My polka dot begonia suffering from transplant shock

What is Transplant Shock in Plants? How to Fix It 

If your indoor plant is suffering from transplant shock, you need to know how to fix it. I’ll explain in this guide what transplant shock is, what causes it, and what you can do about it.

What is transplant shock and how do you fix it? Transplant shock occurs after moving an indoor plant to a new location. To fix it, avoid moving the plant further. Maintain soil moisture, prune your plant, and use sugar water for transplant shock. 

Ahead, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to identify and prevent (or limit) transplant shock in your indoor plants, so keep reading! 

What Is Transplant Shock? What Causes It?

If you’re not familiar with transplant shock in indoor plants, allow me to take this section to explain it.

Transplant Shock 101

Do you know how moving house can be very stressful on people? For plants, they experience stress when moving too. It’s known as transplant shock.

The word “move,” by the way, constitutes several different meanings. 

For instance, if you move your indoor plant from your living room to your bathroom or from your bathroom to your bedroom, transplant shock can occur. 

Taking the plant from an office to your home or vice-versa, or even from your old home to your new home can cause transplant shock as well.

In some cases, upgrading your plant’s pot can lead to transplant shock. 

Really then, any form of moving your plant can put your plant at risk. 

That does make transplant shock inevitable to an extent. Your plant must get a new pot throughout its life, and you’re allowed to move as your life commands. 

With the fixes for transplant shock that I’ll share with you, you can mend your plant quickly so it begins recovering. 

What Causes Transplant Shock?

So what causes transplant shock exactly?

In most instances, the physical move itself can do it. If your plant is younger, the seedlings can be damaged as you move your indoor plant from Point A to Point B. 

This can then lead to imbalances in the seedlings that prevent their abilities to transpire and take in water. For a while, they don’t develop further, and growth will cease. 

If it’s not the physical move that causes it, then your plant can develop transplant shock from the stress of the change. 

Plants can sense changes in their lighting, temperature, and humidity. Growth will slow as a response to these changes.  

What Does Transplant Shock Look Like?

If you’re worried that transplant shock would be virtually undetectable in your indoor plant, that’s far from the case. 

Here is a list of transplant shock symptoms to keep an eye out for.

Your plant might not manifest all these symptoms but can still have transplant shock.

Leaf Wilting

If your indoor plant’s leaves are wilting, this can be caused by a myriad of issues. Everything from underwatering to overwatering and high temperatures can make your plant wilt.

Now you have one more cause to add to the list, and it’s transplant shock. You can deduce that your indoor plant is wilting due to transplant shock if its soil and temperature are right. 

Leaf Rolling

When you see an indoor plant roll its leaves, take heed. The leaves are dried out, and so they cup or curl to reduce further moisture evaporation on the leaf’s surface. 

You usually see leaves rolling or curling as a symptom of underwatered plants, but leaf curling can just as easily happen during transplant shock too.   


Any nature of discoloration, especially accompanied by the above symptoms, is a cause for concern. Your plant’s foliage could become brown or yellow, even a combination of the two. 

While browning leaves can also be caused by many other things, if your plant had healthy leaves prior to moving your plant then plant shock is most likely the cause.

Dead Branches

Now here’s a symptom that’s harder to mistake for an issue like underwatering. If the branches of your indoor plant are easily coming off the plant and they’re dead, that’s likely indicative of transplant shock. 

Fruit or Flower Shedding

Another tell tale sign of transplant shock is when your plant begins dropping fruit or flowers way ahead of schedule.

The flowers likely won’t have fully bloomed, and the fruit won’t be ready either. 

Rather than harvest the fruit for your own uses, you’d have to throw it away or compost it. It won’t be edible.

You won’t even be able to marvel at the flowers, but they too could be turned into compost to eventually be added into your potting soil.

How to Fix Transplant Shock

For many plant lovers who aren’t familiar with transplant shock or know what to do to revive a plant with a case of transplant shock it can be a long and frustrating game of praying and and waiting.

Luckily for you, I’ve dealt with transplant shock more times than I can remember. Below are my recommended steps that I’ve tested over the years to fix transplant shock and ultimately revive many indoor plants.

Here are my recommendations for fixing transplant shock

Maintain Soil Moisture

Now is no time to skip watering your indoor plant. Forcing your plant to forego water will worsen the plant’s condition.

Instead, you want to maintain soil moisture. The key here is a consistent level of moisture across the entirety of the soil. 

If one patch of soil nearer the base of the plant is saturated but there’s another patch over towards the end of the pot that’s as dry as the Sahara, that’s not going to work. 

When I say moist soil, by the way, I mean slightly wet. It’s okay if the soil feels damp, but it should not be soggy and especially not soaking. 

Both overwatering and underwatering your indoor plant at this point could worsen its transplant shock, so water the plant only when its soil begins drying out. 

