How to transplant plants?

Helping Trees Recover from Transplant Shock

No matter how carefully we plant our trees, they stress out as they adjust to their new home. That’s what we arborists like to call transplant shock, which encapsulates the host of problems plants can experience after they’re planted or transplanted.

Transplant shock symptoms vary quite a bit but often make it look like your newly planted tree is dying. Debbie, a Davey blog reader from Texas, said her newly planted maples “greened up as expected in early March but now suddenly have started dropping leaves and looking dead.”

A stressed tree can surely be renewed, but how can you tell if a tree is just shocked or a lost cause? Here’s how you can identify and fix tree transplant shock.

Tree Transplant Shock Recovery

Transplant shock is tough for trees, but not anything they can’t bounce back from (as long as you catch it early and help them)! All you need to do is know the symptoms, recovery techniques and time it takes to repair trees.

Leaves Dropping After Transplant and Other Signs of Shock

Debbie’s maple trees are dropping leaves as a sign of shock. But transplant shock can look much different for your tree.

Other signs of a tree in shock include:

  • Leaf scorch
  • Brown leaf tips
  • Premature fall color
  • Stunted twig or flower growth
  • Late spring budding
  • Branch dieback

Is my tree in shock or dead?

Dead trees and trees in shock can look deceivingly similar, but there’s an easy way to tell the difference.

Pick a random twig on the tree and scratch it with your finger or a pocket knife. Do the same for a few other twigs throughout the tree. If they’re all bright green and moist underneath, viola! The tree is alive.

How to Save a “Dying” Transplanted Tree

One of the main reasons trees struggle after being planted or transplanted is because they lose a massive amount of their root system during the process. Sometimes up to 95 percent! And to make it even tougher, the roots that are left are often incredibly dry, but you can help out with that.

Here’s how to help solve that:

  • Hydrate roots with at least one inch of water each week.
  • Add a two-to-four-inch deep layer of mulch from the tree’s base to its outermost leaves. Then, pull the mulch a few inches away from the trunk. You want to avoid volcano mulching. More on that here.

If hydration doesn’t seem to be working, think back to when you first planted the tree. Was the hole the right size? It’s incredibly important for a planting hole to be 2 to 3 times the tree’s root spread and deep enough for the root flare (where the tree starts to widen) to sit slightly above ground.

While replanting the tree yet again is hitting restart on the stressful process, it’s probably the best thing for your tree if the planting spot wasn’t quite right the first time. Here’s how to fix a tree that wasn’t planted right.

How long does it take a tree to recover from transplant shock?

The last step in a successful transplant process is patience! Some trees take two or more years to get rid of all their stress symptoms. Occasionally, it can even take up to 5 years for trees to fully recover.

In most cases, it takes a year or so for trees to shake off transplant shock.

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

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

General Hydroponics GH3262 COCOTEK Grow A QT Hydroponic Base Nutrient, White

  • Part A of this easy-to-use two-part formula

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…
  • Builds the foundation of root and leaf mass needed…
  • 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

Sale General Hydroponics GH1388 Floralicious Plus Hydroponic Plant Supplement, 1 Pint

  • Floralicious Plus is a super concentrated blend of…
  • With high concentrations of vitamins, complex…
  • Floralicious Plus also encourages beneficial…

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

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Kevin Espiritu
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Just like any living thing, sometimes trees get sick. The average tree has the potential to live a long, healthy life. However, environmental stresses, adverse weather conditions, insects, disease and other facts can cause trees to become unhealthy. Once a tree becomes sick, it can die if action is not taken.

Trees are an important part of our natural habitat. A tree can add property value to your home, serve as protection from the wind, and help shield your home from the blazing sun. As such, it is well worth the time and effort to try to save a sick tree. If you want to prevent a sick tree from dying, here are five easy steps you can take.

Identify the Problem

Before you can effectively figure out how to save a dying tree, it is important to try to determine the problem. There are certain signals you should look for when trying to determine if a tree is in danger of dying. A lack of leaves, signs of dry, brittle or weak wood, cracks on the trunk, or areas of decay can be trouble signs.

