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8 Steps to Reduce Hydrangea Transplant Shock

When you move a plant to a new place, it might not always adjust well. Some plants hardly notice the change, while others might lose their leaves.

This reaction is called transplant shock. Signs include wilting, leaf drop, or hydrangeas not flowering. If it’s really bad, the plant might not make it.

To help your hydrangea adjust, take out as much of its root ball and the soil around it as you can. Hurting the roots too much can be really bad for the plant.

It’s important to water your hydrangea a lot until it gets used to its new home. When it starts flowering, you’ll know it’s settled in nicely.

hydrangea transplant shock

How to reduce hydrangea transplant shock

1. Don’t damage the root system

Be careful not to hurt the roots when you’re moving hydrangeas. Start digging 1-2 feet away from the center, depending on the size of the bush.

Once you dig it up, the hydrangea should have a big root ball with the soil still on. Don’t knock the soil off.

You should plant it in its new spot right away. The longer the hydrangea stays out of the ground, the harder it is for it to root.

Also, when you’re planting it again, don’t press the soil down too hard, so the roots stay safe. And don’t cover the stems or where they start growing from the roots with soil.

Rea also: Hydrangea Care Guide For Beginners

2. Shade the hydrangea

After moving your hydrangea, the next step is to give it some shade. Since its roots might not be able to supply enough water to the leaves right away, the sun can make the plant lose moisture and suffer. To keep this from happening and to prevent the leaves from wilting, place the hydrangea in full shade.

A simple way to create shade is by using a big umbrella over the plant. Another method is to make a frame and cover it with a shade net. This net should block out more than half of the sunlight.

Keep the hydrangea shaded like this for at least a month.

3. Water the hydrangea

Watering your hydrangea right is key to helping it get over transplant shock. Right after you transplant it, give it enough water to thoroughly wet the soil around it.

Then, keep an eye on the soil moisture. Water it when the top inch of soil gets dry. If it’s hot and sunny, you might need to water every 4 days or even more often. On cloudy days, once a week should be enough.

The amount of water depends on the size of your hydrangea. Small bushes usually need 1 to 2 gallons, while bigger ones might need 3 gallons or more.

Avoid watering your hydrangeas when it’s raining. The rain usually provides enough water. Overwatering can lead to too much water in the soil, causing the roots to rot and you might lose the plant.

4. Remove all flowers

Flowering takes a lot of energy for any plant, including hydrangeas. They work hard to produce seeds, which can weaken them. Transplanting during this time can be especially tough for the plant.

It’s best to move hydrangeas in early spring, before they start to flower. But if you have to transplant them later, make sure to cut off any flower clusters.

When cutting, do it no more than an inch below the flower head. Be careful not to harm other parts of the plant.

You should remove all flowers on the bush, even the ones that haven’t opened yet. You might not see flowers this year, but it’s a big help to the plant.

Sometimes hydrangeas might bloom again a month or two later. If they do, it’s a good sign that they’re settling in and starting to root well.

5. Don’t prune the hydrangea

There’s a common belief that cutting off some leaves helps a plant survive transplanting, but this isn’t entirely true.

Cutting leaves or pruning does reduce how much moisture the plant loses, but it also stresses the plant a lot. Actually, leaves are important for root growth. Plants usually grow new branches and leaves first, and then their roots develop to match the size of the part above ground. More leaves mean bigger roots.

So, it’s best not to cut back a hydrangea after you transplant it, as this could do more harm than good.

6. Mulch the hydrangea

Mulching your hydrangeas after you’ve transplanted them can really help them root better. It slows down how quickly the soil dries out, so you don’t need to water as often. Plus, mulch keeps the soil from getting too hot in summer, making conditions more comfortable for the plant.

Compost is the best mulch for hydrangeas. Make sure to use good quality compost, because trying to save money here might backfire. Pine bark is another good option for mulch.

The mulch layer should be at least 1 inch thick but no more than 2-3 inches. A layer that’s too thin won’t protect the soil well, while one that’s too thick can stop air from getting to the soil.

Remember not to cover the stems with mulch. Leave a gap of about 1 inch between the point where the stems join the roots and the mulch.

7. Apply rooting hormones

In my experience with growing plants, I sometimes use rooting hormones when I’m transplanting them. This is especially helpful for really valuable plants or when there’s a big risk of the plant not making it.

Rooting hormones are chemicals that encourage a plant to grow roots. Some helpful fungi also produce these hormones and use them to form a beneficial relationship with the plant.

There are lots of different rooting products out there. I’ve found that powder and water-soluble types work the best. You can sprinkle some of the powder in the planting hole and also on the root ball.

Once you’ve planted the hydrangea, water it a few times over the course of a week with a solution of water-soluble rooting hormone.

8. Give fertilizer with phosphorus

Plants are made up of three main elements. Nitrogen is key for leaf growth, potassium helps form the branches and trunk, and phosphorus is important for root development.

For hydrangeas, getting enough phosphorus means a stronger root system. It’s a good idea to use a slow-release fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus. This way, your hydrangeas get all the necessary elements in the right amounts and on a regular basis.

This also means you should steer clear of fertilizers that are too rich in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen can lead to fast leaf growth, which might cause the leaves to wilt.