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How to Transplant a Plant

Transplanting is an important part of plant care. Whether you need to move the plant into a bigger pot or outdoors, it is important that you do it right. How you take care of the plant before transplanting is just as important as how you take care of it afterwards. The process itself is simple, but there is a trick to getting it done right; if you don't do it correctly, you could kill your plant.

EditSteps

EditTransferring to a New Pot

  1. Water the plant a few hours before you transplant it. The time of the year does not matter much since you will be keeping the plant indoors. What does matter, however, is the soil. Water the plant thoroughly, then wait 1 hour; this will dampen the soil and make it easier to remove the root ball.[1]
    Transplant a Plant Step 1 Version 5.jpg
    • If you are transplanting a seedling, wait until it forms a pair of true leaves. True leaves are hardier than the delicate leaves you see at first.[2]
  2. Choose a pot that's 1 size larger than the old pot. It's better to gradually increase the size of your plant's pot as it grows rather than putting it into a giant pot from the start. Get a pot that is 1 size bigger than the one that the plant is already in. Cover the drainage hole in the new pot with a piece of mesh or a coffee filter.[3]
    Transplant a Plant Step 2 Version 5.jpg
    • You want to cover the drainage hole so that the soil doesn't fall out. The water will still be able to come out.
    • If the new pot doesn't have a drainage hole, fill the pot with of gravel.
  3. Fill the new pot with a few inches/centimeters of potting soil. Use enough potting soil so that if you were to set the root ball into the pot, the top of the root ball would sit below the pot's rim. Do not use gardening soil.[4]
    Transplant a Plant Step 3 Version 5.jpg
    • Gardening soil often contains insects, diseases, and fungi. Your plant is not used to these, and it can get sick or die as a result.
    • For the healthiest, happiest plant, look for soil that contains equal parts of rich loam, sand/perlite, and organic matter.[5]
    • If you are transplanting a seedling, fill the pot to within of the rim. Dampen the soil with warm water and wait 1 hour.[6]
  4. Turn the pot upside down and gently tap the rim against a table. Cover the top of the pot with your hand so that the plant sticks out between your fingers. Turn the pot upside down, then gently tap the pot's against the edge of a table. This should loosen the root ball and cause it to slide out of the soil and into your hand.[7]
    Transplant a Plant Step 4 Version 5.jpg
    • Do not grab the plant by the stem and pull it out. Break the pot instead as a last resort.
    • If you are transplanting a seedling, use a spoon to carefully dig the seedling out. Hold it by a leaf, never by the stem.[8]
  5. Slide the root ball out and loosen it if the roots are tangled. Most root balls clump together, which is normal. If the plant was in the small pot for a long time, however, the root ball may retain the shape of the pot. In this case, gently squeeze the root ball with your fingers to loosen it.[9]
    Transplant a Plant Step 5 Version 5.jpg
    • If you can't loosen the root ball, use a sharp, clean knife to slice into the sides of the root ball; make the slices deep.
    • Be sure to cut away any dead or rotten roots with sharp, clean scissors.
  6. Set the root ball into the new pot, then fill it with more soil. Cover the top of the root ball with a thin layer of soil. Leave of space between the soil and the rim of the pot.[10]
    Transplant a Plant Step 6 Version 5.jpg
    • If you are working with a seedling, poke a hole into the soil, then tuck the seedling inside. Pat the soil around the seedling.[11]
  7. Water the plant thoroughly. It would be even better if you added some water-soluble fertilizer into the water, but make sure that it's the right kind for your plant. This will help the plant recover faster. Once you are done watering the plant, do not water it again until the top layer of soil is dry.[12] If you are working with seedlings, keep the soil damp, but not soggy.[13]
    Transplant a Plant Step 7 Version 5.jpg
    • If the pot has a drainage hole, keep watering until water comes out of the hole. If the plant does not have a drainage hole, use your best judgement.
  8. Bring the plant into sunlight over the next couple of days. Do not put the plant in full sunlight right away or you will shock it. Instead, gradually move it into brighter and brighter areas over the next 2 to 3 days. Keep the plant warm, but avoid heat.[14]
    Transplant a Plant Step 8 Version 2.jpg
    • If the plants start to wilt, mist them with water, then cover them with plastic wrap. Keep them in a cool area, away from direct sunlight for 1 to 2 days.[15]
  9. Move the plant into a larger pot as it grows bigger. How soon you do this depends on how fast the plant grows; some plants grow faster than others. A slow growing plant typically needs to be transferred to a new pot once every 2 to 3 years. A fast growing plant will need to be transferred to a new pot once per year.[16]
    Transplant a Plant Step 9 Version 2.jpg
    • If you notice the roots poking out of the drainage hole, it's time for a new pot![17]

