How To Move Plants Without Killing Them

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante
Credit: Shutterstock / ganjalex

Moving plants can be stressful, especially if you’ve had bad luck with it before. The process of transplanting isn’t as hard as it seems, but you can kill the plant if you do it wrong. That’s why so many people struggle with how to move plants without killing them.

You can move plants without killing them if you water them the day before, and pick a pot that can accommodate the roots. Use a trowel to dig the plant out and make sure to avoid the roots, so you don’t damage them. Fill the pot with fresh, nutritious soil and transplant the plant right away, so it doesn’t go without soil and water.

Some plants need water right after transplanting, but that’s not always necessary. Follow along as we explore how to move plants without killing them.

What Is The Best Time To Move Plants?

Early spring and fall are the best times to move plants because of the weather and growth conditions. Plants are rarely in bloom during early spring and fall, so you are unlikely to harm them. Flowers are much more likely to go into shock and even die if you move them during the peak of spring and summer.

How To Safely Transplant A Plant

1. Water The Plant

It’s a great idea to water the plants 24 hours before you transplant them. The transplanting process can be shocking for some plants, so water is essential to keep them healthy. That said, you shouldn’t overwater the plant or else it may harm the roots and make it too heavy.

Don’t water the plant the day you transplant it unless it looks withered and the soil is too dry. That’s a sign that you didn’t water it enough the day before. However, it may be necessary if it’s an unusually hot day, even if that’s not the best time to move plants.

2. Pick The Right Pot

It’s easy to go overboard with an oversized pot when you transplant plants. That is unnecessary, as you only need a pot that’s deep enough for the roots. If the pot is too big, it will shock the plant, and if it’s too small, it will damage the roots.

This takes some trial and error, so it helps to keep a few pots in different sizes. That way, you can put the plant in the pot that best suits the roots. Keep in mind that this transplantation is temporary unless you plan to keep it in the pot.

If that’s your plan, then you can also adapt and buy a new pot that best suits the plant. Otherwise, you can simply keep the plant in a temporary pot until you put it in the ground at a new location.

3. Prepare The Pot

Before you can move the plant, you must prepare the pot to accommodate it. Fill the pot with fresh, nutritious soil that drains well. Use starter fertilizer and perlite to create healthy soil that holds enough water without killing the plant.

Never use the old soil as it may not have enough nutrients, and it may contain harmful bacteria. Carefully turn the new soil and hollow out a small divot to give the roots plenty of room.

4. Dig Carefully

Now, it’s time to dig up the plant without killing it. This can be tricky, but it’s not as hard as it seems if you avoid the roots. Play it safe and dig away from the plant’s base, as that’s where you’re more likely to hit roots.

Slowly dig deeper and deeper, and check to see where the roots are as you dig. Once you spot the roots, make sure to carefully rub them to slightly loosen them. Dig in a circle around the plant with your trowel so you can easily remove it when it’s free.

Gently pull the plant out of the soil and stop for a moment if you feel too much resistance. That may indicate that the root is snagged on something, such as hard soil or another plant’s roots. Trim up to 1/3rd of the root ball to avoid compaction and overcrowding.

5. Put It In The Pot

Next, it’s time to put the plant in the pot. Dig out plenty of room in the middle of the pot to accommodate the root ball. Carefully place the plant in the soil and pack the dirt around it so it stays in place.

Make sure the roots aren’t gnarled and compacted, or the plant may struggle to adapt to the pot. Ideally, you should put the plant in the pot as soon as possible after you uproot it. The more time the plant spends uprooted and out of soil, the more likely it is to die.

6. Prune The Plant

While this is optional, it’s a great idea to prune your plant after you transplant it. Some gardeners prune dead leaves and stems before transplanting. However, it’s never too late to prune the plant, and it encourages healthy growth.

Dead leaves make plants waste energy in many cases. Prune dead growth to help the plant grow as healthy as possible. This also helps with air circulation, and pruning simply makes plants look better.

7. Put The Plant In A Great Spot

Plants have various needs when it comes to how much sunlight they require to thrive. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to whether the plant needs full sunlight, partial sunlight, or shade. The last thing you want is to overwhelm the plant with too much or too little sunlight. Find the perfect spot to help acclimate your plant to its new pot.

Should You Water A Plant After Repotting It?

You typically don’t need to water a plant for 1-2 days after repotting it. However, it ultimately depends on the soil and root conditions. Water the plant if the soil is overly dry and the leaves, stalk, and stems look unhealthy.

Some plants need water right away after you transplant them, especially if the roots struggle to adapt. You don’t need to go overboard, so simply give the plant as much water as you typically would. If you aren’t sure, you may want to give enough water to make the top inch of soil damp. That way, you won’t have to worry about over-saturating the roots.

Summing It Up

Thoroughly water the plant one day before you transplant it to ensure the roots are healthy. Next, find a pot that has enough space for the roots, and fill it with fresh, healthy soil. Carefully dig the plant up without cutting the roots, put it in the pot, and prune dead leaves. Put the plant in sunlight for at least a few hours after you transplant it.

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Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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