Damtools said the exact cause of the problem can often be difficult. Consulting with an arborist is the best first step to take. An arborist has the training and knowledge required to diagnose and successfully treat tree problems. He or she can tell you the type of tree you have, in addition to any particular diseases or insects it might be susceptible to. Try Tree-Care.Com.Au for fully certified arborist to get the job done correctly. Try contacting an arborist as soon as you notice the tree is not looking good, you have a good chance of saving it.

Correct Watering Issues

Moisture issues are commonly at fault when it comes to a sick tree. Although this is particularly true with younger trees, even mature trees can be adversely affected by too much or too little water.

Make sure the area where the tree is planted has good drainage. If water-logging is present, provide better drainage. Under-watering a tree can also be detrimental to its health, especially in the case of a young tree. If the weather is dry and you do not have time to water the tree, set up an automated system with watering timers for gardening.

Be Careful with Mulch

Although useful when used properly, mulch can be harmful to trees. When using mulch around the base of a tree, be sure it is not too thick. If you have a thick layer of mulch piled around the tree’s trunk, pull it back and thin it out so the roots are able to breathe. This will prevent rot, insects, bacteria, fungi and a host of other problems.

Related: The 5 Best Summer Flowers to Plant

Use Fertilizer Properly

Fertilizer is another yard care item that can potentially harm trees instead of helping them. When using lawn fertilizer around the yard, avoid sprinkling or spraying it too close to your trees. If you prefer to make your own organic fertilizer, ensure that you are not using any diseased plant materials as an ingredient. Before jumping to the conclusion that a sick or dying tree needs fertilizer, test the soil to make sure you are correcting the proper problem. When in doubt, consult with an arborist.

Prune Properly

If you want to learn how to save a dying tree, it can be helpful to research proper pruning techniques. If there are diseased areas visible on an otherwise healthy tree, properly removing the diseased sections could save the tree’s life. Be sure to destroy any diseased branches to prevent the problem from spreading. You should also sterilize any shears, knives or saws used to cut away diseased branches.

Different tree varieties require different pruning methods. If you are not sure how to prune your tree, consult a professional. Pruning a tree too severely or not pruning it enough can be detrimental to its health.

Sam Moser is a freelance content writer who has written almost exclusively for the web since graduating from the School of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario. He makes sure to get the help of an emergency tree removal service whenever he needs one.

You can save more trees by going paperless with the help of online services such as,, Google Cloud Apps, and other online apps.

Are you the type of gardener who carefully starts tomato plants indoors from seed, and then painstakingly transplants them outside to start growing? If so, then you know that there is nothing more frustrating than seeing your tomato plants wilt after you transplant them outside.

So, why are your tomato plants wilting after transplant? Tomato plants can wilt after transplant for several reasons, including:

  • Lack of hardening off
  • Root damage during transplant
  • Under watering
  • Over watering
  • Over fertilizing
  • Pests and Diseases

Of course, we would like to know which of these problems is causing our tomato plants to wilt. That way, we can treat the problem accordingly.

Let’s take a closer look at why tomato plants wilt after transplant. We’ll also get into some steps you can take to revive a wilted tomato plant, or at least to prevent the same problem in the future.

Why Are Your Tomato Plants Wilting After Transplant?

As we already saw, there are many different reasons that your tomato plants might wilt after transplant. One common reason is that they were not hardened off properly – let’s start there.

Tomato Plants Wilting Due to Lack of Hardening Off

Many gardeners start tomato seeds indoors to get a head start on the season. This allows gardeners in northern zones to extend the growing season in areas where spring frosts linger late and fall frosts come early.

Starting tomato seeds indoors helps to protect plants from late spring frosts while they develop.

When tomato plants started indoors are transplanted outside, they experience “the elements” for the very first time. Instead of living in a controlled indoor environment, the tomato plants are now subject to varying amounts of sunlight, water, and wind, depending on the whims of nature.

Since the great outdoors can be harsh for young tomato plants, it really helps them to get a gradual transition into this new outdoor environment. This is the whole purpose of “hardening off”: to help plants to acclimate to outside conditions gradually.

A greenhouse or cold frame is a good place to keep plants for a while as they get used to more sunlight and wind. It will also keep them warmer when the nights are still cold early in the growing season.

A greenhouse is a good place to help tomato plants get acclimated to the weather outdoors.

If your tomato plants are still very small when you transplant them into the ground, then consider using a cloche to protect them from wind and cold. Just be sure to remove the cloche if it is going to be hot and sunny the next day, or else you could cook your plants!

