat of each of your potted plants is essential to their longevity. The poinsettia originated on warm, subtropical mountain slopes near the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. Therefore, proper care involves recreating these environmental conditions in your home.

2. Keep it warm and cozy. Temperatures in the poinsettia’s native environment rarely, if ever, near freezing. In fact, temperatures there may exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit any month of the year. This tells us something important about our plant – it needs warm temperatures in order to thrive.

The indoor temperature of your home should be sufficient for most plants. Avoid placing the poinsettia in drafty areas, such as near doors or under a window. If you must transport your plant during chilly weather, do so in an enclosed portion of your vehicle.

3. Don’t over water. Overwatering is the leading cause of house plant death. Allow the soil in the poinsettia’s pot to become dry to the touch before watering thoroughly. Be sure to check the soil daily so that the plant is not left unwatered after the soil becomes dry.

4. Provide 10 hours of light per day. Ten hours daily is ideal for the longest possible blooming period.

5. Once all chance of frost is past, move the plant outside. Tropical plants enjoy warm weather and sunshine. However, do not immediately place your poinsettia in direct sunlight. Doing so will cause damage to the leaves, which are accustomed to the full shade indoors. First, place the plant in full shade for two weeks. Then, move it to a partially shaded area for an additional two weeks. If you desire a sunny location, you can then move the poinsettia there for the remainder of the season.

In locations that remain warm year-round, the poinsettia can thrive when planted directly in the ground.

6. Prune away. Poinsettias are a perennial shrub, which, when left to their own devices, can grow 10 to 15 feet tall. In order to keep your potted plant to a manageable size, pinch off new buds that exceed your desired size. Also prune away dead or dying leaves and branches.

7. Check regularly for bugs. This step is especially important when you bring your plant inside after the summer growing season. If pests are found, treat the plant with an approved fungicide/insecticide according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If ants or other insects infest the soil, gently remove the plant from its container, remove infected soil, and replace with fresh potting soil.

8. Fertilize regularly. Potted plants may exhaust the nutrients found in their limited soil supply. Fertilize regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

9. Control light cycles to induce blooming. Poinsettias are photo-period plants, meaning they bloom in response to natural changes in the length of days and nights. To bloom in captivity, this cycle must be artificially recreated.

Two months before you wish to enjoy your plant’s stunning coloration, bring it indoors. Discontinue fertilization and allow it only 8 hours of light per day. During the remaining 16 hours, place the plant in complete darkness – in a closet or under a black plastic bag. Repeat this process for two months before moving the plant to a sunny indoor location.

10. Exercise caution around children and pets. Poinsettias produce a thick sap that is known to cause skin reactions in people with latex allergies. Ingesting the leaves can also cause nausea and other symptoms in children or pets.


Growing and Caring for Poinsettia Plants

Retail stores and garden centers offer an abundance of poinsettia plants as the holidays near, and many people buy them to grace their holiday tables.

More often than not, by the time the holidays are over, poinsettias have lost a large amount of foliage due to improper watering and care. It is possible to keep poinsettia plants growing and thriving all year long.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, “Poinsettia plants are not poisonous. Although, if ingested in large quantities they can cause an upset stomach.”

Start With a Healthy Plant

The best chance for success when growing a poinsettia is by starting with a healthy, well-developed plant. If you start with a plant that’s already losing bracts and leaves, chances are it won’t survive past the holidays.
Choose a plant with deep green foliage with a height that’s approximately 2½ times the width of the pot. Don’t buy a plant with missing or drooping leaves, and look for one with healthy bracts. The bracts are the colored foliage, and they should have little or no green around the edges.
In addition, don’t buy poinsettias on display in overcrowded conditions or those that are wrapped in protective sleeves. Chances are their health has been compromised, and they are more likely to drop bracts prematurely.
The colored bracts are not the actual blooms. The true blooms grow from the base of the bracts. Check the blooms for maturity before purchasing. Young plants will have red or green-tipped blooms, and older ones will be covered with yellow pollen.
Examine the soil before buying a poinsettia plant. It should be relatively moist but not waterlogged. If the soil is soggy and the plant is drooping, it could already be suffering from an irreparable case of root rot.
After finding the perfect holiday specimen, properly shield it from the cold before transferring it to your vehicle. Have it wrapped in a protective sleeve of paper or plastic if temperatures are less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ideal Growing Conditions

Once you’ve purchased a healthy poinsettia plant, the key to long-term success is proper care in ideal growing conditions. A healthy poinsettia won’t stay healthy for long if it isn’t tended to appropriately in the right environment.

