By: HTG Supply on 03/14/2018

Hey Growers, if you’re like our green thumbs here at HTG Supply, you’re probably chomping at the bit to get your garden plans mapped out for the coming outdoor growing season. For most of us, transplanting will be involved at some point during our process. This is one of those garden tasks that can be easily overcomplicated if you’re a new grower but somewhat of an afterthought if you have experience. So while we’re still watching the snow come down in the chilly Midwest, we figured now would be the perfect time to cover the principles of potting up. We’ll cover the basics transplanting as well as some advanced tips for making a smooth transition! Plus, take advantage of our featured coupon code for savings on growing gear that will help you get the job done!

What Is Transplanting?

Transplanting is defined as the process of moving a plant out of one container and into another container. This is done when a plant has grown too big for its container or after the seed has started to grow (germinated). Whether you’re moving your plants to an outdoor area or into larger grow bags, nursery pots, or fabric pots, taking the time and care to do it right will go a long way. When transplanting, you should focus on the roots of your plants, they are very sensitive and can be damaged if not handled carefully during the transplanting process.

Types of Transplanting

Potting Up – When you put a plant from a smaller container into a larger one it is called potting up. Many growers start plants in small containers to maximize the number of plants then can grow in a space. As plants increase in size they will need to be potted up to the next size container. This term is also used when initially transferring seedlings in seed starter plugs or Rockwool into a container.

Hydroponics – Soil growers aren’t the only ones who need to transplant. Hydroponics usually involves transplanting at some level as well, but transplanting for hydro works a bit different. Some growers will move plants from smaller hydroponic systems to larger ones, which is most easily accomplished using rockwool. Rockwool cubes can simply be transplanted inside of a larger rockwool cubes and most other types of rockwool mediums. Transferring starts or clones into larger rockwool cubes is also the best way to transfer plants if you need to utilize an intermediate growing area before transplanting into a different type of hydroponic system. Transplanting from systems that use net pots is typically not recommended, but if you find yourself in a situation where you need to move a plant in this type of system, it’s best to do it before a large root mass has grown through the basket. In this case, the root ball can be gently removed and placed in a new basket. If your plant looks like the one our friend has below though, the best solution may be to move the plant, basket and all, into a new basket to avoid damaging your plant’s roots.

Outdoors – Many growers start their plants from seed indoors and then transplant them outside, especially in colder climates where the outdoor grow season is short. To maximize yield and ensure you get the most from your outdoor plants, starting your plants inside and then transplanting them outside makes a lot of sense.

Pro Tip: When transplanting small plants into outdoor beds/gardens, you should dig a hole twice as large as the container the plant is in. You may want to add potting soil, or worm castings to the hole if the outdoor soil is not great. Clay soils will benefit from adding perlite whereas sandy soils can be improved if you add coco coir.

When to Transplant Seedlings and Growing Plants

Timing is one of the most important parts of transplanting. So how do we know when it’s the right time to transplant? In most cases, it is better to transplant early if you want to keep your plants growing at their maximum rate. If you wait too long to transplant you can end up stunting your plants’ growth. When roots stop growing towards gravity (down) they will release hormones that tell the top of the plant to stop growing. This makes sense evolutionally – if the roots can’t grow to get new nutrients and water and the top of the plant keeps growing, the plant will die. Many scientific studies have shown that if plants have stunted growth due to poor root growth they do not recover fully and will have a lower growth rate. Moral of the story is – transplant before your plant becomes stunted.

While transplanting is a very necessary part of indoor gardening, it will stress your plants so you should only do it when necessary and do it right to minimize the stress. You should definitely transplant before your plant gets ‘root bound’ like the plant in the image above, which means the roots are growing in circles inside of the container. In this case, the root ball can be gently removed and placed in a new basket. If your plant looks like the one our friend has below though, the best solution may be to move the plant, basket and all, into a new basket to avoid damaging your plant’s roots.

If you can’t pull your plant out to check the roots, another sign that it’s time to pot up is the dryness of your plant’s soil – what we mean is “how often is it dry”. Plant in properly-sized garden pots shouldn’t require water every day, so if you water it every day and the soil is bone dry the very next day, it’s definitely time to give your plant a bigger better container to grow in. Along those same lines, a droopy and weak looking plant can also indicate it’s time to transplant. If all of your other parameters are in place and your plant still looks sickly it’s probably time to pot up.

How to Transplant Seedlings & Small Plants – Step by Step

So, now that we know why and when we might need to transplant, let’s talk about how it’s done! The most common type of transplanting we deal with is moving seed plugs to pots or small plants into larger nursery pots so we’ll break it down, step by step. For our seedling, we will transplant into its final Phat Sack fabric grow pot container, and for our small plant, we will be transplanting into a Phat Sack Transplanter. These fabric transplanting pots offer a convenient Velcro opening, which will make transplanting this plant to its final home later much easier.

Step by step how to transplant your plant

STEP 1 – Water the plant to be transplanted or for seedlings, ensure they are moist before transplanting. Many growers will use a Trichoderma bacteria and B1 nutrient solution to reduce transplant shock as well as a high-phosphorus fertilizer to boost root growth.

STEP 2 – For seedling/plug transplants, fill the new container with soil and dig a small hole round enough and deep enough for the plug and any protruding roots. For potting up small plants, make sure you have at least a few inches of soil on the bottom for the roots to grow down into.