For more information, check out my article on how to protect your plants from cold and frost.

Here is one more helpful tip about transplanting and hardening off tomato plants: be sure to transplant them outdoors in the evening. This gives them a little time to adjust before facing a full day of sunlight.

If you see your tomato plant’s leaves curling, remember that it could be due to exposure to the wind and sun that the plant is just not accustomed to. Curling due to environmental factors is called physiological leaf roll, and is not a cause for concern in the short term.

For more information, check out my article on why tomato plants get curled leaves.

Tomato Plants Wilting Due to Damage During Transplant

Tomato plants can be damaged in several ways during transplant, and so it is possible that wilting could occur as a result of this damage. One possibility that is easy to see upon inspection is bent or broken branches or stalks.

If a branch is bent or broken, then all of the leaves on that branch could wilt and eventually die. If the main stalk is bent or broken, this could cause everything above the bend or break to wilt.

The plant may or may not survive – to increase its chances, make sure to give it proper support using twine along with a tomato cage (for shorter determinate varieties) or stakes (for taller indeterminate varieties).

For more information, check out my article on supporting tomato plants.

If there is no obvious damage to the branches or stalks, it is also possible that the roots were damaged during transplant. A tomato plant with a well-established root system is easy to disturb when transplanting, even if you are extra careful.

If the root system of a tomato plant is damaged during transplant, then wilting could occur.

Another common reason that root damage occurs at transplanting is overcrowded plants. After you start your tomato seeds indoors, you should thin the plants to leave enough space between them.

For more information, check out my article on thinning seedlings.

Thinning your tomato seedlings prevents competition among plants, and also prevents the roots from getting tangled up with one another. When the roots get tangled, it is almost inevitable that some roots will be damaged as you pull them apart to separate the plants.

Finally, remember that there is no need to brush all of the soil off of the roots when you transplant a tomato plant into the garden. This old soil is just as good as the new soil in your garden!

Tomato Plants Wilting Due to Under Watering

Under watering is another possible reason that your tomato plants are wilting. Without enough water, tomato plants will respond by wilting their leaves.

This serves the purpose of exposing less leaf surface area to the sun and air, which reduces water loss through evaporation.

In extreme cases, your tomato leaves may become dry or crispy, usually after wilting for a while. Unfortunately, the plant is really in trouble at this point!

Under watering is more likely in dry, sunny climates, or if the soil in your garden is especially dry (for instance, sandy soil tends to drain quickly). In that case, adding compost to soil and putting mulch over soil can help to retain water.

Under watering is more likely when soil is dry and drains quickly, as with sandy soils.

For more information, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.

Tomato Plants Wilting Due to Over Watering

Over watering is another possible cause of tomato plants wilting, and is possibly even more common than under watering. Ironically, some of the symptoms are the same: wilted or dry leaves, due to the inability of the plant to absorb water.

Be careful not to over water your tomato plants! Check the soil with your fingers for dryness before adding water, to make sure they really need it.

This happens when the plant gets root rot, due to the roots staying wet for too long. At that point, the roots cannot absorb enough water from the soil to keep the plant going, even when the soil is wet.

If this happens to a potted tomato plant, then you might be able save it by transplanting to a pot with soil that is not so moist. Otherwise, wait it out and avoid watering until the soil dries out a bit!

The best advice I can give is to always check the soil before watering your plants. If the soil feels dry down to a depth of a couple of inches, then you can go ahead and water.

For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.

Tomato Plants Wilting Due to Over Fertilizing

Over fertilizing is another possible cause of tomato plants wilting after transplant. If you put too much fertilizer in the hole with the tomato plant, then it could end up burning the plant and causing some wilting of the leaves.

Too much fertilizer can cause brown spots on leaves, or of course, wilting of the plant.

For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing your plants.

Over fertilizing is more likely if you use a fast release fertilizer, and if you forget to water adequately when planting the tomatoes. You might be better served by a slow release fertilizer – either an organic one (such as compost) or a pelletized synthetic one.

For more information, check out my article on slow release fertilizers.

Tomato Plants Wilting Due To Pests or Diseases

When a tomato plant wilts due to pests or diseases, the problem is a bit more serious. This is mainly due to the fact that some plant diseases have no treatment. With this in mind, the infected plant often must be removed to prevent the spread of the disease.

