How to Repair Plants in Shock
Plants suffer shock after transplanting, whether they are newly planted seedlings or mature plants moved from one location to another. Shock is more likely to occur if the roots are damaged during transplanting or if the soil, temperature or cultural conditions in the new site are vastly different than those in the old location. Plants suffering shock may wilt, yellow or suffer from overall decline. Proper care helps repair the damage so the plants recover quickly and begin to establish in their new bed.
Transplants with dense foliage or large leaves are more likely to suffer transplant shock, especially if the root system is much smaller or required pruning before transplanting. Cutting back some of the foliage on herbaceous plants and seedlings gives the roots less to support, so they recover from shock more quickly. Pruning isn’t suitable for woody plants. Trim off the large outer leaves, so only the smaller inner leaves and the growing point at the base of the plant remains. You can remove up to half the leaves on most plants without causing damage.
Both too much and too little water can delay root establishment and prevent the plant from recovering from shock. Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the depth of the root zone. Feel the soil to determine when it needs more water or use a soil moisture gauge to monitor moisture for plants with deeper root systems. Soggy, wet soil suffocates the roots, while dry soil puts stress on the plant. Covering the soil with a 2-inch layer of mulch helps maintain soil moisture and also protects the roots from temperature fluctuations while the plant is establishing.
No Need to Feed
Plants suffering from shock do not require fertilizer. Feeding the plant may force a new flush of leaf growth, which only puts more stress on the unestablished roots. Allow the plant to establish a healthy root system before beginning fertilizer applications. Perennial plants and woody plants, like trees and shrubs, often require no fertilization until the second year after transplanting. Annuals, including bedding plants and vegetables, usually require no fertilization until they recover from shock and are established, usually six weeks after transplanting.
Prevention tactics can minimize shock danger to new transplants. Transplant perennials and woody plants in late winter when they are still dormant so they will recover quickly with their first flush of spring growth. When transplanting seedlings, harden them off in a protected outdoor area for one week prior to transplanting so they become accustomed to outdoor conditions. Transplanting on cloudy days or in the evening gives the roots some time to recover before they are subjected to the stress of intense sunshine.
How to Repair Plants in Shock. Plants suffer shock after transplanting, whether they are newly planted seedlings or mature plants moved from one location to another. Shock is more likely to occur if the roots are damaged during transplanting or if the soil, temperature or cultural conditions in the new site are vastly …
Minimizing transplant shock – tips & tricks to make sure your plant survives
Minimize transplant shock upon purchasing or moving a new tree or shrub. This will make your garden a welcoming place for the new addition to the plant family.
Whether you’re adding a shrub or moving an ornamental from the back yard to the front, a few simple steps will help counter transplant shock.
Picture: Portugal laurel – Surely wished it had avoided transplant shock!
Three factors trigger plants to go into shock when transplanting:
- damage and wounds to roots and branches,
- lost roots,
- and a new growing environment.
For each factor, it’s possible to prevent damage and help the plant cope. Here is the best way to deal with transplant shock.
Protect your plant from physical damage
Being ripped out of the earth is traumatizing for many trees, shrubs and plants. Not all have the capacity to grow back immediately.
It’s important to minimize damage upon transplanting so the plant can focus on adapting instead of repairing.
Roots require special care
The most important roots in a plant are the tiny roots that connect directly to nutrients, water, and root fungi. These are thinner than a hair and worm their way between grains of sand and clay.
- When pulling a root out, soil falls off. These tiny roots are torn from the main plant and fall out with it!
The most active part of the root system is the periphery. It usually forms a circle line around the tree with the trunk in the center. This is where the tree finds fresh nutrients and trace elements. Inside this circle, plants have already found and collected most of what they needed.
- When cutting a tree out of the ground, only the centermost, least active roots are brought along!
Given that so much is lost already during transplantation, what roots are left are very precious!
Branches break, beware!
There are many reasons why branches are damaged during a tree transplant.
- They get in the way when digging the root ball out.
- The tree and its clump are heavy and branches make for a good grip… until they break off!
- A tree without its roots topples over… and branches catch the fall!
- During transportation and moving, branches get caught on corners, gates, they drag along the road, too.
Countering root loss
For an unpruned, mature plant, roots extend as far out as branches do. This is called the drip line. Since encasing the entire root system is often impossible for shrubs larger than two or three feet (½ to 1 meter) tall, a rough rule of thumb can serve as a guide:
- prune back the branches in proportion to the root clump.
For example, if the shrub was three feet across and the root clump that is left is only one foot across, cut the branches back by two-thirds.
- It’s safer to cut too much away from the branches than to not cut back enough.
In other words, better to prune more than not enough.
In some cases, it’s even recommended to cut individual leaves in half, too. A small stub remaining attached to the stem keeps the branch alive while not demanding too much from the smaller root clump. This is especially done to protect species that don’t react well to pruning like Prunus species (cherry tree, plum tree, ornamental plum trees, etc).
- Lastly, remember to water often for the entire next season.
Integrating the new environment
Let it sit for a while – When transferring a plant to a pot, it’s good practice to sit the pot where the original plant stood. Do this for a few days, ideally for a week or so.
This ensures that environmental factors remain the same (exposure, wind, moisture). Complement with water regularly during this period.
Don’t do this if you plan to transfer the plant to the ground in another place, because then you’re simply losing time that the plant can use to adjust to its new growing environment.
Bring friends along – When uprooting the plant, there may be appealing or useful neighbors in the area. Add those to the transplant program. That way, whatever symbiosis they’ve reached can be maintained. If nice bulb flowers grow at the foot of your shrub, bring a few along, too. Spices interact a lot with their environment, too.
Mix in old soil – Use up to 50% of the old soil together with soil mix for backfilling or planting to a pot. You’ll be bringing beneficial fungus and microorganisms along for the transplanted plant.
Protect from too much light – If you’ve got a shading net that cuts off some of the light, use it for the first season to protect the transplant, especially in summer.
Orient your plant as it was before – Marking which side of the tree faces North and South and following that orientation upon replanting grants higher chances of success.
Prepare welcoming nutrients – don’t fertilize with chemical fertilizers. Prepare a ration of fermented weed tea instead. Not only will all your desired nutrients be there, you’ll also bring in helpful micro-organisms, too.
Smart tip to reduce transplant shock
Performing these steps will ensure you minimize mortality and give every shrub the best shot possible. Even a fickle, delicate plant like Stephanotis can survive with such delicate attention!
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Tree dying from transplant shock by Samantha Carberry, Nature & Garden contributor
Minimizing transplant shock – tips & tricks to make sure your plant survives Minimize transplant shock upon purchasing or moving a new tree or shrub. This will make your garden a welcoming place