STEP 3 – Water the medium in the new container (with ¼ strength fertilizer if you choose) to make sure it is not dry. Dry soil will harm the roots.

STEP 4 – Remove your plant from its container by holding the stem as close to the soil or plug as possible.

STEP 5 – Carefully place the plant in the new container make sure the roots will grow down and out.

STEP 6 – Backfill soil around the plant making sure the roots are in contact with the new soil and that there are no air pockets. If roots are protruding from the bottom of the medium/plug you will need to backfill around them. Hold the transplant above the medium with only the tips of the roots touching and gently fill the soil in around them.

STEP 7 – Water the new transplant with a ¼ diluted phosphorus fertilizer to ensure the entire root zone is moist.

STEP 8 – Put your newly transplanted plant into a low light, cool area. Photosynthesis uses water so you don’t want to put your plant in an area where it will need to really use water until the roots start to grow again.

STEP 9 – When you see new leaf growth you can be sure the roots are already growing, place your plant into the light intensity it usually is under and watch it grow!

Hardening Off Plants / Seedlings

When you transplant your plants outside you will have to prepare them for the temperature and UV radiation. You know that the sun puts off UV rays, right? Well, a plant grown outside is used to those UV rays – it grew up with them. But the plant you’ve spent a couple months nurturing indoors is not prepared, it needs to be eased into its new life in the sun. Believe it or not, if you just put a plant grown indoors into a sunny area it can die within a couple days. Hardening off is the process of introducing your plant to the outside environment in small doses to get it ready. Exposing your plant to lower levels of UV light over a period of time will prepare it for life in direct sunlight. This can either be done by placing your plant outside for an hour each day and slowly increasing that amount of time until it can be put outside permanently OR by introducing UV light to your garden artificially in the form of a supplemental UV light. Most growers use T5 grow lights ffor seed starting and early growth, and in this case, it’s a simple matter of replacing one the standard grow spectrum bulbs in your setup with bulbs like the AgroMax Pure Par Veg +UV that provide a grow spectrum that includes beneficial UV light

The incremental hardening off process (transferring plants indoors/outdoors back and forth) can be completed in as little as seven to ten days. In order to fully prepare your plants for outdoor life, we recommend hardening off for at least a full week with a bulb that provides beneficial UV, and then placing your plants outside for several hours each day for an additional week. This will allow your plants to acclimate to both the sun’s light and the ambient conditions of the air outside (things like temperature, humidity, etc). If you are not going to use a UV bulb, you may want to put your plants in a shadier area the first day or two before putting them in direct sunlight, just to be safe. You will need to keep an eye on the temperature too if it is spring. Most plants will suffer tissue damage when the temperature goes below 40°F, which can easily result in the loss of your plants, especially when they haven’t dealt with cold temperatures.

Transplant Shock- Limiting the Effect

No matter how well it goes, your plant will experience an adjustment period after being transplanted, and it may show signs of distress during this period. Transplant shock is the term for the temporary stress your plant experiences after being moved into a new environment. You may notice some sickly looking leaves, drooping, and general “unhappiness” for a short time, but rest assured this is normal. Your plant is basically going into “conservation mode”, but once its roots begin to grow and send hormones signaling the top of the plant all is well it’ll be growing bigger and faster than before. Still, this can take some time and your plant is very susceptible to pests, rot, and disease in this weakened state, so you should do what you can to minimize the transplant shock your plant experiences.

There are several things you can do that will help to accomplish this:

• Move quickly – You don’t want to let your plant sit around with its roots in the open air for a long time, so get it out of its old pot and into a new one without wasting time.

• Root boosters – Using a root boosting nutrient will allow your plant’s roots to repair themselves more quickly, which will speed up your plant’s recovery.

• B-Vitamins – Adding a B-Vitamin supplement will decrease the impact of shock.

• Veg Phase – Repotting early in the vegetative phase of your plant’s lifecycle will ensure that your plant has time and energy to heal. Transplanting during or right before bloom is not ideal!

• Chill Out – Placing your plants in a slightly cooler and/or shadier spot for a brief period after transplanting will give it a slight break, allowing it to relax and recover.

• Take It Easy – Too much fertilizer after transplanting won’t do your plants any favors; for soil transplants, most potting soil mixes contain nutrients anyway, so your nutrients will be available. Your plants may look a little sickly, but it’s not due to a lack of food, they just need a little time. It may also help to start your feeding schedule back up around half strength for a week before resuming the normal schedule. Make sure the soil dries out a bit to be sure the roots are not being drowned

When all is said and done, transplanting doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be done carefully. Just take your time preparing and be gentle with your plants’ roots and you’ll be all set. If you still have questions, stop by your local store and ask the experts there for more information – we’re always happy to help!

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Tips or tricks of your own to share? Join the conversation, and comment below! Don’t forget to check out this week’s coupon code and sale information as well! From all of us here, good luck, stay safe, and Happy Growing!

THIS WEEK’S COUPON CODE: POTUP31618

Enter the promo code at checkout for a 10% discount on any Phat Sack transplanter as well as select transplanting supplies featured below. Visit your local HTG Supply and simply mention this article to get the deal in-store as well! Thanks again for tuning into Talking Shop with HTG Supply! Offer valid through HTGSupply.com and in-store 03/16/18-04/06/18. Cannot be combined with other offers. Follow us on social media for all the Sales, Events and Customer Appreciation Days. In addition, learn more about indoor growing and get all kinds of tips, tricks and techniques!