Buying plants is a great feeling, whether you buy them from a traditional nursery or are one of those who prefer to buy plants online, almost nothing beats the feeling of receiving an amazing box at home, stripping it of its protective packaging and discovering its green leaves, thinking about where you are going to place it and how it will transform the space with its presence. It's like going back to childhood at Christmas. But with a new plant comes new responsibilities.
Some say that as soon as the new plant arrives you have to transplant it, others say wait, others think it is better to leave them as they are. They don't agree, and that's because to some extent they are all right. There are no universal laws about this, so we want you to acquire the tools and knowledge to discern if you should transplant your new plants, we will also tell you how to do it and give you tips and advice on how to transplant newly purchased plants without dying in the attempt.
do they need transplanting?
The answer is simple: yes. Most newly purchased plants can benefit greatly from transplanting. What is up for discussion in any case will always be when and how they should be transplanted. For example, succulents and cacti can wait to be transplanted, as their roots are quite shallow and slow-growing; however, you should evaluate other aspects to determine when and how they should be moved to a new pot. Pay attention to these signs:
Transplant immediately if:
- Roots protrude above or below the substrate. This is a symptom that the plant's roots may be tangled in themselves, making it difficult for them to absorb water and nutrients.
- The substrate is not suitable. For example, it is a succulent but the substrate is of the type that retains a lot of moisture.
- The pot is not well drained. Either it is clogged, the pot has no perforations or the substrate is too caked and does not allow water to drain. This is a recipe for waterlogging and root rot. You must act fast.
- The plant is bigger than the pot, it actually loses its balance and tips over easily.
- It does not have a pot, but comes in a sort of dark coloured plastic bag.
You can wait to transplant if:
- The pot size is suitable for the plant
- The substrate looks suitable for the type of plant
- The drainage of the plant is working properly
How to transplant newly purchased plants
Before you embark on the transplanting adventure, gather all the materials you need. Cover the area to protect it, find the new pot, the right substrate for the type of plant, a small shovel, scissors, alcohol and get to work.
- Start by removing the plant from its old pot. Avoid pulling on the stems, tap the pot until the root ball comes out, tilt it and let it slide over your hand.
- Gently pull the substrate away from the roots, to free them. You can do this with your hands, without fear. The idea is not to break the roots, but to shake them a little. In case the roots are very tangled together, forming a ball, you will have to identify the main roots (the thickest and whitest ones) and trim the rest. Remove any roots that look weak, soft, watery or rotten. This is a golden opportunity to take a look at the roots of your new plant and if there are any problems, you might be able to solve them.
- Take the new pot, put some gravel or similar in the bottom, and over this pour a couple of centimetres of new substrate.
- If the substrate the plant came in looks healthy, clean and suitable, you can mix it with the new one.
- Place the plant in the centre of the new pot, support it with your hand and add more soil to ensure it stands upright. Keep adding, flattening it a little with your hand to avoid any gaps or air in the substrate but don't put too much pressure on it, because the idea is that the plant can get air and breathe.
- Fill up to a few centimetres from the edge, to avoid spilling water and substrate when watering.
- Water the plant, but do not overdo it. As soon as a little water starts to come out of the drainage, stop watering. The plant is not in a position right now to handle excess moisture, so let it breathe and give it time.
- Place the new plant in its new home. Keep it under observation, not only because you have just transplanted it, but also because as it is new you need to know its rhythms and needs. Remember not to panic if you see it a little down; this is completely normal and it will recover on its own.
Tips for successful transplanting
- Transplanting should be done with confidence and security. Don't be afraid, plants are much more resilient than you think, so a little handling shouldn't kill her.
- Keep in mind that while a transplant is stressful for the plant, it is rarely a deadly process; unless you severely damage the plant's roots. If your plant dies after transplanting, in most cases it is due to another problem, related to watering, temperature or lighting.
- Transplanting is a traumatic event for the plant, so it should not be done frequently. Let the plant tell you when it is the perfect time to do it. There are signs to watch out for before you move the plant out of the pot.
