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Techniques for Terrific Transplanting

By Matt LeBannister | Last updated: April 26, 2021
Key Takeaways

Transplanting is a stressful, delicate moment in any plant’s life journey. If not done properly plants can become damaged and even die. But when done correctly and with care, transplanting will give your plant’s roots the space they need to grow and your plants will thrive.

Source: Carolina K. Smith M.d./Dreamstime.com

Every plant starts out as a seed or clone. Eventually the seedlings and cuttings will outgrow their starter cube/disk or container and need to be transplanted into a larger container. Transplanting these young, growing plants into larger containers is essential if you want to maximize potential yield. If these plants are not transplanted, they will suffer and not live up to their potential.

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Often seedlings are germinated and cuttings rooted in starter rockwool cubes or coco disks, which are small and should only be used to germinate seedlings or root cuttings. Once you see roots protruding out the bottom, it is time to transplant them to larger containers. If you do not transplant once you see roots coming out the bottom of the cube or disk, the roots can dry out easily, damaging the delicate young plants and creating an entry point for fungi and bacteria.

Starter cubes can fit directly into larger cubes, such as 4-in. rockwool cubes, and then placed into the desired hydroponic system, namely flood and drain. The 1-in. starter cubes can also be placed in hydroponic baskets filled with expanded clay, diatomite, gravel or similar materials to be placed in deep water culture, nutrient film technique and expandable drip systems. In hydroponic systems, root space is not as important as with plants that will remain in pots.

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Seedlings and cuttings can also be started in small pots using soil or a potting mix. Once the roots have filled their small containers, it is time for transplanting. It is slightly more difficult to transplant from a small container to a larger one. You must be careful not to damage the roots or injure any other part of the fragile young plants. What you want to do is gently loosen the root ball and soil from the container.

This can be accomplished by lightly squeezing the container. Once this is done and your new, larger container is ready for the new plant, you can carefully turn the plant upside down, with the stem safely held between your fingers. The plant and root ball should slide out of the container with ease.

When a plant has been started in a small container, you should transplant it into a relatively larger container. Once that plant has outgrown that container, repeat the process above and put it into an even larger container. Fast-growing plants typically require a final container anywhere from 3 to 5 gal. in size.

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The reason you don’t put the seedling or cutting straight into the 5-gal. container right away is these small plants cannot uptake enough water to allow the soil or potting mix to dry out. If the soil or potting mix does not have the opportunity to dry out, the plant could become susceptible to diseases such as damping off.

A great way to minimize the stress a plant experiences when transplanting is to give your plants a good dose of vitamin B1 supplement, which can prevent shock and enhance a plant’s ability to recover, before and after transplanting. Never apply vitamin B1 supplement to any plant that is flowering.

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You should also never transplant a plant that is in its flowering stage. Flowering plants can be shocked easily and this shock can cause the plant to revert from its flowering stage back into the vegetative stage. Even if this doesn’t happen, and your plant manages to stay in the flowering stage, the stress would likely negatively affect overall yield.

Transplanting can be a stressful time in a plant’s life. But using these techniques, along with some general tender, loving care, transplanting can be done with ease and your plants can continue their journey and live up to their full potential.

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Written by Matt LeBannister

Profile Picture of Matt LeBannister
Matt LeBannister developed a green thumb as a child, having been born into a family of experienced gardeners. During his career, he has managed a hydroponic retail store and represented leading companies at the Indoor Gardening Expos. Matt has been writing articles for Maximum Yield since 2007. His articles are published around the world.

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