Some common diseases that infect tomato plants are tomato blight, fusarium wilt, and verticillium wilt.

Tomato blight also infects potatoes, and there are actually two types: early blight and late blight. For more information, check out my article on how tomatoes get blight, and how to prevent it.

Tomato blight can cause plants to wilt – here we can see late blight on a tomato stem.

Fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt are two diseases that can cause tomato plants to wilt. The best way to avoid this problem is to choose tomato varieties that are resistant to these diseases (denoted by F and V, respectively, in gardening catalogs).

For more information, check out this article from the University of Maryland Extension on fusarium wilt on tomato plants.

Finally, there is the possibility of pests damaging your tomato plants and causing their leaves to wilt. One such pest is the aphid, which is a small creature that multiplies quickly into many.

They can even spread between plants, so you may need to take quick action to control an infestation. For more information, check out my article on how to get rid of aphids in your garden.


By now, you have a much better idea of why your tomato plants are wilting after transplant. You also know how to treat the plant to help it recover (if possible) in those scenarios.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information. If you have any questions about tomato plants wilting after transplant, please leave a comment below.

Yellow Leaves on Tomato Plants: A GardenZeus Guide, Part 1 of 3

Yellow Leaves on Tomato Plants: A GardenZeus Guide, Part 1 of 3 (Management and Maintenance Issues)

See customized advice and information for growing tomatoes in your Southern California zipcode

Don’t know your GardenZeus California Climate Zone? Enter your zipcode at

See Part 2 of this series for common causes of tomato-leaf yellowing that result from abiotic, environmental, and soil problems.

See Part 3 of this series for common causes of tomato-leaf yellowing that result from pests and diseases.

In horticultural lingo, yellowing of leaves on vegetable plants such as tomatoes is a “general symptom” or “generalized symptom,” meaning one that can result from many different causes.

The challenge with diagnosing plant problems from a general symptom, or even a few combined general symptoms, can be compared to trying to diagnose what’s wrong with a human who has a headache. Is the headache caused by muscle tension, a cold or infection, alcohol hangover or addiction withdrawal, eye strain, or something more serious like a fractured skull bone? The symptom of having a headache alone is not enough to diagnose, understand, and take steps to address the problem.

In the category of unprovable gardening theories and hot-summer-day surmises, I would guess that almost every gardener who has ever grown more than about 10 tomato plants has had at least a few yellowing leaves.

Even though a general and common symptom, yellowing leaves are almost always an indicator that something has gone wrong. It may be mild, temporary, or unlikely to affect fruiting and harvest; or it may be a serious or even terminal problem. One exception is minimal natural shading, as when a tomato plant grows tall or bushy enough to begin to shade its own lower leaves. See Yellow Leaves on Tomato Plants: A GardenZeus Guide, Part 2 of 3 (Abiotic, Environmental, and Soil Problems)

Below are common causes of yellowing tomato leaves that are caused by management or maintenance, with advice for diagnosing and resolving each problem. These are written for California gardeners but also apply to tomato-leaf-yellowing in other areas.

Overwatering: Plants that are regularly overwatered commonly develop yellowing leaves. If you never saw wilting leaves and are watering regularly, you may be overwatering. Too much water in soil reduces oxygen availability to plant roots, stresses plants, may prevent uptake of nutrients, and encourages soil-borne diseases.
Advice: If your soils are constantly wet (as opposed to moist, which usually allows sufficient air to remain in soil), reduce watering.

Underwatering: Tomato plants that are temporarily water-stressed will have wilted leaves that are still green. Tomato plants that are regularly or chronically water-stressed conserve water in roots and stems while allowing leaves to yellow, usually starting with lower and older leaves. The symptoms on tomatoes of overwatering and underwatering are similar. For plants stressed by underwatering, usually plants will wilt at least once before leaves begin to yellow. If water remains insufficient or with repeated wilting, yellow leaves will brown and die. If you have paid attention to your plants but have not seen them wilt and are worried that you aren’t watering enough, you may be overwatering. Wilting can also be caused by root damage or root disease even if watering is sufficient or appropriate. In some conditions, such as in loose, sandy, or other rapidly draining soil during hot weather, tomato plants may become water-stressed even when watered regularly.
Advice: If you watered irregularly, saw wilting, or have reason to believe that watering may have been insufficient before leaves yellowed, increase watering. Tomato plants prefer evenly moist soil with a slight dry-down between waterings.

