Transplanting Plants

Gently removing a plant from its container

Transplanting  plants can be a bit daunting especially for beginners.

So if you have bought young annuals/perennials or vegetables from a nursery and you wish to transplant these in your flower or vegetable garden, beginner or not,   you will find these  tips useful. 

When transplanting, follow these 10 simple steps:

1. The very first step is to gauge the area where you want to do your plant transplanting by finding the answers to the following questions:

a. Which part of your garden is shady? Which part is sunny?
b. Where do you get the least wind?  the most wind?
c. What is your plant hardiness zone?  If you are not sure, check the chart for plant hardiness at

d. What type of soil do you have? Again, if you’re not sure, check

e. How much space is available for your plants to grow?   If you have a small place, then you must pick  plants which do not require much space.

2.  Choose your plants wisely.

When you go to the nursery looking for plants, choose healthy ones.  In other words choose young plants which have strong sturdy stems, deep green foliage, and lush white roots (pull the plant ever so gently a little ways out of the container and peek at its roots).
Avoid plants whose roots are brown and mushy, or are growing out of the bottom of the pot, or are stuck to the container.

(If, however, you are buying plants in late June or so, you may have to settle for plants whose roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot.  All is not lost, but the roots will require a little more attention)

3. Choose your transplanting time wisely.

A) When planting annuals and tender plants or vegetables, wait till there is no more frost at night (Here in Ontario that would mean around  May 24).

b) Also soil temperature should ideally be 15 to 20  degrees C. or above for annuals, (20 degrees for some vegetables) and at least 15 degrees C for perennials.  Remember that these plants were in a warmer environment, and to stick them in cold soil can shock the roots and delay the plant’s  growth.

c) If you can, do your transplanting when the sky is overcast rather than when the sun is shining bright and hot. I always did my transplanting in the evening when the  atmosphere was cooler.  Early morning will work too.

If there’s rain in the forecast, that’s even better.  If your plant root becomes exposed to the sun for any length of time, or if the weather is really hot, your plants will be unduly stressed.

4. Remember to water your plants while they are still in their containers

Once you get your plants home, be sure to keep them moist.  Water them when necessary so they do not dry up before you have had a chance to transplant them.

Also, it is absolutely necessary that the plant be watered an hour or so before transplanting so that the soil around the root ball will not fall apart when you pull the plant out of the container.  You don’t want bare roots  exposed to sun and heat.

5. It’s now time to dig the hole for your plant.

Dig deep and wide.   The rule of thumb is to dig the hole so that it is twice as deep and 2 1/2 times the width of your root ball. If you have poor soil, mix in a good quantity of compost or 3-in-1 mix and/or good quality soil .(mix so that you have half compost etc.  and half original soil)

When transplanting plants, reuse your sods as compostHere’s a tip. If you must remove sod in order to do your transplanting, put the sod aside as you remove it, and before you add good soil to the hole when transplanting, take pieces of sod, turn them upside down and layer these in the bottom of your hole.  These sods cannot grow for they are upside down, and they become excellent medium for worms which in turn  fertilize your soil.

6. Add water to the soil in the hole before replanting your plant.

This is the time to find out how well your soil drains.   You can find full directions at

If your soil does not retain water very well or if your soil drains poorly, both problems can be remedied by adding compost to the bottom part of your hole (Means more digging and mixing)

You want the root ball to have moisture, but you don’t want mud, so be careful and don’t add too much water.

7. Now it’s time to replant your plant.

Before doing anything, note how deeply under the soil the root ball is while it is still in the container.  You will need to know that for step 8.

Now that you know how much soil should be on top of the root ball, you’re ready to transplant your plant  from the container to the ground.

You’ve made sure that the plant was moist so that you can easily slip it out of the container. Now while gently holding the container in your left hand, turn it sideways and gently tap on the bottom of the container with your right hand for the plant to begin sliding out of the container. Don’t hit too hard for you do not want your plant to go flying out of the container.

Gently removing a plant from its containerThen with one hand, tip the container even more while extending the other hand to catch the root ball.  If it does not easily come out of the container, gently pull the plant out of the container; then check the root system.  (At this point if you are doing your replanting under a shining sun, shade your plant from the sun with your body)

Take the time to loosen up the bottom of the roots which have gone round and round your plant. You can do that with a knife, screwdriver, or simply your fingers.

8. Now to do the planting.

Be sure you position the top of the root ball in the hole to about the same depth as it was in the container.  This is especially important if you are transplanting shrubs or trees.  If you plant the root ball of a shrub or tree  too deeply, it will not be able to breathe, and it will die.

Holding the root ball in proper position with one hand, add enough soil underneath it to keep it in the correct spot. The top of the root ball must not be higher than the surface level and, depending on the plant, not that far below the surface level.

Once the bottom of the hole has been filled up to the root ball, tamp it down gently with your hands to remove air bubbles and add water.

When I was transplanting, I would make sure the soil under the root ball was damp; then, I would add soil around the root ball to about half way up the side and water this soil just enough to moisten it (don’t drown it though).

I would continue this procedure of adding soil and moisturizing the soil until the root ball was securely surrounded and covered.  Remember to tamp the soil as you add the different layers of soil so that air pockets can be eliminated.

9. Reduce transplanting shock

Add a transplanting mixture (usually called Plant Starter which you can buy at your nursery) to your water.  Generally this transplanting mixture which is generally high in phosphorus (1-5-1 = high middle number) will help your roots establish themselves without being hindered by transplanting shock.

Be sure to read directions on the bottle before adding a small amount of this transplanting mixture to your water.

10. It’s important to keep the newly planted plant moist.

After you’ve finished the transplanting procedure, make sure every plant is sufficiently moist so that the roots can settle in.

In addition, for at least the first two weeks after the tranplanting procedure, it is important to keep watering the newly transplanted plant frequently.  Then you can start weaning the plant off this frequent watering and begin using the deep root watering system.

If you continue frequent watering rather than deep watering, the roots will be trained to come up towards the surface for its water, become exposed to sun and temperature, and be more apt to dry out.

Transplanting plants is really quite easy to do! Try it. You’ll enjoy it.


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deep root watering system

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