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What Are the Best Tips for Transplanting Seedlings?

By Amanda R. Bell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Growing seedlings indoors and then transplanting them outside can be a good way to start a variety of plants earlier in the year, increasing the amount of time that they have to grow. Some of the best tips for transplanting seedlings are to introduce the new plants to the outdoors slowly to avoid shocking them and to attempt to plant on a cloudy day when rain is expected. It can also be helpful to keep the seedlings well-watered and set up temporary shade around them to protect them from receiving too much sun.

Transplanting seedlings effectively is all about protecting them from going into shock, which can hinder growth or kill the plant altogether. In general, seedlings are typically started indoors, as this provides a controlled environment. Although this is often the best way to start the vast majority of plants, outside of root vegetables, taking a seedling directly from inside the home to the garden can be too much for new plants. Setting the plants outside, in the shade, for two to three hours a day and slowly exposing them to more sun each day for up to a week can help them to become accustomed to the temperature and climate of the outdoors.

A very sunny day, even if it is not particularly warm, can cause severe damage to new seedlings that are just being placed outside. One of the best tips for transplanting seedlings is to do so on a cloudy day, particularly right before rain is expected. Transplanting on a cloudy day will prevent the new, delicate leaves from burning under the sun. Planting right before rain is expected can also save one from having to hand water after transplanting seedlings, and can increase the chances that there will be cloud cover for a few hours.

In order to grow into healthy plants, seedlings require a fair amount of water. One of the best tips for transplanting seedlings is to water them well directly after planting, if there is no rain expected, to compact the soil around the seedling, removing air bubbles and moistening the surrounding soil for the new roots. Keeping transplanted seedlings well-watered until they start to grow can also help to lessen some of the shock of transplanting, as well as provide them with the amount of water that they need to thrive. In most cases, they will need significantly more water than older, established plants of the same type.

One of the lesser-known tips for transplanting seedlings is to construct a temporary shade structure near the area where the seedlings will be planted to protect them from the sunniest part of the day. This can be done with a few garden stakes and a tarp or simply by strategically placing a board or small tool shed near the seedlings to block some of the harsh afternoon sun. After one to two weeks, once the transplanted seedlings are comfortable outdoors, the temporary structure can be removed.

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