Everyone needs to adjust to new environments, and plants are no exception. When plants are moved from one place to another, they experience transplant shock, where their leaves droop and wilt.
But it’s not the end of the world. We’re here to guide you on preventing and dealing with transplant shock.
Scroll and read to learn how to keep your plants happy and healthy wherever you place them.
What is transplant shock?
Transplant shock is a term for stressors that cause wilting, yellowing leaves or stunted growth in plants after moving them from one place to another. This condition affects seedlings, new cuttings and even mature plants.
Transplant shock is common in young plants because of their fragile root system, which usually gets damaged when moved to another location. When the roots of the plant are damaged, the plant cannot absorb water and nutrients to grow healthy.
What are the signs of transplant shock?
The most common telltale signs of transplant shock are wilting, yellowing leaves, stunted growth, loss of leaves, brown spots and root rot.
Wilting is the most common sign of transplant shock, where the leaves droop and the plant already looks like it’s dying. This is usually caused by root damage, where the plant fails to absorb water and nutrients and send it to the leaves.
Yellowing leaves are another sign of transplant shock, where luscious green leaves turn yellow and fall off the plant. This is also caused by the lack of nutrients due to root damage.
Since the plant cannot properly absorb water and nutrients, it will have stunted growth with weak root systems, stems, and leaves.
Leaves also develop brown spots as a sign of transplant shock because of the lack of nutrients they need to create their food via photosynthesis and the damaged vascular system of the plant.
Finally, plants suffer from root rot, a fungal disease that kills plants. The multiple stressors make the plant more vulnerable to fungi, with damaged roots as their entryways to attack the plant.
What causes transplant shock?
Transplant shock is commonly caused by root damage, environmental change, nutrient deficiency, and water, mechanical or biological stress.
Read on to know how each cause affects your plant.
1. Root damage
When transplanted, a plant’s roots are often damaged when cut while digging, bruised, crushed, dried out or not watered properly after transplanting.
Unfortunately, damaged roots prevent the plant from absorbing water and nutrients to grow strong and healthy. It will eventually lead to wilting, yellowing leaves, stunted growth and even death.
2. Change in environment
Moving to a new location is a significant change for every plant and requires adjusting time. The new environment can have varying levels of temperature, sunlight and humidity, making the plant suffer from transplant shock.
So, ensure the old and new environments are as similar as possible while meeting the plant’s basic needs. You can gradually prepare the plant for the new environment by moving it in increasing hours to the new area daily.
3. Water stress
Plants need water to survive, especially when moved to a new location. Otherwise, transplant shock will follow and cause wilting and dropping leaves and stunted growth in your plant.
To reduce water stress, we recommend you water the plants before and after transplanting and move them during the cooler parts of the day.
4. Nutrient deficiency
Plants are also susceptible to nutrient deficiencies because the new location might not have the same nutrients as their old home. To prevent this, regularly fertilize the plant using a balanced fertilizer and water the soil consistently.
5. Mechanical stress
Mechanical stress in transplant shock means any physical injury to the plant during the movement from one place to another.
For instance, the roots may be crushed or cut while being dug up, stems may get bent or twisted, and leaves get bruised and torn, which disrupts the flow of water and nutrients in the plant.
6. Biological stress
Biological stressors such as pests and diseases also cause transplant shock. As the changes weaken the plant’s immune system, the increased vulnerability is an entry point for pests, fungi, bacteria and viruses to attack the plant.
So when you transplant a plant, choose a location free from pests and diseases, and treat the plant with pesticides as needed.
Can plants recover from transplant shock?
Generally, plants can recover from transplant shock within weeks of proper gardening care. The recovery time varies depending on the transplant shock severity and the plant type.
To help your plant recover from transplant shock, make sure that you hydrate your plant regularly and provide ample shade and fertilizer to help it adjust to its new environment.
How to Fix Transplant Shock in Seedlings
Transplant shock is a common problem for seedlings grown indoors. Here are tips on preventing and fixing transplant shock on seedlings.
1. Always harden off seedlings.
Hardening off seedlings is a gardening practice where seedlings are exposed gradually outdoors before transplanting them. This helps them adjust slowly to changes in the humidity, light and temperature outside and reduces transplant shock.
We recommend hardening off seedlings when they are at least three weeks old. Then, at least one to two weeks before transplanting them, start placing them outdoors for a few hours daily.
2. Water seedlings thoroughly.
Seedlings need thorough watering after transplanting. This makes establishing and rehydrating its roots easier and reduces overall stress from all the changes.
Water also helps improve soil drainage, ensuring the roots access oxygen while reducing the risk of root rot.
3. Prune the plant.
Pruning the seedlings will help reduce the seedlings’ stress from transplant. By removing the damaged leaves and branches, the plant can focus its energy on recovering from transplant shock.
4. Do not disturb the roots.
When transplanting, gently loosen the soil around the roots and lift the seedling out of the tray to not disturb the roots.
Make sure to transplant the seedlings as fast as possible so the roots won’t dry out, and rehydrate them immediately. These practices will minimize root disturbance and transplant shock, giving your seedling the best chance to recover successfully.
5. Consider the size of the new container or garden bed.
You should also consider the size of the plants when transferring them to another pot or garden bed. For instance, when the pot is too large, the roots will have less space and end up waterlogged or rotting.
If the pot is too small, the plant may not grow as quickly as it would because of the nutrients that it can absorb from the soil.
6. Add Epsom salt to minimize transplant stress.
Epsom salt is made up of magnesium and sulfur, essential plant nutrients. Magnesium helps regulate plant processes such as photosynthesis, while sulfate supports the plant’s transport of nutrients and root growth.
Adding Epsom salt to the soil helps improve the plant’s stress tolerance and allows it to adjust its processes to its new environment.
Should you fertilize after transplanting?
You should fertilize your plant after transplanting because it helps provide the plant with the nutrients it needs to recover from transplant shock.
We recommend using balanced and slow-release fertilizers so it will get nutrients over a more extended period and not burn its roots from getting too much nutrients all at once.
FAQs on Plants Wilting After Transplant
The best time to transplant plants is during early spring and fall because the weather is mild and cooler and will not cause too much water loss from the plants in the process.
It is usual for plants to wilt after transplanting because the roots have been disturbed and are still adjusting to their new environment. Just rehydrate them regularly to help them cope with the transplant shock.
Plants must be watered after transplanting to rehydrate the roots and help them establish themselves in the new soil.
Sugar water does not help with transplant shock. Instead, it can worsen the plant condition by attracting pests and diseases.