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Avoiding Transplant Shock in New Plant Material
It’s exciting to add new plants to the landscape, so it’s disappointing when they fail to thrive or even die. Avoid these poor outcomes by reducing transplant shock. Transplant shock is often related to the disturbance of the roots of a plant. It can also be caused by moving the plant into a much sunnier or windier location than it was used to or prefers as a mature tree. Improper transport and planting of the material can also lead to shock. Any of the following can identify transplant shock: scorched leaves with browning margins, early fall color, thin canopies, delayed leafing out in the spring, sparse blooming, little new growth, and even dead branches on trees and shrubs.
The first step to avoiding transplant shock is to choose healthy plant material. Make sure the plant is green and doesn’t have any apparent injuries or flaws.
Next, make sure you’re are planting it in an appropriate site. If the plant gets more sun or shade than it prefers, it will never thrive.
Many plants will also quickly drown if a site is waterlogged. Others prefer to stay wet all the time and will never thrive in the average lawn.
The time of year is also important, especially for large trees. Transplanting a tree on a windy day or in the heat of summer will make it much harder to keep hydrated and healthy.
When planting your material, make sure it is at the right height in the hole and not too deep. It is especially important for trees since they need their root flare at or slightly above the soil line.
A container-grown plant may need its roots loosened or teased out if the roots are growing round and round the bottom of the pot. If they can’t be teased out, it’s even better to cut these roots then let them girdle the plant later.
Remove all plastic from around the root ball of container trees, and check that twine is removed from the root flare of balled and burlap trees. Burlap will eventually break down but don’t leave it in direct contact with the trunk.
A hole with very smooth sides should be “scored” with a shovel so that roots can grip the sides and grow out of the hole.
“Myke” can be applied to the roots to minimize transplant shock. It is especially beneficial for evergreens.
Backfill the planting hole with native soil or native soil mixed with compost so that the tree roots will not have a sudden barrier to grow through at the edge of the hole.
The plant material should be heavily watered so that the entire root ball and planting hole are soaked. In heavy clay soil, this may be enough water for a whole week.
Root Stimulator is the only fertilizer that should be used in a tree’s first year and only at the recommended rate. Too much nitrogen will burn the roots or stimulate more top growth than the roots can support.
Mulch around trees to help maintain soil moisture, but never pile mulch against the trunk.
Proper watering, while the plant gets established, is the last and most important step. An average-sized b&b tree generally needs 5 to 10 gallons a week throughout its first growing season, depending on rainfall and soil conditions. Large trees will need more. Smaller transplants such as shrubs and perennials will need less water and 2 or 3 times a week. Checking the soil in the root ball with a dowel or long screwdriver is the best way to determine if the tree is dry. Large trees and shrubs won’t be established in one year and will need to be watered during dry spells for 2 to 5 years.
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