How to Water Transplanted Plants
image by DRW & Associates, Inc.
Transplanting plants to your garden from inside or from one place to another is often a tricky proposition. You may be moving a large flowering shrub, a seedling tomato or a zinnia that you've planted from seed but the procedure that you follow is similar for all. Watering those transplants is probably the most important--and most neglected part of the process. Houseplants and potted plants are especially susceptible to transplant shock. If you remember two words--gentle and frequent--you should have success.
Before you move your plant, water it well with plain water. This gives the plant a good drink before you start the digging, pushing or root-trimming that will shock it and you move it to its new location. Let it rest a while so it will soak up the water. Do not fertilize before you move the plant.
If you're moving a large plant, like a rose bush, fill the hole with water and set the plant in it. You can fill the hole with soil and move the plant to "settle" it in and seat it accurately without pulling at the roots. If you're moving a small plant or group of seedlings, be sure that their new home isn't dusty but moist and ready to receive them. Dry soil can literally suck the life out of seedlings.
Make a "moat" around large bushes or plants to hold the water so the transplant gets all of the water you give it. Don't pack the soil down hard before watering your transplants--the water will settle the soil as it percolates down through the soil. Sprinkle, don't pour water on the soil around transplants. Once you've given them a good drink, sprinkle them with a weak solution of all-purpose fertilizer (quarter to half strength) to give them a little nourishment to go with all that water.
Give transplants a good drink but never let potted plants sit in water. It can rot their roots. If you've used a good potting medium, water should run through the pot into the saucer. If you're using a pot with gravel in the bottom instead of a drainage hole, be very careful not to overwater.
Keep an eye on your transplants for a week or so, watering everyday if necessary. There may be an initial period of wilt, caused by the shock of being moved, but your plant should perk up as soon as the sun goes down or after a good drink the next morning. Don't drown your plants but don't let them go dry, either. Use a sprinkler head on your hose outside and a laundry sprinkler or spray bottle inside to keep a ready supply of moisture for your plant as it recovers over the next few days.