Not all plants can survive transplant shock. The sudden change in the medium and the exposure of the roots to the elements, no matter how brief, can have a profound impact on the transplanted plant, so much so that the plant may struggle and might even die shortly after you transplant it.
How long does transplant shock last? Transplant shock might last just a few weeks, or it could go on for years. Seedlings and young plants often recover in just a few short weeks, but mature trees could struggle for years before they acclimatize to the new conditions and resume their normal growth rate, flowering, and fruiting.
Different factors determine the severity and duration of transplant shock, but you can take measures not just to fix transplant shock but also to prevent it. Read more to find out how.
Understanding Transplant Shock
Every time you uproot a plant and move it to a different spot, no matter how close to the original spot, you risk stressing the plant. Plants are slow to respond to changes in their environment, which is very stressful for plants.
What Is Transplant Shock?
Since plants rely on their roots to get nutrients and moisture, transplanting any plant deprives it of this nutrition as the roots adjust to the new soil.
If the roots fail to establish, the plant will wither and die. Until the roots establish, accept the new environment, and start getting moisture and nutrients, the plant is in a state of shock. It feeds on the stored energy and all signs of growth stop.
This state of stress is known as transplant shock.
What Causes Transplant Shock?
One of the main causes of transplant shock is the roots’ sudden removal from the soil and exposure to air.
The root ball shrivels and dies due to exposure to the elements. The remaining roots are still too weak and too few to support the stems and leaves of the plant. The plant goes into a state of shock, and it freezes all growth.
Signs of Transplant Shock
The first sign that a plant is going through transplant shock is leaf scorch. The leaves turn yellow and droop. Eventually, the leaves turn brown, die, and then drop.
If the plant has flowers, they too will fade and die. No signs of new growth emerge while the plant is in transplant shock.
Can Plants Recover From Transplant Shock?
Most of the time, plants will recover from transplant shock. They need time to regrow the lost and damaged roots and start getting moisture and nutrition from the soil again.
How Long Transplant Shock Lasts
Young plants and seedlings often recover from transplant shock within weeks, but mature plants and trees could take years to get over the shock and resume their normal growth.
How To Avoid Transplant Shock
There are steps you can take to avoid transplant shock. Here’s what you can do:
1. Transplant at the Correct Time of Year
When plants go dormant, that’s usually the best time to transplant them. For most plants, that time is usually in the fall or winter.
2. Ensure New Conditions Are Similar to Previous Ones
When transplanting the plant, make sure that the new spot is almost identical to the old one. That means that the soil type, temperature, sunlight, and humidity levels are similar to that of the old location.
3. Have New Site Prepared Before Starting
Prepare the new site in advance. Remove weeds and debris, turn up the soil, and mix in organic materials if planting in the ground. When repotting, clean the new pot, and prepare the new soil mix.
Do all of that before you uproot the plant from the old site so that you don’t expose the roots to the elements unnecessarily.
4. Keep Disturbance to Roots Minimal
Try not to break or damage the roots when uprooting the plant. This can minimize the damage to the root ball and prevent transplant shock.
5. Keep Roots Moist While Transplanting
If you have to keep the plant for a while before replanting, sprinkle the root ball with water and keep it wrapped in a tarp to prevent it from drying out.
6. Make the Process as Fast as Possible
In general, you should do all your preparations before you dig out the plant you want to transplant. That way the exposure of the roots will be kept to a minimum. When you’re ready, dig out the plant, and replant it quickly.
7. Water Thoroughly After Transplanting
Water is important for reducing transplant shock. Once you’ve transplanted the plant and tamped the soil to push out air pockets, water the soil to help it settle.
8. Protect the Plant From Harsh Conditions
Don’t expose the recently transplanted plant to harsh conditions such as strong winds, cold temperatures, or hot weather. This will help the plant acclimatize to the new conditions.
How To Fix Transplant Shock
If your transplanted plant shows signs of transplant shock, here’s what you can do:
1. Ensure Roots Stay Consistently Moist
Moisture is essential for the survival of the plant. Keep the soil evenly moist to allow the roots to absorb moisture slowly but steadily.
2. Sugar Water for Transplant Shock
Sugar can give the plant fast-release energy to help it get over the transplant shock quickly, but some experienced gardeners advise against this.
3. Epsom Salt for Transplant Shock
Epsom salt has nutrients, mainly magnesium, that the plant can easily absorb and process quickly.
4. Protect the Plant From Harsh Conditions
Shelter the plant from the glaring afternoon sun, strong winds, and cold temperatures in the evenings and early mornings. A bucket with the bottom cut out makes an excellent shield and helps retain much-needed moisture around the plant.
5. Lightly Prune
Trim the stems and leaves of the plant to reduce its burden since it has limited resources until it gets over the transplant shock.
6. Provide Conditions That the Plant Was Used To
Try to adjust the growing conditions to make them as close as possible to the old site in which the plant grew. Adjust the soil, temperature, and shade to make it easier for the plant to get over the shock.
7. Transplant Shock Fertilizer
Use an all-purpose fertilizer (this one is excellent) that provides the plant with quick-release nutrients.
When To Apply Fertilizer After Transplanting
You should wait about 2 to 3 weeks after transplanting before you fertilize the plant. During that time the plant will have regrown some of the lost roots.
8. Be Patient
It usually takes time for plants to recover from transplant shock, so don’t be quick to write off the plant too soon.
Should You Fertilize Right After Transplanting?
Don’t fertilize right after transplanting. Allow the roots to settle and get used to the new soil and conditions. It takes 2 to 3 weeks to replenish the roots that were damaged during transplanting.
How Long Does It Take for a Plant To Adjust to a New Home?
Plants vary when it comes to adjusting to new sites. Young plants often recover quickly and resume their growth at normal rates within a few weeks. Mature plants can take months or even years, in the case of trees, to get used to the new home.
Transplant shock is the stress the plant goes through when you move it to a new site. If the plant loses most of its root ball during transplanting and doesn’t establish, it might die.
However, in most cases, the plant will recover from this shock within a few weeks with proper care.