How to Transplant Potted Plants Outside


Whether houseplants, holiday flowers, vegetables grown from seeds or any other potted indoor plants, transplanting it outdoors requires specific steps. Simply digging a hole for it outside without taking the proper procedure could result in shocking the plant or killing it. Select the correct location to transplant, prepare the site ahead of time and slowly alter the surrounding environment of the plant to ensure a trouble-free transplant process.

Step 1

Select a site for your transplant and ready it as soon as you can work with the soil after the lost frost. Choose a site that matches the needs of the potted plants, such as full sun for vegetables or shady areas for ferns.

Step 2

Add compost and other organic matter with a shovel to the transplanting location if your soil requires it. Cultivate the area and get rid of any weeds, rocks or other debris.

Step 3

Begin acclimating potted plants two weeks before transplanting outside. Known as "hardening" or "hardening off," this process will prevent transplant shock from occurring.

Step 4

Supply less water and no fertilizer to the potted plants. Watch for the leaves to droop before watering and only small amounts, if it does during this transitional period.

Step 5

Place the plants outside in a shady area for two to three hours during a mild day. Choose an area under trees or a structure, such as a patio or balcony.

Step 6

Protect the plants from strong wind, heavy rains, full sunlight and cool temperatures. Bring potted plants inside for the first week.

Step 7

Add two hours each day of exposure to the outside elements in the second week. Gradually expose the potted plants to more sun, if final location requires it.

Step 8

Use a shovel of hand trowel to dig a hole for the plant. Dig the hole the same depth and slightly wider than the pot used.

Step 9

Place the potted plant in the hole. Fill in the gap around the plant with the removed soil.

Step 10

Use your hands to pat down the dirt around the plant to remove any air pockets remaining. Thoroughly water the transplant.

Step 11

Add more soil, if needed after watering. Supply a watered-down fertilizer solution to the newly transplanted plant to prevent shock.

Tips and Warnings

  • Remember to plant tomato plants deeper than they were in containers. Bury at least 1/3 and up to 1/2 of the tomato plant when transplanting it outside.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Hand trowel
  • Hoe
  • Fertilizer


  • Washington State University: Hardening Off Transplants
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Hardening Off Transplants
  • North Carolina State University Extension: When to Plant Vegetables in the Garden

Who Can Help

  • West Virginia University Extension: Growing Organic Vegetable Transplants
  • Missouri Extension: Transplant Shock
  • USDA Cooperative Extension Offices
Keywords: hardening off, prevent transplant shock, transplant process