Transplanting Trees and Shrubs – Part I

A tree that is not properly transplanted can experience transplant shock. (Courtesy: Jeff at

A tree that is not properly transplanted can experience transplant shock.
(Courtesy: Jeff at

Many trees and shrubs you see in people’s gardens originally started as a sapling at some nursery. They got into the garden or in the lawn by a process known as transplanting.

Many neophyte gardeners may not be aware that the act of transplantation is a delicate one. It is not uncommon for a transplanted bush or tree to suffer what is called “transplant shock.”

The term refers to stresses suffered by trees and shrubs that have recently been transplanted. In short, the plant fails to root properly and, as a result, is poorly established as a part of the landscape. The reason this occurs is that new plants don’t have an extensive root system. So they get stressed because they are not getting the proper amount of water. Once a tree or shrub is suffering from water stress, then it is susceptible to damage from the weather, insects, and disease. If there are several other stresses being experienced, then the plant just doesn’t function normally.

One major stress that transplanted trees and shrubs suffer is called leaf scorch. In this case, the leaves of the tree or shrub turn yellow or bronze. Later, they dry out and turn brown. Other signs include the appearance of wilting leaves, yellowing, and leaf curling. The needles of an evergreen turn gray-green when they first experience water stress. As the stress continues, the ends of the needles commonly take on a light tan color. It the stress is not relieved, then the leaves die, twigs and limbs dieback and the overall growth of the tree or shrub is stunted.

A plant can’t establish itself because of improper planting, improper watering, or the use of improper plant material.

One way to prevent the problem of improper planting is to use the same type of soil in the plant hole as the soil around it. If, for example, the soil around the area where the tree or shrub will be planted is heavy and you fill the plant hole with a light soil mix, then water gets trapped, the roots are suffocated and the plant eventually dies.

Another planting issue is how deep to plant the tree or shrub. If you plant too deep the roots could suffocate; if you plant too shallow, then the tree suffers root stress due to the extreme temperatures and moisture variation in the shallower soil. Experts suggest that you consult with the nursery personnel for proper planting depths.

Another problem that can effect planting is not properly spreading the roots of container grown plants. Plants that begin their growth in containers may have roots that are coiled around due to the space limitations of the pot. To avoid future problems, gardeners are advised to gently uncoil the roots and spread them out before planting.

It is not uncommon to receive plants from nurseries with twine, rope or wire wrapped around their trunks. Be sure that you cut off the twine, rope or wire from the tree before planting.

Properly watering the transplanted plant is essential in the first year. The type of soil the tree is planted in and the amount of rainfall experienced in your region should help determine how frequently you water and how much water you need.

During growing season trees planted in soil that drains well should get at least 1-inch of water each week. On the other hand, plants that are in soil that drains poorly can be watered less frequently. It is advised that you use a garden sprinkler or soaker hose and measure the amount of water you use with a container that has straight sides.

The first thing to do to prevent the use of improper plant material in your transplanting efforts is to be certain that the specie of tree or shrub you intend to grow is suited to the prevailing conditions of the region. That includes whether the area is considered wet or dry and the content of the soil. You don’t want to plant a tree that flourishes in acid in soil that has alkaline. Always select plants that are best suited for the plant hardiness zone in which you live. The staff of the nursery from which you bought the tree or shrub will help you with this.

(Next time we will discuss the proper method of planting transplanted trees and shrubs)

About Robert Janis

Written by Robert Janis for LawnEq - Your specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable manufacturers.

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