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Monday, April 9, 2018

All Plants Moved to a New Location Suffer from Some Sort of Transplant Shock

Q. In early February I moved a small Ruby Red Grapefruit tree into a half barrel full of prepared soil. I made sure the roots did not dry out when I moved it. I pruned the top back best I could.  What leaves were still on eventually fell off. It is slow to put on new growth compared to my other citrus trees.

Ruby red grapefruit moved to a container, transplanted, with the top cut back to compensate for root loss during transplanting.New growth will occur first on existing buds. If the tree must form new buds because they were all removed when they were pruned, the tree will take longer to recover.

Ruby red grapefruit stem cut with a thumbnail and shows that the stem is still alive and healthy because it is green under the "bark".

A. Your tree is experiencing “transplant shock”. No matter how careful we are when moving a plant, roots get torn, they dry out, and the roots must readjust to their new environment. Sometimes these adjustments are minor. Sometimes they are major. Minor adjustments may be so short in time that the tree seems like it needed no recovery time at all. Major adjustments take longer to recover.

During major adjustments or recovery time, the tree does not grow at all but just sits there seemingly like in frozen animation. The tree is alive, but it isn't growing. You can see that it is still alive by doing what you did with your thumbnail. This is because the tree must make other adjustments to the damage that you can't see.

            Once moved, the new plant must take some time to ‘repair’ these torn and damaged roots first before it can resume normal growth again. Sometimes we say that the tree is reestablishing its "root to shoot ratio". If these adjustments are minor, transplant shock is hardly noticeable. If these adjustments are major, it can cause long delays in resumption of new growth or the plant can die.
            How quickly the tree recovers depends on how it was pruned after moving it. Shearing the entire plant causes the tree to recover more slowly. This is because all of the buds for a quick growth response are removed when the plant is sheared. Selectively removing branches aids the plant and recovering more quickly.This is because buds that will grow quickly are left remaining on the tree.

            Most likely your tree will recover soon. Keep it out of intense sunlight until you see signs of recovery. Then move it back into full sun. Make sure the tree is staked so the roots don’t move so that they must reestablish again. Keep the soil moist but not wet to minimize root rot. Sometimes we panic and water too often thinking we are trying to help the tree. This can actually cause problems.

Here’s how to minimize transplant shock.
1.         Move as much and as many of the roots as possible. Moving all of the roots is not possible when transplanting established trees.
2.         Cut back the top. By pruning the top back we readjust the root to shoot ratio in a positive way and encourage the top to grow back more quickly.
3.         Amend the new soil around the roots to be as similar to the old soil, or better, as possible.
4.         Stake the new tree. Keep the roots from moving around too much in the new soil. Stake the plant so the roots do not move. The top can move but the roots should not for one growing season.
5.         Add phosphorus fertilizer to the new hole. Phosphorus fertilizer helps routes to grow and establish in their new soil.
6.         Keep the soil moist but do not keep it wet. Roots need air to breathe. Add enough water to the soil to keep it moist but not overly wet which drives out the air around the roots.

7.         Wait. New root growth it takes a while. Be patient. As soon as roots become established in the soil, the top of the tree will show signs of growth.

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