This tutorial will cover the basics of how to properly transplant your own starts, otherwise known as cuts or clones. There are many different methods but in general, if you follow these parameters you will have a successful transition. These transplanting methodologies do not account for hydroponic conditions and are based around growing media such as soil, coco or peat.



strong roots and hygroscopic diffusion

When possible, make sure your starts are well rooted, this ensures a strong success rate and vigorous rooting. It helps having the starts pre-watered because most of the time, the growing media you are transplanting into can be relatively dry, this moisture difference can cause a water vapor differential to occur, whereby the soil can rapidly suck the water out of the grow plugs. This is technically called hygroscopy or hygroscopic diffusion. If left unattended, this can quickly dry out the plugs and kill or significantly impair the growth of the young plants. If you pre-water the plugs prior to transplanting, you can buy yourself more time before you have to water the growing media. Conversly you can choose to start with a saturated growing media, which will also decrease the hygroscopic diffusion of the plug.


using mycorrhizae

Transplant aids such as mycorrhizae will assist with the growth of your plants after transplanting to prevent shock and enhance root growth and health. Studies have shown that adding mycorrhizae during transplanting significantly reduces transplant shock and aids with root growth. Sprinkle the recommended amount around the grow plug, ensuring direct contact with roots. The plant’s roots must come into contact with the inoculant, as the fungus will only grow if it detects the presence of a host plant.


depth and placement

Try to place the plug in the center of the pot. Make sure the the plugs are completely covered by the growing media. This will ensure better moisture retention during the transition. Many times if the plugs are only lightly covered, the topsoil will be washed off upon watering. Having the plugs buried deep enough, at least 1/4” deep below the surface, will help mitigate this problem.


watering and maintenance

Over the following days, scout and monitor the soil moisture levels and spot water when needed to provide even saturation rates for your transplants. There have been some advances with moisture sensing irrigation systems, such as Blumats, but they are also subject to calibration and monitoring. Try to keep an even temperature gradient throughout the room, this will ensure that the soil dries out evenly and will help you avoid over-watering.


  1. Why are my transplants are dying in the soil? - It could possibly be that they were not rooted well enough and succumbed to damping off. Damping off is a condition where young plants collapse from an infection most often by a species of the soil organism Pythium, but several other pathogens, including species of Rhizoctonia, Fusarium, and Phytophthora can also cause this condition.

    Solution - Damping-off is controlled primarily through good sanitation, high quality planting material, and proper cultural and environmental controls. Damping-off is worse when soil is wet or compacted. Prepare planting beds so that the soil has good drainage. Drainage can be improved by using soil amendments such as redwood shavings, peat moss, or fir bark. Use only well-decomposed compost. The overly moist environment of green compost will encourage a damping-off problem. Use aerobic (well aerated) composting procedures to reduce the population of disease-causing pathogens in the compost. Composted hardwood bark has been reported to reduce damping-off. Do not transplant into cold, wet soil and do not overwater. Avoid putting on too much nitrogen fertilizer.

  2. It has been 1 week and I’m not seeing any signs of growth? - This could be related to “transplant shock”. Some cultivars experience more shock than others. Most often though it depends more on what type of environment the clone was moved into. Environmental factors to consider are: light intensity, air temperature, soil temperature, relative humidity and airflow. A nursery environment can be more forgiving and so clones moved into a “harsher” environment might take a few weeks to re-calibrate. The number one reason most often is cold root temperatures. Cold, wet soil will always stunt root development, as well as allow an environment for increased disease pressure. Make sure your root zone temperatures are above 65°F. Double check to make sure you don’t have root aphids or fungus gnats disrupting root development.


Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service - Transplant Shock of Trees and Shrubs