Prune Your Plant

If you’re familiar with the topic of a plant’s energy allocation. A plant only has so much energy it can use for any one thing. 

A plant that has become leggy or has too many offshoots cannot grow further since it’s using its energy just to keep the growths alive. 

In the case of an indoor plant with transplant shock, if it suffered damage down to the roots, it can’t regrow its roots with so much extra growth attached to it.

That’s why I recommend going through your plant and trimming away excess twigs, branches, and/or vines. Remove any dying or dead parts too, as these aren’t doing anything for your plant. 

Keep at least one-third of your indoor plant intact and it will regrow healthier after transplant shock.

Be sure to disinfect your pruning shears using isopropyl alcohol (70 to 100 percent) or bleach in between cuttings.

The last thing you want right now is to accidentally spread plant diseases when your indoor garden is weak! 

Use Sugar Water

Indoor plants use sugar as energy through photosynthesis. 

Although sugar to a plant is very different than the sugar you and I eat, you can still get your plant on the road to recovery from transplant shock with a little bit of sugar.

The key is to use plain sugar and dilute it significantly with water. Then add the sugar water mixture a few drops at a time into your plant’s soil. 

Not every indoor plant species reacts to sugar water. If your plant’s condition doesn’t change after using sugar water, don’t add more. It won’t do any good.

Your plants can’t be damaged by sugar water though, so go ahead and at least try it. 

How Long Does Transplant Shock Last?

You’re fairly certain your indoor plant is suffering from transplant shock. You followed the steps above and your plant seems to be doing marginally better, but it’s certainly not in 100 percent perfect condition yet.

How long will it take for your plant to be back to its old self?

Plants often bounce back from transplant shock in a matter of days to a week or several. In rare cases, indoor plants can deal with the effects of transplant shock for months or even years.

The latter timeline is usually more common with trees, whereas vegetable plants can typically be on the mend in a matter of weeks. 

Can Plants Recover from Transplant Shock?

You’re worried about your indoor plant. You’ve done the best you can do for it, but it’s just not recovering from its bout of transplant shock. 

Is it possible that your plant won’t recover at all?

That is indeed always in the realm of possibility. Transplant shock can be fatal, after all. 

What determines how severe transplant shock is? 

The younger your plant is when you move it, the more fragile it is. It will be more difficult for a plant of this age to handle a move compared to an older, more mature plant.

The difference in conditions can also indicate whether your plant will recover. If your indoor plant has always grown in loamy soil and you move it to a pot with more compact soil, the plant will of course be in duress.

That’s also true if your plant usually grows in a moderately warm environment and now it’s living somewhere far hotter.

The methods I outlined above are your best bet for treating transplant shock in your indoor plants no matter the cause or severity. 

Tips for Avoiding or Lessening Transplant Shock

As I mentioned earlier, moving your plants is inevitable. That said, you don’t have to induce transplant shock every single time you size up your plant’s pot. 

Here are some tips for minimizing the risk of transplant shock in your indoor garden.

Move Your Plant to Similar Conditions

I can understand sizing up the pot, but there’s usually no need to change your indoor plant’s type of soil, humidity, or temperature as the plant matures. A plant’s care needs are the same for life, for the most part.

If your plant goes from one room with certain conditions to another space with those same types of conditions, they’re far likelier to adjust to their new environment faster. Transplant shock, if it happens at all, will be a lot less severe. 

Leave the Roots Intact When Moving

Your plant’s root ball is its lifeforce, and thus, it’s a fragile thing. As much as you can, you want to avoid touching the roots.

Don’t bump the roots against anything either, as that’s just as bad.

If you want to brush some dirt off the roots, then do so carefully. Do not shake your plant or smack its root ball against a wall or door to shake the dirt off. 

By incurring less damage during the move, the roots can re-establish themselves less eventfully once they’re in their new pot. 

It’s also important not to prune the roots right now. You might see some longer roots that are further from the root ball. These roots might have their own smaller offshoot roots growing.

That’s a good thing! Those small roots will allow your plant to dig into the soil and establish itself once you move it. 

As much as you can, try to keep all the roots your plant has attached to the plant. It will help reduce transplant shock. 

Avoid Moves During the Summer

When you move your indoor plant is as important as how you do it. You do not want to transplant your indoor plant during the summer. 

The high heat and humidity as well as the bright sunlight can be stressful on any plant. When you add the stress of the move on top of that, it’s no wonder that an indoor plant can quickly develop the symptoms of transplant shock.

Try to plan the move as fall transitions into winter. If you miss that window, another good time is as spring is about to start. Try to stick to times of the day when the sun is not at its highest.

Maintain Root Moisture During the Move

Upon settling your plant in its new home, you should moisten its soil right away. Even if you watered your plant yesterday, these are new conditions, so water it again. 

After that initial watering and maybe a second one, you can get back into a more regular watering schedule for your plant.

Share this post with someone else that loves indoor plants!

Similar Posts