Poor Drainage and Standing Water: This has the same effect as overwatering. It is possible for compacted soil or underground obstructions such as large stones to prevent drainage and for there to be standing water below the surface of soil while the soil surface can be dry. Soil and roots in containers can block drainage holes and allow standing water to collect.
Advice: Grow tomatoes in well-drained soils or containers. It’s usually difficult to improve poor drainage for established plants. In some cases reducing watering or breaking up compacted soils outside of tomato root systems may help. Conduct an infiltration/drainage test before planting tomatoes, or near established plants but outside the root zones to look for wet or muddy soil. If belowground soil is wet and smells swampy or otherwise unpleasant, it may have become anaerobic and temporarily toxic to plant roots. Investigate to be sure that water runs through containers and comes out drain holes.

Shock or Transplant Shock: Tomatoes are relatively tolerant of transplanting as compared to other vegetables, but they can be shocked by rough handling of roots, loss of roots, or major changes in environmental conditions, especially when transplanted. The lush, healthy nursery seedlings you purchased were likely grown under ideal conditions in greenhouses with temperature, humidity, fertilizers, and other conditions carefully managed by professionals. Moving plants from these conditions to the potentially harsh realities of your garden or yard, including full sun, hot or cold weather, unamended or dead soils, and a different watering schedule can easily cause shock to tomato plants. Loss of roots and root disturbance, which can be caused by everything from nearby cultivation or rototilling to harvesting companion root crops and removing weeds, can also shock tomato plants.
Advice: Handle tomato transplants with care. Harden off plants by putting them out in the area where they will be planted for progressively longer periods each day before transplanting. Avoid root disturbance as much as possible when transplanting and for established plants. Pay attention to changes in environmental conditions, especially extreme changes in temperature, watering, or sunlight, and take steps to protect plants.

Herbicides, Pesticides, or Chemicals: Many herbicides, especially broad-spectrum herbicides, cause leaf yellowing, either from direct contact or through absorption via plant roots, often producing an irregular or mottled pattern of yellowing. It requires only small quantities of some herbicides, chemicals, and substances on plants or in soil to cause yellowing and/or other harm. Herbicides and other chemicals may drift when applied on neighboring or nearby properties.
Advice: Use herbicides and chemicals with caution and under conditions that will minimize or avoid drift or other exposure to your tomato plants. If you believe herbicides or other harmful chemicals are arriving from a nearby property, inquire with neighbors. It may help to use row covers or other physical barrier placed between plants and the direction of drift, or between plants and prevailing winds or breezes.

See customized advice and information for growing tomatoes in your Southern California zipcode
Yellow Leaves on Tomato Plants: A GardenZeus Guide, Part 2 of 3 (Abiotic, Environmental, and Soil Problems)
Yellow Leaves on Tomato Plants: A GardenZeus Guide, Part 3 of 3 (Pests and Diseases)

Other articles of interest:

GardenZeus Tips for Fertilizing Tomatoes During the Growing Season

The GardenZeus Guide to Staking, Supporting and Trellising Tomato Plants

GardenZeus Solutions to Common Abiotic Problems With Garden Tomatoes

GardenZeus Calfornia climate zones

Understanding Transplant Shock

Hundreds of thousands of trees are planted along city and community streets and on other public property throughout the United States each year. Unfortunately, many of these trees, perhaps 50 percent or more, do not survive beyond one or two years. Why?

Transplant Shock

Most newly planted trees are subject to stress-related problems due to tremendous root loss when dug at the nursery. This condition, commonly called transplant shock, results in increased vulnerability to drought, insects, diseases and other problems. To a greater or lesser degree, transplant shock lasts until the natural balance between the root system and the top or crown of the transplanted tree is restored. Of those newly planted trees that do not survive, most die during this root-establishment period. A tree’s chance of survival can be drastically improved through practices that favor establishment of the root system. This involves regular care during the first three years following transplanting.

Tree Roots and Transplanting

For an undisturbed, healthy tree, the root system is normally very shallow. Even the major structural roots grow almost horizontally. The root system normally extends far beyond the branch spread, and fine roots that absorb water and nutrients are located very near the soil surface, usually in the top four to ten inches. A natural balance exists between the roots (where water is absorbed) and the top of the tree (where water is utilized and transpired to the atmosphere).