The ideal location for a poinsettia is in front of a warm, sunny, draft-free south, east, or west-facing window behind a veil of filtered sunlight. Poinsettias are tropical plants, so take care not to place it against the glass where it can suffer damage from the cold. Indoor temperatures should be maintained between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the pot a quarter turn once a week to provide ample light to the entire plant for even growth and uniformity.

TIP: Karen advises, “If you live in a warm climate, (USDA zone 9-11) poinsettias can be planted outside. Choose a location with fertile, moist, well-drained soil, that receives full sun.”

Watering and Feeding

One of the most common reasons for foliage loss and premature death is improper watering. As previously stated, too much water is detrimental to the roots of a poinsettia plant, but too little water can also kill the plant. Leaves and bracts will drop in either case.
The soil should be kept evenly moist but never saturated. Check the soil on a daily basis for dryness, and try not to let it become completely dry. Watering the plant after it becomes completely dry on a regular basis will most certainly result in foliage loss. If the poinsettia you purchased came with the container wrapped in foil or plastic, make holes to allow water to drain into a saucer. Water thoroughly and dump excess water from the saucer. Do not allow poinsettias to sit in water.
If you prefer a lower growing bushier plant with abundant flowers, pinch off emerging shoots by hand to promote branching. Pinching should take place at monthly intervals if necessary, but not after the middle of August.

TIP: Karen cautions you, “Some people may experience irritation from touching the latex sap in the stem of the poinsettia. Wear gloves if you plan to pinch your plant.”
A poinsettia kept past the holiday season will require a monthly application of a completly water-soluble plant food. Follow product label instructions for optimal results.

Flower Induction

Poinsettias are photoperiodic bloomers. This means they require a certain amount of darkness each day in order to bloom. From around the beginning of September to the middle of December, place your poinsettia in complete darkness for at least 13 hours. More than 12 hours of total darkness is required for bloom production.
When the bracts are fully expanded and they begin to deepen in color, photoperiodic treatment can be discontinued. Maintain household temperatures of no less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the evening, and 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day for best results. Provide as much filtered sunlight as possible.


If your poinsettia ever requires repotting, it must be done before the photoperiodic period. Choose a peat-based soil and a well-draining pot of the appropriate size. Keep in mind the height of the plant should be 2½ times the diameter of the pot when choosing a new container.

Poinsettia Transplanting – Knowledgebase Question

If you repot your poinsettias while they are in bloom, the stress may affect the leaves and they won’t be as attractive as they might otherwise be. On the other hand, if you prepare the container by filling it with moistened potting soil (moisture control potting soil is just fine), then make holes in the soil with the pots the poinsettias are currently in, you can slip the poinsettias out of their pots and pop them into the new container, press them down carefully and then water them in well to help settle the soil. If you repot without disturbing the roots, the plants may not even know they’ve been replanted. It’s true that root bound poinsettias will develop more flower bracks and have brighter foliage, but being root bound is not absolutely necessary – think of the plants that spend all year in the ground in Mexico (where poinsettias originate). As for the moisture retaining potting soil, it should be fine for most plants. The particles that retain the moisture pellet-like and they release moisture as the surrounding potting soil begins to dry out. Your plants won’t be sitting in soggy soil so the roots should not be affected to any great degree. You can control the amount of moisture your poinsettias get, and water only when needed if you water by container weight rather than appearance of the top of the soil. Simply water thoroughly and then pick up the container so you’ll know how heavy it is when the soil is saturated. Then periodically pick up the container. When it begins to feel light rather than heavy, it’s time to water again. Be sure to watch your plant, too. If the leaves begin to wilt, it’s time to water! Good luck with your poinsettias!

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