How Long Does Tree Transplant Shock Last? Signs and Recovery Techniques

If you have recently moved a tree and saw it not looking too good, you’re probably wondering how long does tree transplant shock last.

This is the common situation that arises when transplanting trees.

It looks good and healthy but only before you decided to transplant it. Now, the tree appears as if it is dying.

When this happens, what can you do about it and how long does this condition last? Let’s investigate and help the tree recover with these techniques!

how long does tree transplant shock last

Tree Transplant Shock – What Are The Signs

You may have planted your tree as carefully as possible. Yet, once it has been moved to its new home, it does not seem to look too well. What gives?

At first glance, your tree looks like it is dying. The leaves start to droop and there does not seem to be any signs of it greening up.

This is what you call, “Tree Transplant Shock”, which is typical for newly transplanted trees.

The signs may vary from one tree to another. However, the most typical signs are brown leaf tips, stunted twig, slow flower growth, branch dieback, leaf scorch, and a premature fall color.

When you have observed these signs on your tree, you may be looking for ways to revive it… Or if it can even be revived.

So, what exactly can you do about it?

Dead Tree Or Transplant Shock?

It can be tricky for the naked eye to determine exactly if the tree is already dead or simply in shock.

After all, they both look unhealthy, that is for certain.

But one sure way to know the difference between the two is by scratching the twig. Using your pocket knife, scratch up one twig of the tree and compare it with the others.

If you see that underneath the twig is still moist and bright green, then there you go – your tree is 100 percent alive.

So, don’t even attempt to get rid of it or kill it completely as it’s not worth doing so. What your plant is going through is a shock.

Recovery Tips For Transplant Shock

When your tree is in a state of shock after being transplanted, there are a few things you may consider doing.

But before that, we would like to stress the fact that all trees tend to struggle after transplanting or planting them. They end up losing some of the root systems that were otherwise intact prior to being moved.

In fact, they may lose as much as 95 percent of these roots. Hence, they are having a difficult time adjusting to the new location. The roots also dry out, which adds to the problem.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help it overcome this stage of being in shock. Here are the things that can address this issue.

1. Hydrate

Each week, give the roots about an inch of water or so. This will help to moisten the otherwise parched roots during the transplant process.

2. Mulch

Add in up to 4 inches deep of mulch starting from the base and onto the outermost leaves. Be sure to pull the mulch far away from the tree’s trunk. This is also called “volcano mulching.”

3. Dig

If you have done these two things and nothing seems to be working, perhaps you need to retrace your steps.

Think about the hole it used to be planted in and compare it with its current hole size. Do keep in mind that the hole must be double or triple the root spread of the tree. It also needs to be the right depth to allow the root flare to comfortably sit above the ground, yet ever so slightly.

Additional Things To Consider

Replanting the tree can cause a certain amount of stress to the plant.

However, it is a must when the initial planting location was not right.

This is why you will have to address this situation by keeping it hydrated, adding nutrients to the soil, and improving the hole size to make sure it is similar or even better than the old one.

Most importantly, patience can go a long way in helping your tree return to its healthy and green state.

How Long Does Tree Transplant Shock Last?

Generally, it takes 2 or so years for tree transplant shock symptoms to last. In some cases, there are trees that have to wait out these shock signs for 5 years. Afterward, they can recover fully.

But in other cases, a tree may only need a year to recover from such shock.

Tree seedlings in a comfortable situation have already established their root growth. Thus, they tend to react negatively to a new environment. Oftentimes, the shallow root system causes them to become unhealthy once transplanted.

However, when given a good amount of nutrients and water, you can help your tree sapling to achieve health. The roots can also further develop while being confined in a new container. Then, the new root system can extend and become more solid until it is able to adjust better.

transplant banana tree
Transplant banana tree.

Avoiding Tree Transplant Shock

Is it possible to avoid tree transplant shock?

Generally, there are things you can do to help your tree live and thrive after transplanting it. The conditions need to be right while making sure that the root system is carefully preserved.

The goal is to achieve the perfect balance when you transplant. For instance, you should root prune this tree for a year or so before you transplant it. Sever the roots with a spade right around the tree, and make sure it is not touching the trunk.

When you prune the roots, the tree is capable of growing in a compact form. Then, you can easily dig up the entire root system without causing any damages to it.

Additionally, you should never prune the foliage and the branches. When the leaves are left in their full state, it is much easier for the root system to grow and heal from the effects of transplant shock.

You should also leave the top of the tree perfectly intact. This allows for the quick development of the root systems. But never skip supplemental watering. This is highly critical when you want to avoid stress from lack of moisture or dryness to the roots.

When you maintain the moisture on the foliage, transplant shock can be prevented. Spray some water on the leaves to keep them cool. This also helps to minimize loss of water from the foliar surfaces. There are some anti-transpiration sprays available in the market that should be great at helping with this purpose.

And lastly, you can use some anti-desiccants sparingly. Follow label instructions and don’t use them too much to avoid further damage.

But the ultimate way to prevent transplant shock is this – plant-hand bare root or dug trees once they are in their dormant state. Then, you will have no problem with trying to recover the tree because it is never disturbed or left in shock to begin with.


We hope these tips have been helpful in overcoming and resolving tree transplant shock.

Now, you know better what to do when you wish to transplant a tree without causing any harm to it. Happy transplanting!

Leave a Comment