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How to Plant Transplants

Learning how to plant transplants correctly gives them the best chance for success. Whether you grow your transplants by starting seeds indoors or purchase them at a local nursery, it is essential to learn how to move them from their containers into your garden.

How to Plant Transplants

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7 Tips for How to Plant Transplants


1. Choose the best transplants

When selecting transplants to put in your garden, look for transplants that are:

  • Healthy and green.
  • Free from pests and disease. Signs of disease might include yellow or discolored leaves.
  • Tight and compact stems; stocky plants.
  • Healthy roots.
  • The right size for the container; not too big.
How to Plant Transplants

What to avoid:

  • Plants too large for the container (bigger does not mean better!).
  • Roots that are growing out of the bottom of the container.
  • Vegetables or fruits that have already blossomed.
  • Stretched out tall or leggy plants.
This plant is root-bound. The roots are circling the container.

How to deal with root-bound plants:

  • Loosen coiled roots. Using your hands, gently tease the roots apart. Trim back any extra-long roots before planting.
  • If the roots won’t loosen, spray the soil away with water first and then uncoil the roots.
  • If the roots still won’t untangle. Make several vertical slits in the root ball with a knife to stimulate the growth of new roots before planting.

2. Harden off transplants

If you purchased transplants from a nursery, they might be ready to plant. Set newly purchased transplants in dappled shade for a day before planting to ensure they are hardened off.

If you grow your seedlings, begin hardening off seedlings a week or two before planting. 

  • Put seedlings outside in a protected and shady location. Start with an hour or two, gradually working up to several hours. 
  • After several days, allow them to be in the sun for part of the day
  • Bring them back indoors the first few nights if temperatures are cold. 
  • Protect transplants from birds with netting or tulle if necessary.
  • During this process, keep the transplants well watered.
How to Plant Transplants

3. Plant on a shady day or at the best time of day for your season

Plant transplants on a shady day, late afternoon, or early evening.  

For spring planting, plant transplants in the morning so they have the entire day to adjust before the cooler temperatures at night. 

For fall and monsoon planting, plant transplants in the early evening, so they have the cooler temperatures of nighttime to adjust before the day’s heat.


4. Prepare the soil before planting transplants

A plant in your garden will reflect the quality of the soil. Focus on adding organic matter at the beginning of each season. Test your soil pH and make adjustments if the soil is too alkaline or acidic. Add fertilizer based on recommendations from a soil test.

Prepare the soil before planting transplants

5. Follow the steps for how to plant transplants correctly

Follow these steps for how to plant transplants for the best chance of successful transplants.

  • Water the plants several hours (if possible) before transplanting.
  • Check the soil moisture of the planting area; it should be moist but not too wet. 
  • Dig a planting hole as deep as the plant’s root ball and a little wider. 
  • Gently remove the plant from its container by tipping it over into your hand. Gently tap the bottom of the pot to encourage the seedling out. Handle transplants carefully; handle transplants by the leaves rather than the stem.
  • Inspect the roots. Gently loosen the roots, mainly if they are concentrated at the bottom of the plant with no visible soil. 
  • Put the transplant in the hole at ground level or a little higher to allow for settling. (An exception is tomatoes, which you plant deeper.)
  • Fill in the remainder of the hole with soil, and press the ground firmly but gently. Firming the soil encourages good contact between the transplant’s roots and the soil. Do not compact the soil or the roots. 
  • Gently soak the soil after planting to eliminate air pockets and help the roots settle in. 
  • Spread mulch around the transplant, keeping it an inch or two away from the stem.

6. Keep transplants well-watered

New transplants will need more frequent watering than those in the ground longer. Careful attention to watering helps the plants transition well and begin to grow. Do not let the soil dry out. 

Water the plants once a day the first week after planting. Reduce watering to every other day the second week. Pay attention to your plant, the soil, and weather conditions, and water as needed.

Water young seedlings often

7. Protect new transplants if necessary

You may need to provide additional protection for new seedlings

  • When temperatures are hot, you may want to provide additional shade during the hottest times of day for several days while the plant gets established. 
  • If windy conditions are present, seedlings will dry out more quickly. Protect seedlings with floating row cover or water more frequently. 
  • Young transplants may need protection from birds or other pests. Barrier methods are usually effective.
Protect young transplants from birds with barrier methods

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