How Long Does Transplant Shock Last? (+ How to Recover From it)

Humans are pretty good at adapting to changes, including any location changes. However, in the case of plants, the situation is not quite the same. Plants prefer to grow in a single location, and when they are moved or transplanted, most of them suffer from shock. When a plant is dislocated and moved to a new location, it can be shocking and even distressing. 

It can be excruciating.

A transplant shock is something that a plant may experience when moved from one location to another. The duration of transplant shock varies by plant. Some plants can recover in two weeks, while others can take up to three years.

As a result, gardeners must learn to transplant plants properly to cause the plants as little stress as possible. Keeping this in mind, we’ve put together this handy post in which we’ll go over everything we need to know about transplant shock. We would also shed light on how to avoid this type of shock in plants and how to assist plants in recovering from it. 

Let’s get started.

What is Transplant Shock?

What is Transplant Shock

Transplanting is an essential component of gardening. It is unlikely for any gardener to avoid it altogether. It is a method of transporting a plant from one location to another. For plants, it’s more like moving from an old house to a new one. Nonetheless, it may not be as simple as it appears. Plants dislike shifting their locations. As a result, transplant shock occurs!

Transplant shock can be defined as the shock that plants experience when relocated. This shock manifests as stunted growth, lack of flowering and fruits, etc.

Humans may find it surprising. But on the other hand, plants are extremely sensitive to climate, temperature, soil, and other natural factors. As a result, if the gardener fails to take extra precautions when moving them, the plants are likely to suffer transplant shock.

This shock is very common in newly planted plants that do not have a fully established root system. Trauma can be caused by uprooting such plants to move them from a small container to a larger one or from indoors to outdoors. Because the roots are disrupted, they cannot perform routine activities, increasing their susceptibility to injuries and illnesses.

Potential Signs of Transplant Shock

Potential Signs of Transplant Shock

Although plants are affected by relocation shock internally, its signs manifest outside. In other words, certain signs confirm that a newly relocated plant is suffering from transplant shock.

Every gardener’s first step toward assisting their plants’ recovery would be to learn about the potential signs of transplant shock. So, here are some possible indicators of the same.

  • Burnt leaves
  • The growth is slowed or stagnant
  • Drooping leaves
  • Premature leaf fall
  • Devoid of flowering or very limited
  • Spring leaf emergence is delayed
  • Leaves turn yellow
  • Withering leaves
  • Rolling or curling leaves
  • Internodes get shorter
  • There is no root regeneration
  • Winter hardiness gets reduced
  • Premature autumn shades
  • Overproduction of seeds
  • Secondary disease complications
  • Secondary insect issues

What Causes Transplant Shock in Plants?

What Causes Transplant Shock in Plants

Transplant shock in plants is almost unavoidable. However, gardeners can work towards minimizing them as far as possible. And to do so, they need to be aware of the factors that cause this kind of shock in plants.

Also, it must be remembered that transplant shock can be the result of transplanting a plant as well as be related to pre-plant care to post-plant maintenance. Therefore, we have categorized the causes into three broad categories to make them easier to understand.

1. Inadequate Transplant Strategies

  • Before transplanting the plant, the root balls are drying out.
  • Planting (container) plants with spiral root growth instead of outward growth.
  • In the new location, the planting depth was incorrect.
  • Tender plants are subjected to high temperatures.
  • The plant is suffering from sunburn or frost damage.
  • There was more than one season of tree wrap on the trunk.
  • Roots burn due to the overuse of fertilizer during planting.
  • There is no proper hardening before transplanting the plant.

2. Inappropriate Transplanting Site

  • Poorly drained soil
  • The new site’s soil quality and condition do not match the plant’s previous soil.
  • Rotting of roots caused by stagnant water in the area.
  • Soil that is too hard or compact results in inhibited root growth.
  • Planting a shade-loving plant in direct sunlight, or conversely.

3. Poor Post-Planting Maintenance 

  • Insufficient hydration
  • Inadequate nitrogen-infused fertilizer application results in an imbalanced root-to-shoot ratio.
  • Under-fertilization
  • Injury to a newly planted tree or shrub.
  • No pest or disease control.

How Long Does Transplant Shock Last?

To be precise, the duration of transplant shock depends on certain external factors, which vary from plant to plant. Therefore, we might never understand the pain that plants go through as a psychological shock. However, we should understand that plants feel pain for a certain period. 

Some trees or plants can take quite a long to restore from transplant shock, whereas others can recover within a few weeks or months. Vegetable plants, for example, recover in 2-4 weeks, so the duration of transplant shock is relatively short. On the other hand, Woody plants may experience pain for up to 5 years. It takes these plants a long time to adjust to their new surroundings.

The way plants are dealt with during relocating and transferring is yet another major factor influencing how long plants will suffer from transplant stress. Always keep in mind that plants are highly sensitive to climatic and soil changes. So if you transplant a plant from well-drained fertile soil to mildly clay or compact soil, it is likely to go into shock.

