It can be painful.

You grow your plant from seed with hard work. Now you transplant it to the garden, and it’s suffering from transplant shock.

Transplant shock can last from two weeks to five years, depending on the plant or tree you’re growing. This can cause temporary stagnation of growth or flower and fruit production. The longer the transplant shock remains, the higher the chances of the plant dying.

In this post, I’ll help you understand how long transplant shock can last and how to prevent it in the first place. I’ll give you tips to recognize transplant shock and how you can help a plant recover from this problem.

Let’s get started.

How long does transplant shock last?

How long transplant shock lasts depends on the type of plant you have. Small house plants or vegetable plants may only experience shock for a week or two, but larger plants and trees can take over one year to fully recover.

The length of time a plant experiences shock depends not only on the change of soil and environment itself but also on how it was uprooted and handled during the transplanting process.

It is hard to know how long transplant shock will last. It varies from plant to plant. Vegetables recover from transplant shock rather quickly, say 3-4 weeks. Trees, on the other hand, may not recover for several years.Plants going through shock display the same symptoms as being nutrient deficiant, leaf scorching, wilting, yellowing, and curling. – Brian Walker, Certified Arborist, The Landscape Tutor

What is transplant shock?

Transplant shock is the sudden stagnation or stunting of growth of your tree or plant due to being relocated from one environment it has become accustomed to, to another with less familiar conditions.

The nature of plants is to grow and remain in one place for their lifetime; however, gardeners and plant enthusiasts have different plans.

You might wish to transplant your plant into a larger pot if it has outgrown its nursing pot, or it may need to be moved to more suitable lighting and climate conditions.

Some people assume that transplant shock occurs because of mishandling the roots. But this is a myth and is more likely due to the change in conditions.

When young trees are dug from a nursery, they typically retain only 10-20% of their root system. (hansenstree.com)

What are the signs of transplant shock?

It can be shocking when you intended well for your plant by transplanting it, but its condition starts to look dire.  Some signs of transplant shock include:

  • Wilting
  • Yellowing
  • Shedding leaves
  • Cessation of bearing fruit or flowers
  • In severe cases, death

How to avoid transplant shock?

Transplant shock is mainly caused by a sudden change in the plant’s environment. It is recommended to mimic the natural environment in the new pot or garden location.

While it is not the over-handling of roots that causes a plant to go into shock, you want to mitigate changes in the environment around the roots when transplanting.

1. Try not to disturb the roots

Disturb the roots as little as possible, avoiding shaking dirt off of the root-ball or bumping it.

If your plant is root bound, do your best to transplant as much of the root system as possible, as keeping the roots intact will preserve the plant.

2. Keep the roots moist during the transplant

Because roots generally stay hydrated in the soil, allowing them to dry out when transplanting increases the chance of shock and damage to the plant. Prevent this from happening by removing the plant from its original spot at the last minute once the new container or space is ready.

 If you removed the plant from its original space too soon, you could place a well-dampened paper towel over the root ball to keep it hydrated, or in some cases, plants do well being placed directly in a vessel of water. Research transplant methods specific to your plant to ensure the conditions stay just right.

3. Have the new space ready for your plant

To avoid putting the plant in soil and removing it to adjust its new space, ensure you dig a hole deep enough and wide enough to set the plant in on the first attempt.

The new space should also have proper drainage to allow for the development of the root system.

4. Water your plant well after transplanting

After the plant has been moved to its new home, give it a generous drink of water. This is conducive to preventing shock and helps it adjust to its new space.

Pick the best time to transplant

It is best to transplant plants at the beginning of spring or the end of autumn when the plants’ natural active and dormant phases occur.

If you are transplanting outdoor plants, do so in the early morning or late evening to avoid peak heat and give the plant a chance to settle.

How to help a plant recover from transplant shock

Even if you try your best, transplant shock can still occur. Do not panic or give up on your plant. Here are some helpful tips to help rejuvenate your plant.

1. Prune the foliage if roots have been damaged

If the roots were broken or damaged in the transplanting process, trimming some of the leaves and top-growth of the plant will allow it to focus its nutrients and energy on strengthening the root system.

Removing any dead leaves or stems can also help your plant focus its nutrient on its living parts to ultimately strengthen them.

2. Avoid adding fertilizer

You want to avoid providing fertilizer to the plant that is in transplant shock. It is already under stress, and you want it to focus on recovery. Adding fertilizer will stress it further towards growth.

3. Add Epsom salt to help the plant

Epsom salt can minimize the effects of transplant shock considerably. When mixing your salt solution, add one tablespoon of Epsom salt to one gallon of water.

Water the plant with the Epsom salt solution immediately after transplanting it to lessen the chance of shock from setting in.

4. Try using sugar to help the plant

Some plants benefit from the presence of a slight amount of sugar in their water. Sugar is typically not harmful to plants, so it is worth trying. However, if you use Epsom salt, do not overdo it by adding sugar, as too many new and extra substances can worsen shock.

If you add a sugar solution to your plants, you will also want to monitor the soil for any bugs.

5. Have patience with the transplant

Of course, some plants need to cycle through the shock phase when transplanted. Have patience, keep your plants watered and in ideal lighting conditions, and it will come around.

Does soil type impact transplant shock?

While plants tend to be hardy in varying soil types, transplant shock is more likely to occur when a plant is moved to soil conditions that it is not used to.

For example, a leafy plant like a fern would not do well going from compact, damp soil to porous, sandy soil. The plant should be kept in conditions that feel familiar to it.

Does plant species affect getting transplant shock?

Plants vary in degrees of hardiness, and this can impact the likelihood of it developing transplant shock.

For example, a delicate plant like a fern or an orchid is more prone to transplant shock and even death than heartier plants like Peperomia Pilea.