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How to Deal with Transplant Shock

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How to Deal with Transplant Shock


You’ve just repotted your succulent, but it doesn’t look happy– it may be struggling from transplant shock. Transplant shock can be a worrying experience, especially for first-time plant parents. Fortunately, transplant shock is reversible, and it’s by no means a death sentence for your succulents. So, how do we deal with it? Read on to learn more.

What is Transplant Shock?

Before getting into how we manage transplant shock, we first need to understand it. Transplant shock is a general term garden experts use to describe a series of conditions associated with stress from transplanting or repotting a plant. Transplant shock stunts plant growth and can even kill a plant if left unattended. However, the symptoms are easy to spot.

Symptoms of Transplant Shock

Transplant shock symptoms tend to stay consistent between all kinds of plants, including succulents. If your succulent is experiencing transplant shock, it may have:

  • Wilting, falling, and discolored leaves
  • Dying branches
  • Falling flowers: In succulents that flower when they die, you may find your succulent flowering. In succulents that flower at the height of their growing season, you may see a lack of flowers.
  • Other signs of plant death or dormancy
Transplant Shock in Succulents
Wilting leaves is one of the transplant shock symptoms in succulents

Potential Causes of Transplant Shock

Fortunately, we know what causes transplant shock– stress during the transplanting process. Several things may occur during the transplant process that can cause transplant shock:

Not Enough Water

If your succulent hasn’t received enough water before and after repotting, it may experience shock from underwatering.

Injured Roots

During the transplant process, it’s easy for roots to break or become damaged. However, severely injured roots will prevent the succulent from getting enough nutrients to grow and survive. Injured roots are the most common cause of transplant shock.

Compacted Roots

Plants that are root bound will have heavily compacted roots that won’t take in nutrients as effectively as plants with non-compacted roots. If you repot your root-bound succulent without freeing the roots first, it may experience transplant shock.

Compacted roots can cause transplant shock

Environmental Changes

Although environmental changes do cause stress, they aren’t necessarily always tied to transplant shock. A succulent will undergo similar stress symptoms if their environment changes: a decrease in sunlight, temperature, or humidity may also cause transplant shock symptoms.

How to Revive a Plant Struggling with Transplant Shock

Transplant shock isn’t a death sentence, and it’s normal for succulents to go through a brief adjustment period immediately after repotting. To help your succulent recover from its move as smoothly as possible, consider the following:

Water Thoroughly and Frequently

When you repot your succulent (especially if you just got it from the mail), it may need more water than usual. Don’t start watering your succulent until a day or so after you repot it, so any damaged roots have time to callous over. When you do begin your watering routine, be sure to monitor your succulent’s moisture daily to ensure it gets plenty of water to grow. When the soil is completely dry, water it again. Consider using a moisture meter to help keep track of your succulent’s moisture levels.

Transplant shock in succulents
When you repot your succulent, it may need more water than usual.

Prune your Plant

If your succulent’s roots were damaged in the move, you might need to prune away any severely damaged roots before replanting. If you have to prune away more than 20% of the succulent’s root content, you may also have to prune away leaves.

Sugar! (or Fertilizer)

Providing your succulents with extra nutrients after transplanting is a great way to reduce transplant shock symptoms. After you repot your succulent, consider fertilizing it as you typically would during the growing season. If you don’t have fertilizer, a pinch of sugar mixed in with some water works too– although not every plant will be affected by the sugar water, it won’t hurt the succulent to give it a try.

To avoid attracting ants, consider keeping ant traps nearby for outdoor plants. With indoor plants, ants shouldn’t be too much of a problem if the plant is kept away from food and other potential ant goodies. However, to help get rid of ants that may want to gnaw at your succulents, place traps near any cracks or holes in your home to keep them from getting indoors. You can also lightly spray dish soap or scatter diatomaceous earth over your succulent’s soil to deter them.

Give it Time

After repotting, you’re always going to need to wait a bit for your succulent to adjust to its new environment. During this time, you can provide it with extra sunlight and fertilizer to stimulate growth, but ultimately, you won’t need to wait more than a week or two for your succulent to adjust.

Transplanting Tips

To help avoid transplant shock, there are several things you can do to make the repotting process go as smoothly as possible:

Transplant During the Growing Season

It’s always best to transplant right before or during your succulent’s growing season. Typically, succulents grow in the spring or fall, but be sure to check when exactly your growing season is just to be safe. When you repot a succulent during its growing season, you’ll give it plenty of time to acclimate to its new environment. It’ll receive all the extra love and care that comes with the growing season as well!

Transplant shock in succulents
It’s always best to transplant right before or during your succulent’s growing season

Consider Pot Size and Material

Sometimes, your succulent may need better drainage, hence the need to repot. When choosing a new pot for your succulents, make sure that it’s at least 10% larger than the previous pot and made of a well-draining material. Concrete, terracotta, and ceramic pots tend to have better drainage than glass or metal pots. 

Be Gentle

When transplanting, it’s essential to be as gentle with your succulent’s roots as possible. To avoid irreversible damage, make sure you handle the roots as gently as possible. Avoid damaging the root ball through gentle handling and the occasional spray of water, and bring as much of the succulent’s roots with the root ball as possible. If your succulent is root bound, be sure to avoid trimming the root ball and use your fingers to carefully free the root ball from compacted roots. 

Happy gardening!



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