Usually when a tree is dug for transplanting, more than ninety-five percent of the absorbing roots are severed. With less than five percent of its root system remaining, the newly transplanted tree suffers from water stress. The crown is capable of losing water faster than it can be absorbed by the limited root mass. Water stress, in turn, can reduce the ability of leaves to produce carbohydrates (energy), diminish the growth of all parts of the tree, and subject the tree to many other environmental and pest-related problems. Combined, these problems all contribute to “transplant shock” that can kill the tree.

Generating Root Systems of Newly Planted Trees

Successfully establishing a transplanted tree depends primarily on rapid root generation. However, keeping the top of the tree alive and healthy until the natural balance between the roots and top is restored is essential. Initial root development of a newly planted tree is supported by energy (carbohydrates) stored within the trunk, branch, and root tissues. Continued root growth during the establishment period depends on the leaves of the tree producing high levels of carbohydrates during the growing season, especially during the first year following transplanting.

For this reason, pruning transplanted trees to compensate for root loss is not recommended. Leave the entire top intact to favor rapid development of a supporting root system. Top pruning should be restricted to removing broken and damaged branches and developing a good tree structure. Supplemental watering is critical to avoiding moisture stress.

The length of the tree-establishment period depends on both the size of the root system prior to digging and on having conditions that are favorable for good root growth. Larger trees may lose a larger mass of roots than smaller trees and require a longer root-establishment period. Adapted from :

Forestry Leaflet 17
Revised January 1999

The fun of growing vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees from seeds and cuttings is so rewarding. But, plant transplant shock loss can take all the fun out when plants don’t grow or show the same vigor.

Plants are designed to stay in one place. They put down roots, deep or wide, and remain there until they die. It is us who move them around to a new home.

When plants move from one place or area to another, it’s a shock. It’s difficult to watch newly planted plants adjust their new growth to the new environment.

Sometimes plants die as a result of the move and you can call it death from transplant shock.

Plant transplant shock is caused by harm to the plant roots, during the transplanting process.

Transplant shock happens to seedlings, bedding plants, newly planted trees and yes even cannabis plants.

While the thickest roots are closest to the root ball, the most important roots… those necessary for the plant to survive and thrive, are farthest from the plant.

These minor roots are like thin, tiny hairs that absorb the majority of the water spread throughout the soil away from the plant.

Many new gardeners do not consider minimizing the of transplanting shock since they’ve never experienced the loss of a plant dying after transplanting.

They see transplanting as a simple task of moving the plant’s location. Some plants cope well with the new environment and landscape, while others may completely die.

Minimize plant or tree transplant shock by taking preventative measures.

10 Tips On How To Prevent Transplant Shock

Buy Healthy Plants

Before buying a new plant, choose the best and healthiest ones. Do not buy (AVOID) any plant that looks like it is experiencing problems, suffering from pests (use a neem oil insecticide spray), fungi, diseases or other issues.

Don’t buy root bound plants or plants with root damage.

This increases the chances of having a successful process as healthy plants are more likely to survive a transplant shock.

When you buy a struggling plant and transplant it, you only add stress to an already stressed plant.

Know When To Transplant

The beginning of spring or the end of fall are the safest times and provide the best conditions to transplant using almost any technique.

Do not attempt to transplant plants on summer days, especially field-grown plants.

Whether from small pots, seedlings in flats, larger containers or a full-grown tree and shrub, experts recommend to do it in the late afternoon when the sun no longer gives extreme heat and the wind is already calm.

When it comes to transplanting container plants, you can do it any time in between freezing and thawing.

Container plants transplant easier than trees, seedlings, and shrubs especially if you know the soil and other basics of gardening.

NOTE: I always like transplanting potted plants into a well-draining soilless mix.

Try Not To Disturb Roots

When you dig or move the plants, you will probably have to bother the root system a bit. Minimize the impact of transplant shock as much as possible.

Try to keep the root system intact and don’t shake out the soil when moving the plant.

Also, make sure the root ball remains moist. If the roots become totally dry, the roots die and the whole plant dies.

Take As Many Roots As Possible

As we mentioned earlier, the tiny roots at the farthest end of the root ball are the most necessary ones to the plant’s health and growth.

