Learning how to transplant a plant is a vital step in becoming a serious grower. Transplanting is a necessity if you want your plants to reach their full potential.
You want your plants roots to have all the room they need, as they directly influence how your plant grows above soil. We will go in depth on when and how to transplant, but first, let’s talk about why this is so important.
Why you should transplant your plants
There are plenty of reasons you should transplant your plants, but they can all be summed up to one in particular: They will grow faster and better. Giving your plants more room for their roots leads to explosive growth, and a healthier plant!
If you don’t transplant, you can expect a few problems to arise. For one, you will see flimsier new growth.
Without a dense, happy root system, growth will be unimpressive. You’ll likely experience nutrient deficiency or toxicity, stem discoloration, and unimpressive flower development.
Furthermore, your plants will eventually become root bound. This is a condition where your roots reach the walls of the pot or container, and with nowhere to go, circle back across themselves.
These root circles lead to root binding, where your plant starts to strangle itself.
Root bound plants, not surprisingly, don’t grow well. That’s why it is so important to replant once your plant outgrows its container.
Do you have to transplant your plants?
Transplanting can be a chore, and you may be wondering if this is a task you can avoid altogether. One option is to plant in a large container, one that your plants will finish their lives in.
It needs to be a large pot, so that you don’t run into any root binding issues. This will take some educated guesswork, as you’ll have to estimate how big your plants will get. If you are growing smaller plants, like in a closet, this is a more feasible option.
There are some issues with this method, though. At first, your plant will be way too small for the pot. This can lead to overwatering, and drowning your roots.
Overwatering can lead to root rot, a common plant disease. Just water carefully, and make sure you are watching for the signs of root rot.
When to transplant your plants
There is no set timetable, but you’ll want to transplant as your plant outgrows its pot.
You may do it a few times per grow cycle - after germination, during veg, and before flower. Or, you may not transplant at all.
Transplanting seedlings into their first pot or container
We won’t start by talking about the germination process or planting seeds.
We are going to talk about what to do once your seedlings are ready to be moved into their first pot, whether it be from paper towels, root plugs or starter cubes, or simple from a glass of water.
If you are using starter plugs or root cubes, you can simply place these in the new pot or container partially filled with grow media. Then, cover the plug or cube the rest of the way.
You can tell your seedling is ready when you see healthy root development popping through the cube or plug. Make sure your media is moist when transplanting.
If you used a paper towel or simply a glass of water, wait till the taproot is about a half inch long.
Then, carefully place the seed into a small divot in a pot or container filled with grow media. Cover the seedling, and spray the top of the media with water.
A spray bottle will come in handy for early watering. After 24-48 hours, you should see your seedling pop through the soil with it’s first set of leaves.
When should I transplant seedlings into a bigger pot or container?
Often times, the first home for seedlings is a red solo cup, or any plastic cup for that matter. Small plants grow best in small pots, but within a few weeks your plant will outgrow this container. There are a few ways you can tell when the right time is.
Once your plant’s leaves extend past the brim of the red solo cup, it is just about time to transplant. Another tactic some growers use is watching for 4-5 sets of leaves.
At this point, your plant has developed enough root mass to where it needs a new home. Another good rule of thumb is to watch plant height. In general, plants need 2 gallons of pot/soil for every 12 inches of growth.
It shouldn’t come to this, but you can also watch the bottom of your pot or container. If you can see roots through the drainage holes, you are already late to transplanting! You should make plans to switch pots immediately.
Transplanting young plants into a larger veg container
Once you’ve determined your plants are in fact ready to transplant into a larger pot to finish vegging, you need to do a few things.
Cut the nutrient feeding schedule in half for a day or two. This is shown to reduce the stress and shock from transplanting, and will help in another manner as well. A dryer medium is much easier to transplant from, as the roots will separate from the soil easily.
How to actually transplant your plant
The actual transplanting process sounds scientific and scary, but it's a lot easier than it sounds. We can break it down into a few simple steps:
Step 1) Prepare your new pot or container
You should prepare your new pot by filling it with grow media. You don’t need to fill it full just yet.
You can fill the new pot the rest of the way once your plant is in it, to secure the roots in place.
Get the new grow media moist, and dig out a hole to fit your plant.
Step 2) Carefully remove your plant from it’s current container
Now comes the hard part - getting your plant out of its container with harming it. There are a few tricks you can do that will make it easer. One of which is using a butter knife.
Slide your butter knife in between the wall of the pot and the grow media, and go in a circular motion around the pot, freeing the grow media, and potentially roots, from the walls.
Then, place your hand flat against the grow media, supporting the stem of your plant with your fingers.
Tip the pot upside down with your other hand, and gently tap the bottom or shake the pot to free the plant from the container.
Since your plant is so small here, it should be easy. In some instances, you may need to actually pull on the plant to free it.
Be super gentle, and definitely don’t jerk on it to try and free it.
Step 3) Transplant the plant into the new container
Shake the plant a bit to remove old, excess grow media from the root ball. Then, simply plant it in the hole you recently dug!
From there, its just a matter of filling in the remaining grow media to anchor your plant in place. Gently pat everything down to make sure the roots have a good grip on the soil.
Give the plant a good watering/feeding, as this process is pretty stressful for plants. And, its likely been a few days since you watered or fed.
Handling transplant shock
You will likely experience some degree of transplant shock. This is where your plants growth is stunted and your plants look sickly right after transplanting. As you can probably guess, removing your plants and putting them in a new environment is a stressful experience!
The good news is your plant will rebound quickly, and grow faster than before. There are some ways to minimize this shock, though. One of the easiest ways is simply transplanting at the right time - right when your plants have grown to their potential in their current pot, but before they become root bound. Some other good rules of thumb are:
- Water 2 days before transplanting and then stop
- Transplant early rather than late if you are unsure
- Be careful with the roots, and avoid disturbing them anymore than you have to
If you are experiencing extreme transplant shock, try giving your plants some organic seaweed kelp extract. This will help them recover quickly.
Transplanting later in the plants life
If you are growing huge plants, you’ll likely need to transplant more than once. Most often, those who grow smaller plants can get away with just one transplant if they need to at all. But, its likely you will end up transplanting at least one more time before flower if you are growing tall plants.
You would simply repeat the process from above, but working with a bigger pot and a bigger plant. This can make the transplanting a bit more taxing, but the idea is the same.
Our advice is to give your plant a new home before flowering, approximately 1-2 weeks. This will give the plant time to acclimate to it’s new home, so that it can flower without transplant shock hindering it.
When you make the flip to flower, your plants will explode in size - including their roots. That is why you need to make sure your pot is not maxed out going into flower.
Final thoughts on transplanting
If you have never transplanted before, hopefully you have a better understanding of how to transplant a plant, and can approach the task with confidence.
If you have any questions about this or are unsure about any of the steps, reach out to our expert growers and we will walk you through it.