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How to Prune Roots Before Transplanting

By Kathryn Hatter ; Updated September 21, 2017
Prune roots before transplanting to ensure the health of the plant.

When transplanting plants, proper preparation of the roots will ensure transplant success and the continued health and vitality of your plants. When you have the plant out of the soil, you have the opportunity to examine the roots carefully to assess the health of the root system. If you find unhealthy root growth, you can then prune roots before transplanting the plant. A healthy root system will keep the plant able to absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding soil.

Spread the tarp out on the ground, and place the plant or shrub on the tarp.

Examine the root system of the plant carefully, looking for dead and damaged roots. Look for roots growing in a circular pattern around the outside of the root ball and roots growing in a tangled, kinked mass.

Use the sharp knife or pruning shears to cut away all roots you find that appear dead or damaged, cutting these roots back to the point of healthy growth. Healthy roots appear white or gray in color. Unhealthy and dead roots will appear brown or black. If you find tangled roots, or roots growing in a circular fashion, use the sharp knife or pruning shears to cut these away back to the point where the abnormal growth begins.

Discard the removed roots, and place the plant into the hole you prepared for transplanting.


Things You Will Need

  • Tarp
  • Sharp knife or pruning shears


  • For optimal results, perform the pruning process immediately before planting the plant in the soil.

About the Author


Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.