The more healthy roots you bring along when you move the trees or plants, the lesser chance of transplant shock to occur and the more likely it will survive.

How long does transplant shock last?

The length of time will vary from plant to plant and for trees, transplant shock recovery time could last years.

Plant Properly In The New Location

No matter how careful you are, plants will go through some transplant stress when moved.

You cannot prevent some:

  • Transplant stress as new transplants adjust to their new environment
  • Leaf scorch and tree transplant shock occurring from reduced root system size
  • Plants wilting after transplant, leaf rolling and limb dieback from moisture transpiration
  • Planting in heavy soils, improper planting depth
  • Improper planting technique, adds more stress to the plant!

Dig large planting holes and provide good drainage to allow extensive root systems to develop.

Make sure you choose a location that fits the plant’s needs and the appropriate depth in the ground.

Consider the amount of sun, soil drainage, and quality. Then plant it using proper planting techniques: appropriately deep in the ground, moving gently, etc.

You may like our article on Dividing Transplanting Tips

Water Plants Carefully

Plants need water to survive, so give them plenty of watering immediately after moving especially young plants.

After transplanting, the plant’s root system will experience some “damage” and need to recover.

Watering makes a very important step to increase the defense of your plants or trees against transplant shock.

Water plants and trees immediately and religiously afterwards, considering their watering needs.

A cactus, will not need water nearly as often as an almond tree, for example.

If Roots Are Removed, Remove Top Growth

Except with tomato plants. Don’t trim the top growth of the plant if you’re transplanting tomato plant seedlings.

However, if a shrub is being moved, normally, I would remove about a 1/3 of the foliage.

Removing the extra foliage reduces stress, loss of moisture and the additional “resources” the plant needs to recover.

Follow correct root pruning steps for plants and trees to transition with higher success rate.

Fertilize With Root Boosters

Once transplanted and properly watered, encourage plant root development with a root booster fertilizer or use an Epsom salt transplant solution.

Remove Dead Parts

To help a newly transplanted plant, remove any dead parts like dried leaves, branches, or stems.

Keep An Eye On Transplants

Sometimes newly transplanted material is attacked by pests and insects. A plant in shock doesn’t need the extra stress bugs deliver.

Keep a careful eye on your transplanted plants, be ready to adjust and to help get your plants off to a good start in its new location.

With these ten methods, your plants will be on their way to less transplant shock and keep the “fun” in growing!

Image: source

Trees and Transplant Shock

The Claim: Table sugar helps protect newly transplanted trees from shock.

The Facts: Researchers from the University of Washington report that 25 percent to 50 percent of newly transplanted trees die from a lack of water. Trees have extensive root systems, and much of the water and nutrient absorption takes place beyond the drip line. Even when nurseries manipulate roots to encourage thicker growth closer to a tree’s crown before harvest, as little as 5 percent of the tree’s root system may make it from the planting bed to the container or rootball in which it is sold. The tree is unable to take up the amount of water and nutrients necessary for survival, creating a period of water stress known as transplant shock. Roots take years to fully support the crown after the tree is dug up, leaving it vulnerable to pests, diseases, and other drought-related problems.

Molecularly speaking

A tree’s roots are its biggest sugar storehouse. When a tree loses 95 percent of its roots during harvest, it must photosynthesize and produce sugar to repair the damage. Photosynthesis requires water, but without sufficient roots for uptake, the tree is left in dire straits.

One lump, please

Grocery store sugar is the same type that plants produce through photosynthesis, according to Dr. Glynn Percival of Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory, in Reading, England. Percival experimented using mixtures of “plain old white sugar” and water, which he applied as a root drench following a severe root pruning. The rate of fresh root growth increased on some, but not all, species. Since the sugar is being added from an outside source, root growth can take place without the tree expending its own energy. More roots mean more water and nutrient uptake, less stress, and a quicker recovery. Researchers discovered that small concentrations of sugar were beneficial to birch trees, but harmful to oaks.

A number of factors contribute to transplant shock, with water stress at the top of the list. Increase root growth, and a tree will have a much better chance of survival. We’re hopeful that further research on this topic will eventually lead to an inexpensive, nontoxic, and potentially organic way to help trees survive transplant shock.

you can buy trees from Amazon Store:

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