Therefore, if you want to minimize the scope of transplanting shock, you must recreate the plants’ natural habitat in the new location. The plant should continue experiencing the same ecological condition that it used to in its old location. 

With this, we migrate to our next section that focuses on gardeners’ steps towards avoiding transplant shock and helping plants recover from the situation.

Helping Plants to Recover Transplant Shock

Helping Plants to Recover Transplant Shock

Before we start, it is important to consider that there is no proven method to avoid transplant shock entirely. When a plant is transplanted, it is bound to experience some trauma or shock. However, what can be done is to take steps to reduce the shock as much as possible or assist plants in recovering from it.

With this in mind, let us focus on essential steps that every gardener can take to address plant transplant shock.

1. Watering the Plant Regularly

When it comes to relocating plants, we must not overlook the importance of regular watering. It is critical to keep the root moist. In fact, the biggest and most important approach to preventing transplant shock is additional watering.

Newly transplanted plants, on average, require 1-2 inches of water per week. Water-loving plants and those growing in sandy loam will need more water. Additional watering may be necessary until the plants are properly developed, which could take up to three years after planting. Soaking the root area periodically every 7 to 10 days during dry seasons is advisable.

2. Cut the Extra Leaves

Reduce the number of leaves on newly transplanted plants to help them recover from the shock.

Reducing the number of leaves would put less strain on the roots’ ability to feed them. However, take care not to injure the plant when cutting the leaves, as this could increase its stress level.

3. Add a Bit of Sugar

Sugar not only adds sweetness to our food but also aids plants in overcoming transplant shock. Simply combine sugar and water and mist the soil around the newly transplanted plant root zone. 

Although there is no scientific proof that this DIY would work, there is no harm in using sugar because it is not toxic to plants. And two different issues must be addressed separately. 

To begin, if you use Epsom salt, do not exaggerate by adding sugar, as too many different substances can exacerbate shock. Second, if you apply sugar, keep an eye on the soil for any bug infestation.

4. Mulching

Mulch is an essential component of gardening and caring for plants and shrubs. As a result, spreading 2-3 inches of organic mulch over the entire root system of newly transplanted plants may be beneficial. Mulching is beneficial in a variety of ways, including

  • Weed management
  • Soil moisture conservation
  • lowering the soil’s temperature
  • Plant protection from mower damage, etc

When mulching, always use organic mulch rather than volcanic or black plastic mulch.

5. Protection from Sunburn

Allowing a new plant to soak up the warmth of natural sunlight is a good idea. However, too much exposure to sunlight can result in sunburn, which can cause more harm than good. As a result, depending on the nature of your plant, transplant it to the appropriate location. 

This is specifically true for plants that prefer shade over direct sunlight. Furthermore, transplanting thin-barked maple, honey locust, and apple trees should be done with extreme caution, as these trees must be shielded for the first three winters after transplantation.

6. No Stalking

Stalking is feasible, but not always. This method is not required for all trees and plants. This is so because when trees blow freely with the gust of wind, their trunk and overall strength increase. As a consequence of this, roots spread deeper and more quickly. As a result, stalking should be avoided unless absolutely necessary due to a tree’s top-heaviness.

7. Fertilizing Level

If the newly transplanted plants have not yet properly established their roots, wait until the first year before fertilizing them. The goal should be to give the newly transplanted plant time to reestablish its roots rather than hasten its foliage growth. 

Fertilization causes more leaves to grow, putting additional strain on the newly establishing roots. As a result, the entire plant would be put under strain. Begin fertilizing in year two after transplanting, depending on the soil type, in late fall or early spring.

Also Read: What’s The Best Lawn Fertilizer Ratio?

8. Give the Plant Some Time

The final and perhaps most important step is to give the newly transplanted plant or tree enough time to recover from transplant shock. Always remember that different plants require different amounts of time to recover from trauma. 

Interfering in the process could exacerbate the situation. Allow the plant the necessary time to adjust to the new location, climate, and soil. Simply ensure that it receives enough sunlight, water, and other nutrients to ensure its survival.


Although transplanting plants is one of the terrifying aspects of gardening, it is unavoidable in most cases. Transplant shock is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder in plants, and it can worsen if the gardener is unaware of it. 

So, the best thing we can do is understand the stress, how long it takes a plant to recover from it, and adopt methods to aid in the recovery system. And all of this has been discussed in this post. We hope that this article provided you with useful information and that you enjoyed reading it.

If you have ever worked to help newly transplanted plants recover from shock, please share your experience with us.

About Jennifer Igra

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York City known for it’s green gardens. Jennifer, a 30 year old gardener and green living fanatic started Igra World to share her gardening journey and increase gardening awareness among masses. Follow Igra World to improve your gardening skills.

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