EditTransplanting a Plant Outside

  1. Research the date when you should move your plant outside. Most plants can be only be planted outside during certain times of the year. The date will depend on what gardening zone you live in as well as the type of plant you have. Online is a great place to start, but seed packets and care tags often contain this information too.[18]
    Transplant a Plant Step 10 Version 2.jpg
  2. Begin to harden the plant off 2 weeks before the transplanting date. Stop fertilizing 2 weeks before the transplanting date. Reduce watering, but don't omit it. A week before the date, move the plant outside. Leave it outside for 1 hour on the first day, 2 hours on the second day, and so forth. Keep it out of direct wind and sunlight, and water it often during this week.[19]
    Transplant a Plant Step 11 Version 2.jpg
    • Take the plant outside in the morning each day. You will leave it outside 1 hour longer every day.
  3. Plan to transplant during the cool part of the day. It would be even better if it is overcast or drizzling. Early morning is a good time, but early evening would be even better, because then your plants won't have to deal with the heat of the day while acclimating to their new home.[20]
    Transplant a Plant Step 12 Version 2.jpg
  4. Fill the planting bed with gardening soil. Choose the area that you will be moving your plant into. Make sure that the area has enough sunlight/shade for your type of plant. Dig up any untilled soil, and replace it with gardening soil. For even better results, mix some compost into the soil.[21]
    Transplant a Plant Step 13 Version 2.jpg
    • It would be best to buy the soil from the store. This way, you can ensure that it is pest, disease, and fungi free.
  5. Dig a hole big enough to hold the plant's pot. Unless the pot is made out of peat or paper, you will be removing the plant from the pot and placing the root ball into the hole. It is difficult to tell how big the root ball is when the plant is still in the pot, however, but if you make the hole the same size as the pot, you can ensure a good fit.[22]
    Transplant a Plant Step 14 Version 2.jpg
  6. Turn the pot upside down and slide the root ball out. Place your hand over the top of the pot first, so that the plant is sticking out between your fingers. Carefully flip the pot upside down. If the plant doesn't slide into your hand, lightly tap the rim of the pot against a firm surface, like a table or bench.[23]
    Transplant a Plant Step 15 Version 2.jpg
    • Do not grab the plant by the stem and pull it out. This can damage the plant.
  7. Leave the plant in the pot if it's made from peat or paper. Instead, cut the sides of the pot so that the roots can reach the fresh soil sooner. It would be good idea to tear away the top inch (2.5 cm) of the pot so that it sits below the soil when you transplant it--otherwise it may soak up the water before it gets to the roots.[24]
    Transplant a Plant Step 16 Version 2.jpg
  8. Loosen the root ball with your fingers, if needed. Most root balls are already loose, but some of them are so tight that they take the shape of the pot. If this happened with your plant, gently squish the root ball until it loosens up.[25]
    Transplant a Plant Step 17 Version 2.jpg
    • If the root ball is still too firm, make 1/8 to 1/4-inch (0.32 to 0.64-cm) deep incisions into the root ball with a clean knife.
    • Skip this step if the plant is in a peat or paper pot.
  9. Place the root ball into the hole. The top of the root ball should be level with the top of the hole. If the hole is too deep, lift the plant out, and add a few more inches/centimeters of gardening soil.[26] If the plant is in a peat or paper pot, simply place the entire pot into the hole.
    Transplant a Plant Step 18 Version 2.jpg
  10. Fill the space around the root ball with more soil and pat it down. The hole will be a little too big for the root ball, so scoop some soil into the spaces between the root ball and the hole. If the hole caves in and becomes shorter than the root ball, simply add more soil around the top of the root ball so that everything is level. Gently pat the soil down when you are done.[27]
    Transplant a Plant Step 19 Version 2.jpg
  11. Water the plant thoroughly. After this initial watering, water the plant as often as needed. Depending on the type of plant you have, this could be daily, weekly, or only when the top layer of soil is dry.[28]
    Transplant a Plant Step 20 Version 2.jpg
    • For even better results, add some fertilizer into the water. Be sure to use the right type for your plant, however!


EditTips

  • Spring is the best time to transplant most plants, including annual and perennial flowers, roses, and vegetables.[29]
  • For outdoor plants, cover the soil with a 1 to 2-inch (2.5 to 5.1-cm) layer of compost or mulch. This will keep the soil damp and deter weeds.[30]
  • If the plant is stuck in its original pot, water the plant through the drainage hole. Use a hose set to a jet stream to ensure that the pressure is strong enough.[31]

EditThings You'll Need

EditTransferring to a New Pot

  • Plant to be transplanted
  • New pot, 1 size larger
  • Broken pottery, mesh, or pebble
  • Potting soil
  • Fertilizer (optional)

EditTransplanting a Plant Outside

  • Plant to be transplanted
  • Gardening soil
  • Shovel or trowel
  • Fertilizer

EditSources and Citations

EditQuick Summary


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