- There are two perfect times to repot new plants: immediately and some time later. The thing is that when you take the plant out of the shop you are causing it stress, so if you transplant immediately, you will only prolong the stress a little. If you can wait to change the pot, do it for a few weeks. This short wait allows the plant to acclimatise and then you can safely transplant.
- Choose the right pot. If the plant is small, look for one with an extra 5 to 10 centimetres in diameter. If the plant is large and tall, such as those typically placed at ground level, then look for a pot that is about 15 to 20 centimetres larger in diameter. Don't overdo it, if it is too large, it will accumulate excessive moisture, which can cause disease and root rot.
- Always check that the pot has a drainage hole. If it does not have one, it is a decorative pot and you should put the plant in a normal pot, which will be placed inside the pot. It seems obvious, but it is a vital detail and sometimes plastic pots can have blocked drainage holes.
- Wash the new pot thoroughly before transplanting. This allows you to check if the drainage holes are OK and will also remove any bacteria it may have, especially if it is a recycled container or one that has been left behind by another plant.
- Before removing the plant from its container, gently massage it. This will allow the substrate root ball and roots to detach from the walls of the pot. If you pull on them without doing this, you may injure the roots and they may die. After this, you can turn the pot upside down and hold the complete substrate root ball with your hands.
- If the plant and the substrate are too compact and do not come out of the pot, do not pull it out. It is better to carefully cut the pot using strong scissors.
- Gently loosen the roots of the plant using your hands. In case they are tangled, forming a tangled ball, you should cut them off. Don't be afraid, use sharp scissors and cut off the shallower, thinner, broken roots. Leave the roots that are whiter, stronger and firmer.
- Clean the scissors with a cotton wool soaked in alcohol after each cut, this will prevent you from transmitting bacteria between the roots or plants.
- Avoid transplanting in extreme weather conditions, such as a heat or cold snap, as this adds unnecessary stress to the plant.
- Always transplant in shade or a covered area, never in direct sunlight. Roots are susceptible to direct sunlight, so be careful not to expose them to drafts and sun for too long.
- Water the plant a day before transplanting to ensure that it is well hydrated and that the roots are well hydrated. This prevents the roots from being affected and suffering a shock. Similarly, never transplant a plant that is wilted due to lack of water.
- Repotting should not only be done for larger pots, but can also be a way of refreshing the substrate, adding a suitable one or enriching the existing one.
- Unless you see a serious problem with the existing substrate, it is best to mix the new substrate with the existing one. This ensures that the good bacteria in the substrate are propagated and will make the process less traumatic for the plant, which will adapt more easily.
- The substrate must be suitable for the type of plant. It is possible to buy a pre-made mix (which is much more practical) or make your own mixes from a universal substrate and other additives.
- I prefer to add a layer of some material to help with drainage at the bottom of the pot. Some say it is not necessary, but it costs nothing and gives me a bit of peace of mind because it helps the plant not to get waterlogged. Typical bottoms are gravel, pebbles, pebbles and even expanded clay or pieces of broken terracotta pots. You can also use pieces of polystyrene (polystyrene), which will recycle this material and reduce the weight of the pots. Take advantage of those little trays from the supermarket or all that material they put in the boxes to protect shipping products.
- Never fertilise a plant that you have just transplanted. Wait a few weeks before doing so. However, if you have used a new substrate, your plant already has the nutrients it needs available.
- Water the plant in its new pot, but avoid over-watering the substrate, as this can cause further stress to the plant. Remember that drainage is essential. Wait for the first few centimetres of the substrate to dry out before watering again.
- It is completely normal for the plant to look a little ugly when it is newly transplanted, to look a little wilted or droopy. Don't worry, continue to treat it with care and it will soon acclimatise to the new substrate and pot. Avoid overwatering or fertilising, as this is not necessary and will only prolong the stress.
- Even if the new plant is in direct sunlight, avoid leaving it in full light as soon as you get home. This can kill it. It is better to gradually accustom it to social radiation. It's simple: place it in a well-lit spot where it receives sun a few hours a day. Every couple of weeks move her a little closer to her permanent place and gradually increase the number of hours in the sun.
Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.